It's been almost two years since I wrote an "Open Invitation to Lisa Ling and CNN." Interestingly enough, one of the people I wrote about in my "letter," contacted me about six months ago after he read my blog post, and we have spoken every day since.
In the documentary that CNN/Ling did about the "Supersmart Sperm Bank," (called "The Repository for Germinal Choice"), she located parents who used this bank for various reasons. Whether they went to this particular bank because they were highly intelligent but experiencing difficulties having children of their own, and wanted to "stack the deck in their child's favor," or because it was an inexpensive alternative to other facilities... the reasons ran the gamut. Ling especially wanted to meet the now, 30-ish year old kids who were born from this particular sperm bank simply because she was curious what it meant for kids to be highly gifted.
Covering only parts of how corrupt that sperm bank was, in general, she went on to document where they ended up and what they're doing today. As I mentioned in my previous blog post about this, there were certainly some mastermind pianists, athletes, and businessmen/women. There was also a "roofer," a now-adult with hardly-functioning Autism disabilities, and a few other brief mentions about some different unanswered questions the progeny had - like wondering "where did I come from."
My blog post raised the point of the difficult demands of gifted children, which I called "the darker side of giftedness." My hope was for Ling to do a follow up documentary about how being "smart" isn't an easy "problem to have" and it certainly doesn't stack the deck in your favor if you happen to have a high IQ or come from "intelligent" lineage.
When I first got the message from "Tom," I was confused. He said "I'm the roofer from the sperm bank and your daughter reminds me, of me." Most people in my position would never respond, possibly picturing their worst horror film whilst deleting their social media accounts and changing phone numbers- but I had a gut feeling that we had things to chat about. He responded to an article I wrote two years ago, I bravely replied, and now we talk daily.
"Tom" told me his real name, and all the reasons why he used an alias. That's not what this post is about, though. Nick Isel, the "alias Tom," has been an invaluable resource for me regarding my kids, and we have started other projects together as well.
Because Nick is a brilliant progeny from the Repository of Germinal Choice... Our main project at this moment, is getting the FDA to regulate sperm banks more carefully so these kids of donors can find out who they are, in short. Those of us who were born in a more "traditional way" can pick up the phone and call mom or dad to find out if a heart problem or mental illness runs in the family.
Nick didn't find out who he was until he was sixteen ... and that was seven years too late for him to access his records. Currently the FDA only requires sperm banks to keep records for ten years, and of course there are disclaimers galore, like in the event of a fire, sorry... records are gone. Good luck to you and yours.
No doubt, Nick is brilliant. Sometimes on the phone I find myself searching far and wide in my mind for the largest vocabulary I can retrieve and keep up with his knowledge on pretty much everything. It's a lost cause for me, but one thing that isn't, is our passion for helping children with budding or already existing mental illnesses, which, I had a hunch that there might a connection with profoundly high IQ's ... these children grow up to be adults. In our communities. Some cases are simple, and some aren't. SO many criminals are brilliant. Many comedians, authors, artists and countless other occupations are held by mentally unstable people who may eventually lose in their struggle and either take their lives, or take the lives of others.
It always baffles me when people are "surprised," that someone who seems so happy and funny, or artistic and successful, could be DEPRESSED. Oftentimes these successful creatives are brilliant, and simply don't know how to cope. This is a huge loss in many ways - and since most government officials only look at "the bottom line," then sure, we can talk money.
If you've ever calculated the cost of NOT helping people with mental illness, well... it's shocking. According to the USA Today, in an article called "The Cost of Not Caring," the most direct costs to our country were estimated, on the low side, at $444 BILLION per year, due mainly to loss of productivity and paying disability, instead of just supporting these people with the help they need. Getting mental help in this country is difficult even for the super-successful. Imagine the "regular" person walking around struggling on a daily basis. This article also cites that 90% of all suicides relate back to mental illness.
"We have replaced the hospital bed with the jail cell, the homeless shelter with the coffin."
So how does this all relate back to Nick Isel, and my article on the Supersmart Sperm Bank?
Viatcheslav Wlassoff, PhD, explains it pretty well in an article titled, "The positive association between high IQ and depression and other mental disorders."
The fascination with genius and an obsession with finding a positive link between high intellectual potential and depression and other mental disorders dates back to the time of Hippocrates in the 4th century B.C. Sigmund Freud explored the idea and modern-day researchers have expanded on it. In a study on children with IQ levels above 130 -- regarded as superior to very superior intelligence -- researchers found that 65 percent of the subjects had major depressive disorder.
Several studies attempt to correlate the occurrence of depression in gifted individuals with the peculiar mental makeup that stems from their high levels of intelligence. People with high IQ tend to have fertile inner lives where they recreate the world to fit their dreams and preferences. They also have more intensified and enduring reactions to stimuli than their less-gifted counterparts. This means that when reality clashes with their perception of what is "real," they feel at a loss and are unable to cope.
There are many problems our country needs to fix with regards to mental illness. Detecting it early in children and getting people support is the very least we should be doing. Also, helping people understand that what they're struggling with in this particular situation, is most oftentimes, not their fault. Whether we need better training for schoolteachers to show them that this is a real issue, or scientists need to go back to their labs and study each "spoke in the wheel of life" on federal and state levels, Nick and I get that it's a daunting task. It's also a situation that has personally affected both of us in different ways.
With regards to sperm banks, however, the problem we need to fix right now is the FDA's record retention laws:
Currently, the FDA requires ten years of maintenance for record retention as an effort to stop the spread of communicable diseases. While not traditionally accepted as a "communicable disease," Autism, Down Syndrom, and certainly mental illness, could be mitigated by, and increase help for these progeny of sperm banks.
Nick and I think Fifty years is a reasonable request for the FDA's future regulations of sperm bank record retention, and if I were a parent seeking "super smart" sperm, I would want my future child to have all the knowledge and empowerment available to help them to be a happy and productive member of society. I would support that number. You would think the government would want that as well, simply considering the loss of these people's potential productivity in dollars alone - since that's usually what federal officials, schools and regulators pay the most attention to.
One way you can support this before we meet with the FDA in the Spring of 2017, is by signing this petition. And if I've successfully sparked your curiosity about Nick Isel... he can be seen in a Canadian documentary coming out in the next six months covering these topics and more.
He's also been written about by Harvard Professor David Plotz, in a book called "The Genius Factory," and has been the subject of many studies regarding IQ and sperm bank progeny.
Stay tuned. Remember his name. The business of Sperm Banks affects all of us.