A beautiful female colleague of mine is getting married for the first time at 51. A friend of mine in his late 40’s just found a line of work that truly suits him. A brilliant 46-year-old acquaintance recently adopted a baby. Do these ages seem a little “late in life” to you? It appears these days that people are taking longer to “get it together.” If someone had told me in my twenties that I would be single and childless in my forties, I would have said, “No way.” More and more frequently I meet adults who have insight, vitality and presence, but none of the hallmarks of a traditional life. It’s been a topic of concern for some who feel stigmatized by their difference. So I decided to shed some light on this phenomenon of our times and do what our culture loves to do: Label it.
Introducing Late Bloomer Syndrome (LBS), a diagnosis for highly sensitive people who, at a very young age, saw and deeply felt the negative effects of unconscious behaviors and dynamics in their immediate environments, and made a firm, albeit unconscious choice to avoid perpetuating these patterns of living. This choice lays dormant in the cells of the carriers until they attempt to live “normal” adult lives, at which point it is evident that something is wrong. Symptoms of depression, restlessness, ADD, OCD and addictive behavior may present themselves. By the time these symptoms are fully addressed and worked through, and new models of living in the world are sought out and incorporated, a person with LBS is considerably older than a non-LB.
LBS is not to be confused with Adult Baby Syndrome (ABS), which unlike LBS, is a real diagnosis for low-functioning people who can’t seem to grow up. People with LBS are able to function, although many of them are depressed. Many wind up deeply involved in the processes of increasing their functionality and, ironically, truly growing up. LBS does not apply to highly driven women who need to establish their careers before having a family. LBS occurs in both men and women. Many people in conscious communities are afflicted with it. What can you do if you if you or someone you love is suffering from LBS? How can you avoid feeling bad about it?
LBS is not in itself a bad thing, it’s just that being separated from the norm, from the culture’s prescribed recipe for a full and complete life, is a natural source of consternation. This discomfort is useful in that it sends most people in search of help and answers. Often referred to as a “prolonged adolescence” LBS is obviously due to psychological issues. The real question is, whose issues? People with LBS are often the first people in their entire lineage to look at their “stuff.” Metaphorically speaking, it is like if no one in your entire family history had every done their laundry, and then one day you woke up buried under a pile of dirty towels and socks. If you wanted to climb out from under that mountain and leave it clean, it could take a long, long time. Likewise, LB’s spend a lot of time cleaning up the emotional baggage handed down to them through centuries of repression.
Do you have LBS and feel some shame about it? Shame and self-blame are common symptoms of LBS. Even though it may feel hard, every culture goes through an awkward transition when real change abounds. You’re a leading factor in that change. Think about your parents and grandparents for a minute. Think about the times they lived in and the factors involved in their decision to get married and become parents. In a large number of cases, there wasn’t a sense, as there is today, that there was much choice in the matter. Everyone got married and had kids. Straying from the norm was much more threatening then than it is now. Therefore, you may have been born into an unhappy marriage that was based on control or manipulation, or you had an absent father that worked all the time and a mother who was extremely depressed. Or you are a child of a messy divorce, or of alcoholics. If, before you could articulate what was wrong with it, you saw those distortions and said, “not for me!”; if you once thought adulthood looked more distasteful then Peter Pan did, that doesn’t make you abnormal, just smart. Is it any wonder, when the blueprint of the traditional life seems at best stale and stilted, and at worst abusive and morose, that one would be reluctant to get it together?
So remember, LB’s: You have been doing important work. One positive result of LBS is the great wisdom that comes from the recovery process. It’s important for people with LBS to congregate together, as getting in touch with one’s innate wisdom often feels even more isolating. So when you find yourself in the fourth wedding party of the year and you have had only one real relationship in your whole adult life, or when you spot a copy of an old friend’s newly released novel while browsing in Barnes and Noble on lunch break from your temp job, remember: You have been doing important work.
And the good news is that as we speak, prescriptive medication for people with LBS is currently in development, to help acquire “normal” lives faster! Unfortunately, it is currently reported that the side effects, which include giving birth to wildly dysfunctional children, are deadly. So until then, here are some playful reminders of how to deal with being young, wise and seemingly anchorless all at the same time:
Tell your elders who have a hard time with where you are that they should go to therapy. Since it helped you feel better about yourself, it will probably help them feel better about you too
Reframing Your “Career Issues”
New Stance: I decided a long time ago to accept a job as the healer of myself and my ancestors. I am moving to part-time soon so I’ll have more time to focus on my other jobs even though I haven’t decided what they are yet. (By the way, if you’ve been at the healing thing for a while, give yourself a raise.)
Reframing Your Commitment Issues
New Stance: I am in the process of a very lengthy and complicated divorce from my programming. Although there have been corrupt judges and the need to change lawyers a few times, it will eventually go through. In the meantime, I am available for love!
Reframing Your Intimacy Issues
You want real intimacy? You’re going to have issues. Who doesn’t? Really!
Think Outside the Box
Remember: From the perspective of those inside the box you may appear to be a drifter and a dreamer. From those outside of it, you can be celebrated as an explorer and pioneer of consciousness.
Love Yourself no matter what.
Excellent. Thank you, Blair.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Mary!
Hi Blair-Wonderfully “out of the box” thinking. Very original. I have never seen this way of looking at things, and it makes a lot of sense!
Thanks, Dina! Glad it made you think!!!
Wow. You really hit the nail on the head.
“People with LBS are often the first people in their entire lineage to look at their “stuff.” How true
Look forward to herring more of your thoughts on this
Thanks so much for your comment, Tom. This article was written before I had a blog and it got so many resonant responses at the time! I will consider writing more about it.
This is an interesting post. It reminds me that for the most part, people try to do their best with what they got. I got a broken leg -> I may limp to the front of the class. I got two broken legs –> I may crawl to the front of the class OR (analogy here) I may stay in the back of the class until my legs are better. If my legs don’t get better, I may find a way to cope. Or I may choose another activity that doesn’t involve being in front of the class. The analogy is to say I agree with your wisdom today. People generally do the best with what they are given AND the tools they have learned. Of course, learning new tools will help the Late Bloomer either heal the legs or create accommodations that minimize the handicap. I was one of those who learned late that I even HAD a “broken leg”. I am now 45 and re-realizing my direction in life. I don’t have the benchmark accomplishments, but I am glad I am finally putting myself first and becoming a whole person – a gift I cherish every day.
Such a powerful comment, Dave. I appreciate your metaphor and openness, and this perspective: “People do their best with what they’ve got.” Thanks for stopping by.
[…] Admittedly, I’m a late bloomer. (Evidently, this is a real ‘syndrome‘) […]
I love this awareness that you’re sharing and the normalizing you’re giving the topic. One of my sons is in this category and I find that whenever I put pressure on him to “figure it out” he withdraws more. When we go with the flow and find ways to engage him through invitation, he’s much more responsive and open.
Thank you for sharing!
So great that you connected with the piece and that you are not continuing the pattern of shame with your son!
Thank you for commenting.
This explains a lot for me! Thanks Blair.
So happy to hear it, Linda!
This was such an insightful and uplifting piece to read, thank you so much for putting it out there Blair. My OCD can certainly be attributed to LBS when at 16 years old adult life just looked like a long line of conveyor belt experiences which terrified and confused me. I didn’t realise then that recovery is a long process and so it’s really encouraging to be reminded by others that you are doing important work and it’s okay to be figuring out your own path which might see you reaching certain goals later than others. Great writing…Great work!
I am so happy it touched you!
Thank you for sharing your LBS experience.
Thankyou so much for this information. I have LBS, my counselor diagnosed this last year but I was too shy to look into it futher. I got married at 17 years old so I could divorce my mother and her predictor male friends who made my life a living hell. Now I’m in the process of starting life again after 23 years in a unhealthy marriage… I’m actually thankful that I have LBS because the next man in my life will have the best of me and I will get to experience something beautiful that rightfully belongs to me, LBS is my blessing! I am truly thankful that I now know I am not an alien! Lol, thanks Blair 🙂
Absolutely brilliant, very helpful to see what I have lived and endured explained here most clearly and succinctly! Thank you for your affirmation and lovingkindness.
[…] Admittedly, I’m a late bloomer. By choice or by pure luck. (Evidently, this is a real ‘syndrome‘) […]
Hi – I’m a late bloomer, and intrigued by your naming it “Late Bloomer Syndrome.” Can you tell me more about where this phrase originates? I’d like to read more about it.
I made it up! I was being playful with this trend to diagnose everything these days. Let me know if you’ve found interesting studies or other articles on the web.
This is amazing. Thank you! I relate to every single concept. You are a great talent!
Thank you for this article. I have felt like a complete failure as a woman now 46 years. Depressed a great part of it as I tried desperately to fit into a norm and find love. It has only left me with no identity and no place call home. There were time within my life that I have found a path that seemed unusual to others or threatening to my supposed loving partners so they manipulated or convinced I should be otherwise and unfortunately I shifted. This times shifted into depression. I now firmly believe that one major reason for some depression is that you are not truly loving your authentic life. You keep doing this you are from your truth and it hard to find you way back to self.
I am currently their again even at my age. But I sure do know so much more.
How to move forward so late in life? Is to remember you have a whole second half of life to live!
Linda, I’m so glad you were inspired by the article, and that you are moving forward —right on time— with enthusiasm for the next chapters!
Great article. So funny and on point. I finally feel understood!!! It feels amazing