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Too Smart For Your Own Good: The Paradoxical Experience of Twice-Exceptionality (Part One) Walden University(USE AS GUIDE ONLY)
Running head: TOO SMART
Too Smart For Your Own Good:
The Paradoxical Experience of Twice-Exceptionality (Part One)
Too Smart For Your Own Good: The Paradoxical Experience of Twice-
Exceptionality (Part One)
My name is Christiane Wells, and I’m a PhD student in health psychology. I’m also a
person with severe mental illness. This study is an autoethnography exploring my paradoxical
experiences as a person with twice-exceptionality, or 2e. 2e is the phenomenon of being both
gifted and disabled (Reis, Baum, & Burke, 2014). In my case, I was identified as a gifted child
at the age of ten. But I also have bipolar disorder and ADHD.
Autoethnography is unlike autobiography in that it goes beyond the person and connects to
the cultural (Ellis, Adams, & Bochner, 2011). Moving past the self, as a way to include the truth
of others. I’ve conducted hours of interviews with people who are relevant to my own story and
their contribution has helped place my story within a broader social context.
When I first discovered autoethnography, it resonated deeply because I’ve been a
participant observer in my own life for 25 years. I began writing a journal at 16 and realized how
effective it was for dealing with my feelings. It became documentation of my life as 2e, and the
majority of the data used for this presentation is based on the 2,200 page timeline I built from
entries spanning the period from 1989-1999.
Writing was the one constant for me, driven by my strong need for understanding –
making meaning from my experiences. It was this introspective part of me that led me to
autoethnography as the vehicle for using my story to effect change (Denzin, 2014). Some of my
findings validated my initial assumptions. For example, the literature supports my belief that – to
be twice-exceptional is to be utterly misunderstood (Silverman, 1998). But I didn’t expect to
discover that the mental health treatment I’ve received over the past 25 years in the United
States has – at times – caused more harm than good. Sometimes, it’s been downright traumatic.
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