I love spending the day in my apothecary, mixing pelvic steam blends, formulating for clients, putting my new labels onto salves, and just hanging out with all the plants. It's so sweet to make a tea blend for a loved one with herbs I started from seed. Plantain that grew on a friend's farm. Mugwort I carried to my garden from the edges of abandoned fields and gave a new home to take root.
I'm excited to take on more clients, to find more rad herbalists to build free clinics with, and dedicate more of my time to doing what I love. I became more obsessed with plants when I realized how huge their impact could be on my daily life, how much more grounded and stable I could feel on the earth. How much easier it was to handle the constant onslaught of sensory information with herbal allies like Vervain, Reishi, Skullcap, and Hawthorne. Like always, whenever I become obsessively passionate about something, I want to share it with everyone.
It's also a really great feeling to find a way to turn all my sensory sensitivity, my synesthesia, and neurodivergent way of being into tools that help me be a better herbalist. I have a pretty thorough intake form, and I do a ton of research for every client, but I also pay attention to the colors that appear with the timbre of someone's voice, the texture and speed that the lines around them move with. Plants each have personalities, qualities like being warming or cooling, drying or moistening, that we study in herb school. For me, they also come with a rich sensory landscape, like every other living being I encounter. This informs which herbs I pair to which human. All of the things I've always been told to silence, or ignore, or shut down, they are all useful tools for connecting people to their herbal allies. I especially love working with other humans who are neurodivergent. I know the idea that neurodivergent and autistic people are magic has caused a lot of harm, and I don't want to perpetuate any ideas of otherization, or people of any identity being a monolith. My brain isn't a curse or a superpower. It's both. And neither. And more complicated, like every quality each of us possess. But it does make me happy to connect to plants this way, especially when these ways of being haven't always been easy to navigate.
I was diagnosed as having ADHD when I was 21 and was told ADHD puts me on the autism spectrum. I dismissed the doctor immediately, not even allowing the possibility that he may be right. Everything I had been told about Autism was based on a certain highly stigmatized profile of a white cis man. I wasn't bad at picking up on social cues, I was hyper aware of everyone's physical and emotional states. Looking at a person wearing a cast was enough to encourage a creaking throb in my own extremity. So many autistic people, especially non cis het male autistic people, don't realize they're Autistic until well into adulthood. I am ashamed that my own internalized ableism made the idea of being Autistic something I immediately dismissed, and also, none of the information I had been given was anywhere near accurate. I struggle with many aspects of the medical industrial complex, and don't generally take too kindly to white cis men telling me there is something wrong with me, nor do I think it is okay to frame Autism as "something wrong." There's a lot to unpack there. I wish reality were different. I wish people weren't so hostile towards anything unfamiliar. I wish all mainstream representation of autism wasn't so ugly, inaccurate, and stigmatizing. For the past few years, I've been doing as much research as possible to understand myself and other people who are not neurotypical. I learn new things about ADHD, Autism, Synesthesia, and being a Highly Sensitive Human everyday. It might make my every day life a little more complicated than most people's, but when it comes to being an herbalist, sometimes it feels like a serious advantage.
Yes, being able to hear the high pitched shriek of electricity is painful, and wincing and covering my ears isn't super socially acceptable. I have made an art of appearing to be normal, holding it together on the outside when my insides are a seismic disaster of epic proportions. I learned this is called masking, and between the CPTSD and all the other acronyms that apply to how my mind works, I had plenty of opportunity and reason to mask my differences. When my allostatic load is too high, the light vibrates in my face, feels like razor blades between my ears. I can hear it, and it stirs up uncomfortable textures inside my body. I love using my self to experiment with herbs. Skullcap helps me immediately in these situations, and if I take it pre-emptively, it can prevent these extreme sensory experiences. My version of synesthesia involves a cross wiring of all my senses. If I close my eyes and take a drop of tincture, there are colors, a three dimensional fullness, roundedness, or thinness. Textures, and sensations I don't know how to categorize. When I sit with someone for a consultation, I make lists of herbs that are indicated as we talk. If they mention they hold their breath and have to constantly remember to inhale, I make a note of Agrimony. If they are a cool expansive powdery blue that is pulled taught and appears in my mouth, I make a note of Mugwort.
I do extensive research, and check all the contraindications, and I know that my extrasensory information is subject to human error. This is my personal filter, and I know that I'm not always right. I never rely solely on my synesthesia or neurodivergent neuroses and abilities to decide what herbs to put in a formula. Nine times out of ten, the herbs I scribble down in the margins based on colors and textures and synesthetic information end up being indicated for the person I am working with. After a lifetime of trying to silence the loudest parts of me, to squeeze myself into a box that could never contain me, to shave off the sharp angles and the bits of me that are most offensive to the capitalistic war machines of oppression and horror, being able to use these parts of myself to support people who are suffering feels like a cause for celebration.
I love the term neuroqueer, and am excited about the movement to queer mental health, to radicalize Autism, to queer neurodivergency. To reclaim. Redefine. To decenter the idea of binaries and center voices of people who are always talked about, and never handed the mic to speak for themselves. I am constantly learning and evolving, and I want to share how powerful herbalism can be with anyone and everyone who is suffering. For me, herbs work better than any pharmaceutical medication I've taken for mental health, but I know that what works for me is not what works for everyone. I have so much curiosity around how bodies work, and I am excited to figure out what each person wants, what works for them, and how to support them on their journey towards their goals. To me, the ideas of radicalizing or queering a movement means centering the voices, desires, and needs of the people who are seeking support, and trusting them to be the experts on their own experiences. Nothing about us without us.