Reconciling a spoiled identity: The former outcast

Last week, while attending Confratute, at the University of Connecticut, I realized that I need to rethink the way I want to present my work. I didn’t stop posting on this blog/site because of boredom with it – I slipped into working way too much. As that happens, the luxuries I afford myself at times fall by the wayside. I stop engaging on social media and I stop posting entries, because they feel like indulgences.But I need these things to be a part of my life in order to remain connected with society. Today, I’m taking a break to post this journal entry from 1997, which I’ve recently uncovered. Considering the number of times I’ve combed through documents, reading journals that I wrote during my 20s, it’s amazing that this entry was never found until now.Of course, since it was on a floppy disk, it took a certain amount of effort to recover it. It was heartbreaking to find that one of my disks, the one that I would’ve considered “best,” was unreadable.Since I’m providing it with no other context, you should know this was written roughly two weeks before my 24th birthday. I lived with my parents and was receiving Social Security benefits for mental illness. I’d moved to Las Vegas in 1995, from my home state of Connecticut. Here’s the “cast” of people from this entry: Sam – psychiatrist; Joel, Rich, Jerry, Alice – therapists; Elise – best friend; Rosemary – great aunt; Aaron, Glenn, Bill – friends; Diana – Sam/Rich’s receptionist. March 18, 1997I told Sam today that Joel tried to get me to switch to another doctor, and...

Relational Resilience and Autoethnography

I've been at maximum capacity lately, due to work and school, but I've finally carved out a few minutes to share one of my current research projects. Here's the abstract for the paper I'm writing about the process of completing Too Smart for Your Own Good: The Paradoxical Experience of Twice-Exceptionality. I'll also be elaborating on the major theme discovered while working on the autoethnography - the importance of supportive relatonships - using relational-cultural theory as the theoretical framework. It's been accepted for The Qualitative Report Conference in January 2016: Relational Resilience and the Empowering Process of Autoethnographyby Christiane Wells, MSW As a twice-exceptional (2e) woman, autoethnography facilitated an understanding of supportive relationships that were critically important to my survival and personal growth. People with 2e are identified as both “gifted” and “disabled,” and experience chronic, pervasive misunderstanding and misrepresentation. A twice-oppressed population, people with 2e are frequently marginalized as each exceptionality increases one’s distance from “normal,” and the resulting disconnections can lead to isolation and immobilization. This was my experience as I battled throughout young adulthood to balance cognitive ability and mental illness.Relational cultural theory provides an appropriate lens for understanding the impact of relational resilience on my life with 2e. The layers of connection and disconnection discovered during the study illustrated that overcoming adversity required more than individual traits of resilience. My journey to “wellness” developed through the cultivation of mutually empathic and empowering relationships. The process also revealed relational narratives based in worldplay, a creative coping strategy that served as protection from the dehumanization, gendered labels, and bias that emerged in mental health treatment.An analysis of the autoethnographic process describes...
Top 20 Characteristics of Effective Teachers

Top 20 Characteristics of Effective Teachers

This list was compiled from a review of the literature for a paper on the lived experiences of twice-exceptional adults (2e). Note: Are you a 2e adult? If you're interested in talking about your experiences, please contact me. The concept of "trusted adults" prompted the investigation of characteristics of effective teachers - building on the work I did for the second part of my autoethnography. For that study, I explored the characteristics of positive therapeutic relationships, and my plan is to synthesize these qualities into one description of trusted adults and their role in guiding gifted or 2e people through childhood into young adulthood.  Although I searched for teachers working with gifted children, all "good" teachers share these qualities. Great teachers are effective with non-gifted students as well. These four articles were the basis for the 20 characteristics I've compiled: Establishing positive relationships with secondary gifted students and students and students with emotional/behavioural disorders: Giving these diverse learners what they need. – Capern & Hammond (2014) “What are the most effective characteristics of teachers of the gifted?” (PDF) – Heath (1997) “Characteristics of effective teachers of gifted students: Teacher background and personality styles of students” – Mills (2003) “Outstanding and average teachers of the gifted: A comparative study” – Whitlock & DuCette (1989) As I continue refining these characteristics, I'll update with links to more articles. If you'd like a copy of an article you can't access, please email me and I'll share it - pstress15 (at) gmail.com.  Characteristics of effective teachers IntelligenceEmpathySelf-confidenceSense of humorFlexibilityEnthusiasmHigh expectations/achievement-orientedOpenness/friendlinessPositive sense of self/emotionally secureInspires critical thinkingClose physical proximityImagination/creativityLove of learningApplies knowledge/teaches “useful information”Advocates for studentsEnergy/driveCommitmentPromotes independence“Teacher-scholar” – Actively seeks knowledgeExpertise in subject area Does...
Surviving suicide: Part five

Surviving suicide: Part five

Let me die - a second attempt Part Five (conclusion) - There's another suicide attempt. My mom flies out to help me move back to Connecticut. This is a true story from 1994. If you missed the first post, click here for part one. (c) Can Stock Photo After losing my job, things are falling apart, and we're all on edge, bickering with each other from hunger and sobriety. I can't live this way. With more pills on hand than I had for the first attempt, I want to take another chance with suicide. I'm not well – I have trouble with my coordination and concentration. I feel more hopeless than I did the first time. My despair is palpable, and the longer I continue living, the more pain I feel. It hurts too much to keep going. I take the pills quickly and go into my room, but this time, I bring the bottles in with me. Before long, I'm struggling to stay awake, and my breathing is shallow. I'm excited because soon I’ll be dead, and all of my problems will be solved.  Carrie comes in and shakes me into reality. How long have I been unconscious? I'm sweating and I can't breathe. She screams that she doesn't give a fuck, she's going to let me die, and slams my door on the way out. Good. I try to relax, and I'm unconscious again when Billy comes in, frantic as he wakes me up. I want to be left alone – I’m trying to die here. I can barely see him – my vision is blurry, and I'm struggling to keep...
The importance of mentors and trusted adults

The importance of mentors and trusted adults

Thinking and writing about the people who’ve made the most impact on my life is something that I enjoy doing. I appreciate them because they helped me get to where I am today. Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of reaching out and letting them know that they made a difference. Most of the time, they respond and tell me that they’re glad they helped, but I’m not convinced they truly understand the importance of their actions. As I mentioned in a recent post, last month I met Dese'Rae Stage and we talked about her photojournalism work, a project called Live Through This. Live Through This features suicide survivors' portraits – in both words and pictures – and it's beautifully done. It was exciting to have the opportunity to speak – in-person – with someone whose work I’ve admired from afar. There are several writers that I follow online, and I think of them very fondly even though we haven’t met. The communities that I feel connected with are full of amazing people who work hard to effect change in their areas of interest, but I don’t get to talk with them face-to-face.  At this point, my mentors are in the academic world and in the communities working to bring awareness to the issues I’ve struggled with throughout my life (e.g., mental health awareness, suicide prevention, all-around stigma fighting, and advocating for people with giftedness/twice-exceptionality). The people in my life that I consider mentors and colleagues are an amazing bunch, and I’m very grateful for their guidance, support and/or friendship. As I grow older, it occurs to me that...
The Autoethnographic Process: Targeted Annotation

The Autoethnographic Process: Targeted Annotation

Annotating with others in mind Organizing the journal entries that I planned to use as data was a necessary part of my autoethnographic process. In order to make sense of it all, I constructed timelines – by year – of over 3,000 individual entries that were coded as quotations in Atlas.ti. It was an enormous task. When I first decided to scan the entries, I found the scanner in my all-in-one printer to be frustrating and slow. I began scanning with an app on my phone (ScannerPro) because it seemed faster (it wasn’t). I took each scanned file, copied the relevant entries into Photoshop and saved them as JPGs. My measure of relevance was simple, and I erred on the side of inclusion if there was any doubt. I didn’t include entries that described day-to-day events that appeared to be unimportant. For example, I didn’t select entries describing where I went to dinner unless something interesting happened. Several times I went back and included entries that I’d originally excluded. Each image had to be “cleaned up” – cropped, resized, and edited to remove marks and enhance the quality. I didn’t do a very good job of cleaning images during the initial rounds of coding – it took practice. I often re-scanned images once I began to build the timelines because they didn’t look good. It was important to me that the timelines were as aesthetically pleasing as possible because I knew that the documents would be shared. During the timeline process, I purchased a scanner and re-scanned all of the journal entries. It was a very time-consuming project, and I’d...

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