The Abyss Stares Back

By way of introduction, I will quote something that I wrote a while back, in response to a discussion of suicide.

I have stared into that abyss. Nearly ten years ago I rode that edge a bit too closely, and came very close to killing myself. I knew exactly how I was going to do it, including ensuring I would not be stopped, but that I would be found afterward. My life was a void — there was nothing keeping me here and a whole lot of pain and emptiness pushing me to go.

But…

I come from one of the strongest families I know. I had two young nephews. I had an image in my head of my family being shattered by my action; of siblings who, no matter what explanation I could have possibly written down, would never come close to comprehending what had happened, or why; of my nephews growing up with a vague memory of “Crazy Uncle Fred” who one fine summer evening opened his wrists — too young to really understand what was happening, but crying and hurting because everybody else was crying and hurting. Of a mother who… I can’t even imagine.

I lived to save them. They saved me. And to this day they have no idea. They supported me through the hardest possible time just by being who they are.

I wrote that a couple years back, and I think I was a bit off on the timing, as it has been ten years now since that time in my life.  But life goes on, and times change.

In the last ten years I grew stronger, and again found the strength to stand on my own.  This is a good thing, because that connection to my family that kept me alive then has grown tenuous in the last couple years.  But at times, such as now, I slip….

So, why a blog?  I’m not sure exactly.  It’s a release valve to an extent — I can say things here that I can’t possibly say to people I know.  I can be fearless here — enshrouded in the invisible cloak of the Internet.  Please do not attempt to identify me.  You can only cause harm in doing so.

Why, then “Suicide Genius”?  Well, the suicide part should be obvious to you by now.  As for the other bit — I am a literal genius, as defined by “has an IQ equal to or over 140”.  This alone warrants distinction no more than any other feature — I could have chosen “suicide blond” (or is that a band?), or “suicide has-six-fingers-on-his-left-hand” (which is harder to type).  Calling myself a genius is not a boast.  My intelligence, however, sets me apart as no other aspect of my life does.

To put things in perspective:

The average human being has an IQ between 90 and 110.  This is the vast majority of people.  Statistically, you probably fall into that range.  An IQ below 70 means that the person is mentally retarded (or “deficient”, or “handicapped” or whatever the correct term is this week).  That is, 20 to 30 points below the average IQ is retarded.  I am 40 or so points above the average.

Great–so I’m smart.  But I have great difficulty relating to the people around me.  I am separated from everybody I know by a barrier of intelligence.  It’s no problem if I want to discuss the plot of the latest TV show, or some such ephemera, but substantive discussion–meaningful conversation–is difficult to come by.  I make what to me is a simple, obvious statement, and discover the hard way that the other person has no real comprehension of what I really said.  “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”  I have a small group of friends, and lots of acquaintances; but the friends drift away in time, and are rarely replaced.  Maybe I’m just an asshole; I don’t think so, but then assholes rarely do.

So there it is.  I’m your humble host, laid bare piece by piece, and post by post.  Au revoir for now.

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28 Responses to The Abyss Stares Back

  1. Halcyon says:

    Get over yourself. Are you actually trying to justify your inability to communicate with others with the fact that your IQ is 140? Also the standard bell curve says that 144 is genius; 140 is just gifted. Most people are stupid. I agree. But there are plenty of people who are smarter than you. If to you a simple statement sounds like “henceforth Bertrand Russel’s use of the metaphysical modal of semantic analysis yields insight into the nature of mankind” then yes you are an asshole.

  2. Fred says:

    Thank you for your kind words, Hal.

    I’m not going to quibble over semantics here — I’ve no doubt that “they” adjust the numbers from time to time — IQ is supposedly rising slowly, and thus the averages are shifting. Suffice it to say that back when I was first tested for such, I was indeed labeled with the (technical) classification of “genius”. Update: Also note that I have not specifically stated what my exact IQ is, nor do I see a need to.

    I’m not trying to justify anything — just trying to describe it. There is no question that a great deal of my inability to relate to others is bound in the difference of perspective inherent in differing levels of intellect.

    As for your “simple” statement — I wouldn’t consider anything like that as something to throw out in general conversation, but similar could certainly have a place in the middle of an in-depth discussion of a topic. If somebody talks like that as general principle, they’re probably trying (and probably failing) to impress people. I’ve know that type as well.

  3. r says:

    Don’t worry about people with inferiority complexes, such as the person above. They just don’t realize that they just illustrate your point in their attempt to discredit it.

  4. Halcyon says:

    I would have forgotten about this blog if I did not receive an email saying some one replied to it. I wrote an unfriendly comment that intentionally misinterpreted your point because I was angry that your blog wasted my time by compelling me to read it. This time, however, I bring good news. I think that you should take an MBTI personality test because I think that you may be an INTP/ or INFP. INTP’s are about 1% of the population and are characterized by high IQ and occasionally depression resulting from an inability to relate with other people (MBTI theory explains much of this). I identified myself as an INTP and it put a lot of things in perspective for me. If you did not already know about the MBTI, I suggest some googling.

  5. Fred says:

    Actually, reading the INTP description, I think it may be a better fit. In the online test I took it appears that “Thinking” is the only axis for which I had a particular strong showing. Of course, so much of this type of thing is voodoo anyway….

  6. Halcyon says:

    Typing isn’t something that should be followed too strictly. However, it can be a good means for self-discovery and identifying other people potentially compatible people. I had never met so many like-minded people in my life before I joined the INTP forum. Also, INTPs seem more chill than INTJs who are always portrayed as so serious in the descriptions, but once again, the point isn’t to try and force yourself into a type. So, yea, make what you want of it.

  7. Tom says:

    Do you still think about it? And when you did, did you imagine it taking place? the process and results? Not physically, but mentally committing suicide in a way.

    • Fred says:

      From time to time I think about it, but not as vividly as I used to.

      The first time around, (late 90s), yes. I went through it in my head and in my mind “did the deed” — though now that you ask, my imagining didn’t get much past the act. As the method of choice was not instantaneous, that seems a glaring omission in retrospect.

      Something else I’ve discovered over time is that there really isn’t a good way to kill yourself — at least not one commonly known. (No suggestions, please!) The most commonly imagined methods are likely to end with you still alive, but screwed even more than you were before.

      But then… as I said, I don’t think about specifics much anymore.

  8. Tom says:

    Interesting, if you don’t mind me asking, what was the farthest extent of your attempt? I just ask because sometimes an incomplete act will some times cure the distress. A shock back by peering over the cliff effect, in a way.

  9. She The Anomaly says:

    It is really too bad, though (unfortunately) not surprising, that people have commented such things as “Get over yourself. Are you actually trying to justify your inability to communicate with others with the fact that your IQ is 140?”. There always seems to be at least one person, on posts such as this one, who … I can only guess at why they interpreted it in such a way, but I am assuming that this person has not ever heard any explanation of what a genius goes through that sounded like a real, understandable and valid problem. Also there is a tendency for people to assume that if you are a real genius, you have no problems. But we are only human. We are not Gods. So there are too many people out there assuming any time someone is saying they have social problems due to their IQ, it must be because that person is choosing to be an insufferable, arrogant jerk. :(

    With misunderstandings like this, its no wonder our suicide rate is so high. (I came into your blog on a search for studies regarding suicide rates and genius. If you’re curious, I found an article saying that Terman discovered the suicide rate for gifted people to be three times the average – but that was for “gifted” people, whichever of the many definitions of it he used… not for geniuses. I’d bet for geniuses it is quite a lot higher.)

    Anyway, I felt bad for you. Here you are having a terrible time – such a terrible time and you feel that you can’t talk about it with anyone you know – and all you get is someone who invalidates your whole entire problem and someone else asking for the morbid details of your (alleged) “attempt” – which could very well have been a very uncomfortable and far too personal question.

    So I wanted to stop by and be validating.

    Not for the sake of stupid ego posturing but just to give you some idea of how far into outer space I am, I will tell you that I am somewhere in the ballpark of IQ 170. I have some learning differences that make testing extremely costly, so that was based on an IQ estimation tool.

    I also should tell you that you seem to have traits of a person who is in a higher IQ ballpark than you claim to be in – however this could be because I originally assumed that your IQ score of 140 was generated by one of the old ratio tests which yielded much higher numbers for geniuses than newer tests. On the new tests 140 would be the equivalent of 170 on the old ratio tests. One of the main hallmarks I am referring to is that you seem to be outside of the socially optimal IQ range. The socially optimal IQ range ends at 160 or perhaps 150 something, not 140 (Old ratio tests).

    [editor’s note: In separate email this commenter states that she got this backwards. I presume this to mean that this should have read: “On the old tests 140 would be the equivalent of 170 on the new ratio tests.”]

    Anyway, I have found that I can manage to get along with most people in limited situations like work, but trying to get close to most people is more or less impossible. The only people who have ever understood me were gifted ones. There are so many differences it is hard to explain why this is… One difference is sensitivity. I react more strongly, am more easily insulted and am much less tolerant of problems. But reacting strongly to smaller things leads to perceptiveness and perceptiveness turns to insight. Being intolerant of problems makes me persistent and so I am more proactive about them. Reacting more strongly means that I have deeper empathy. People see this reactivity, mistake it for a weakness and are brutally invaliding about it without realizing that it is the very source of a number of good traits. It can hurt very very much to be around people who do not have the sensitivity that tends to come with high IQ. When it doesn’t hurt, it is because I have spent a lot of time working on explaining myself so that they can understand this.

    And that’s just the worst problem. There are ten thousand more differences that make it difficult for me and other gifted people to get close to others. Our interests are just different. I want to write all day, they want to go to the bar. I don’t understand why the bar is “fun”. I’ve been to bars. I’ve experienced them. But that experience just isn’t fun for me. They don’t understand why “being indoors cooped up at my computer” is fun. But I know that it is like composing music out of a whirlwind of excitingly complicated abstractions… :)

    I have felt suicidal, too. The social issues were a very hard thing for me to learn how to deal with. Now that I know more about my differences and have strategies for finding people who have these things in common, I’m doing better. I would like to tell you what I’m doing, if that would help.

    Please use email for your reply so that I can be sure of knowing about it promptly.

  10. Fred says:

    “She” —

    As you may have noted from my relatively flippant response to Hal’s remarks, I wasn’t particularly disturbed by them. I was actually somewhat amused by them — I’ve encountered such reaction my entire life, and it inspires something between humor and pity within me. It’s a sign of weakness when a person tries to lift himself by tearing down another. It’s the same pretty much anywhere — I foster either resentment or respect, and either way the response is a shallow one.

    RE suicide rates, I remember reading many many years ago that geniuses had very high rates of suicide. No idea where I saw it, but the idea stuck with me.

    Actually, what you wrote of your own experience echoes remarkably with my own. Especially things like: “People see this reactivity, mistake it for a weakness and are brutally invaliding about it.” I’m not generally one for “touchy feely” language such as talking about feeling validated, yet the way you talk about it makes sense. I don’t of course mean to invalidate your validation — I appreciate the note. ;-)

    “I know that it is like composing music out of a whirlwind of excitingly complicated abstractions…” You remind me of the slogan for WordPress (the software that runs this site): “Code is Poetry”. You’re right — abstract thought can be a remarkably creative process in ways that most people simply don’t see. I never was much of a bar-goer, though a good game of pool once in a while is a lot of fun. When playing pool, however, I sometimes irritate the hell out of people by taking an inordinately long time to take a shot — but make up for it by actually sinking the double-bank-with-english shot I was calculating. :)

    Regarding email — I don’t use outgoing email related to this site in the interests of anonymity. I am interested in hearing more from you, however — if you don’t want to address it publicly, I’ll find another way.

  11. She_The_Anomaly says:

    It does make sense that you would not want to share your email address. After all your I.P. address will be sent in the headers and any social networking sites you use will be easily discovered using that one piece of data. There are ways of getting around that – by getting a completely new email address (which I imagine could be obtained through your web host using the same domain name that this blog uses) and sending emails from it only while using a non-leaky proxy.

    That does add a layer of complication, however, and it would be easier for you if I were to check back and see if you have written any new responses. I looked through each post for responses to my comments but my comments were not visible, nor did I see any responses. I can only guess that the reason why is because you weren’t sure I would get your replies. I hope that they were helpful and that you did not confuse them for spam — I wrote so many that the blog eventually started telling me that it would have to be approved by the moderator due to concerns about spam…

    Here is a good workaround: I just checked the box in the comment section for the comment I am currently writing that says “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail”. I did not check this box on my other responses (not knowing how much irrelevant email it might generate considering the large number of posts I was responding to and the unknown number of other comment writers that might frequent your blog) but I will check the notify box from now on. If you reply to this comment when you make a reply to one of my other comments, I will be notified by email that you responded.

  12. Fred says:

    She — The other comments were all caught in the Spam trap. I just pulled out 11 from you that I hadn’t seen!

    Fast typist, eh?

    FYI — the site doesn’t get a whole ton of comments. Probably no harm in subscribing to other posts. Since May 2008, there have been a whopping 44 comments — a quarter of which are from you. By all means continue — I’m not pushing for a large audience, but I’m interested in what people have to say.

    There are also RSS feeds for posts, etc.

  13. She_The_Anomaly says:

    As for the fast typing, yes… but this may be more insightful: When I find something interesting, I go all out. It’s probably some echo of the quality “a rage to master” (which means the characteristically intense obsession with a subject of interest that is usually attributed to prodigious individuals. This is perceived as an effective way of learning quickly due to extreme motivation though I experience it more broadly – as a general tendency to obsess over anything of interest).

    “Since May 2008, there have been a whopping 44 comments — a quarter of which are from you.”

    Haha! Well I can see that now, but when I first started I had no idea.

    • Fred says:

      “As for the fast typing, yes… but this may be more insightful: When I find something interesting, I go all out.”

      I was kidding about the typing. Obviously fast typing doesn’t do much unless you have something to type. I used to be quite driven when something interested me. The loss of that trait is one of the changes I attribute to depression (or whatever the technical classification for my state would be).

  14. Fred says:

    She — For some reason the spam filter gobbles up most of your comments. Just freed up another eight. I’ll keep a closer eye on the Junk folder from now on!

  15. gloomy rodya the triptych says:

    I’m sorry – this whole blog is quite annoying.

    I had more to say, though I figured you would understand from that single sentence alone if, indeed, we were to relate upon the topic of genius and depression. Hint: it concerns vanity.

  16. She_The_Anomaly says:

    rodya,

    Yes some people are vain assholes who deserve to be hung by their toenails in a moldy cheese cellar – they think they are so much better than everyone else that they feel it justifies taking advantage of them in every way conceivable. They become exploitative businesspeople, abusive “lovers”, and all kinds of other nasty sorts of jerks.

    It may actually help the situation that people like you are willing to rove around reading blog posts you don’t like and notifying them of the problem.

    However, you’ve got the wrong guy.

    There is a fine line between stating a truth that you cannot change and being excessively prideful. You don’t choose to be gifted and you can’t choose to change it. It is part of you, just as much as being gay or white or black or old or young. It isn’t something Fred can change.

    Being gifted affects your whole life, making it difficult for anyone to relate to you. When you think constantly, like a gifted brain is wired to do, nobody wants to follow to the complicated places that thinking takes you to – except another gifted person. Sure he could hit himself over the head with a two by four every morning until his brain stopped thinking – but then he wouldn’t be himself.

    Who wants friends you can’t be yourself around? The very definition of “friend” is to have someone that can understand the real you.

    Fred wants someone that can understand the real him. Fred was only trying to point out that he is very different from everyone else and that it is extremely hard for him to find anyone that understands.

    Fred’s blog is not by any stretch of the imagination a vanity press – if you’d have read it, you would realize that this is his THERAPY.

    You have come to a lonely guy’s attempt to heal and insulted him. You have made yourself look like the bad guy here, rodya.

    You have to be careful when making the distinction between a gifted person who is saying “I’m lonely because the misunderstanding is this big” versus a jerk saying “I am better than you by this much”.

    Fred is just the lonely type of gifted, not vain.

  17. Twisted says:

    I always felt separated from others by some intellectual barrier, one that allowed me to achieve a certain level of objectivity that others did not appear to be aware of. I have always acknowledged this, but I consciously suppress any physical expression that may come off as immodesty. Below is a question/rant I posted on Yahoo Answers.

    “What is it exactly that hinders me?
    I am a 19 year old male who is a little fed up and wants to know what is wrong with me. I have trouble interpreting what I hear. Note that this occurs only intermittently. I hear the stream of sounds coming out of someones mouth but occasionally I can’t decipher exactly what words were spoken. Thus, I can’t translate those sounds into their corresponding meanings.

    This works the other way as well; more often than not it is difficult to form my ideas into words. Writing is not so bad becuase I have time, but conversation is a challenge. I tend to make myself seem stupid when trying to explain a complex idea to someone. Sometimes the only way I can convey my thoughts is using larger words and longer sentences; I avoid doing this so I’m not percieved as a jackass. Then when I try to use simpler words, what I say fails to represent my idea, and I sound stupid. (This is most prevalent in a debate-like conversation where different ideas are being argued and defended.)

    After some research, I found that it may be auditory processing disorder. I have always utilized other peoples body language, lips, facial expressions, and eyes during conversation to help me in case I miss something they say. I actually enjoy observing people and trying to collect as much data as I can to try and guess their thougts and intentions. Also, I have always been adept at detecting lies.

    Regardless of the nature of this problem, it has caused me to be socially awkward for most of my life. In addition, I avoid phone conversation because chopped up words and the lack of visual cues really doesn’t help my predicament. These difficulties multiply when I’m nervous, so you can imagine how my game is with girls (abominable). I don’t want to see a shrink or some other professional as I can still excel in school. (I failed out my first year(09-10) of college, but for reasons unrelated to my learning ability or aptitude). I just want an answer and maybe some additional ways to cope.

    I welcome all opinions.”

    • Fred says:

      “I have trouble interpreting what I hear. Note that this occurs only intermittently. I hear the stream of sounds coming out of someones mouth but occasionally I can’t decipher exactly what words were spoken. Thus, I can’t translate those sounds into their corresponding meanings.”

      This sounds like something akin to dyslexia to me, which is to say a specific disorder of some sort that would require therapy or training of some sort. Whether or not you think you need therapy for emotional issues, I would think you need help for the direct communication issues. You sound as though you are simultaneously dealing with two separate significant issues.

  18. Sad... says:

    [Note: This comment and the first reply were moved here from the “About Fred” page, which was not meant to have comments turned on.]

    My friend,

    IQ 140 is not so special. There are plenty of losers and idiots with extremely high IQ’s e.g. Chris Langan. That alone does not make one a genius. Mine is around 150 but so what? I studied math at a top university and am an applied mathematician, so what? There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of ppl like me. I am nowhere near being a genius. I know because I’ve seen truly brilliant ppl who still do not deserve the label of genius. I think you need to go out more often and see the bigger world. That’ll help cure your megalomania. It’s truly sad seeing sites like this on the web. Wake up buddy. See more ppl. Get a real job. Work hard. Read good books. And get a life!

    • Fred says:

      IQ 140 is not so special[…]. That alone does not make one a genius. Mine is around 150 but so what?

      1) If your IQ is 150 then you are, by definition, a genius. If you truly are at 150 I’m surprised you can’t make that distinction.

      2) I can’t imagine what blog you’ve been reading that makes you think for a moment that I’m megalomaniacal. I describe myself as “a genius — for what it’s worth” and you see arrogance? It wasn’t a judgement call; it’s a technical definition.

      • She The Anomaly says:

        I finally found out what the term “better than” means. It was a complaint I heard a lot – “Oh so you think you are intelligent, well that means you think you’re better than us, how arrogant!”. They always seemed angry and disgusted when they said something like this. Many of them seemed to feel that this justified abusive behaviors, which they would then launch at me.

        I was reading a wikipedia article on self-esteem and it had a number of ideas like the following, linking narcissism with abuse:

        “Violent criminals often describe themselves as superior to others – as special, elite persons who deserve preferential treatment. Many murders and assaults are committed in response to blows to self-esteem such as insults and humiliation. – Rajbir Singh, Psychology of Wellbeing, 2007”

        I think when someone complains that you “think you’re better than everyone else”, what they’re really referring to is the narcissist’s tendency to justify abusive behaviors based on a sense of superiority.

        The prevalence of narcissistic personality disorder (once again, according to Wikipedia) is about 1% (though it may be seriously under-reported, because how many narcissistic people are going to realize they have a mental disorder and seek help? I read somewhere that in college aged males, narcissistic personality disorder is way more common – something more like 1 in 6 of them has it).

        Even at a prevalence of 1%, there is one narcissist for every two gifted people. Gifted people are often shy whereas narcissists are known for having no empathy and some of them probably make quite a memorable impression.

        I’m thinking that people who respond venomously to harmless comments and claims to giftedness have probably been traumatized by narcissistic abuse and are now touchy about anyone that claims to have more abilities than someone else.

        Essentially, I think narcissists have been giving gifted people a bad name.

        I think we can turn this around, though, if we promote the following ideas:

        – Abuse is NEVER okay, no matter how awesome you are.
        – Everyone has rights, regardless of their ability levels.

        People need to protect themselves and they need to make judgments in order to do that. The main difference between the narcissist (or other potentially problematic types like the sociopaths and the scammers) is that they don’t care about other people’s feelings – because they have no empathy.

        The no empathy distinction is a much better way of detecting the narcissists than assuming that everyone who has unusual abilities must be abusive. Maybe if we politely suggest that they attempt to make the distinction based on empathy, they will stop assuming all gifted people are bad people.

  19. Tom says:

    Not sure if this blog is still active, but thought I’d comment just in case. I came across this site while doing some research on genius/depression … for personal reasons. I found these two articles that I might of interest:

    http://www.prometheussociety.org/articles/Outsiders.html
    http://www.triplenine.org/download/IQ_and_the_Problem_of_Social_Adjustment.pdf

    The second article quotes parts of the first, but they’re both worth reading. Clearly this is a known phenomenon, though rarely discussed openly. I suspect this is one of the reasons why high IQ societies exist – to facilitate discussion among individuals who are frequently misunderstood by the general populace.

    BTW As a high scoring INTJ on the MBTI scale I’ve come to believe that personality type may factor into this as well.

    • Fred says:

      Tom, Welcome. Definitely still active here, though more in comments than frequent postings. Have a look around and feel free to speak up if the mood strikes you.

    • VraiVamp says:

      Grady Towers’ articles definitely helped me put some things in perspectiive when I first came across them. Always good to find someone articulating your own suspicions ;)

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