That last couple of years I have been trying to eliminate chemicals from my life.
I started by using only vinegar and baking soda to clean my house. Then I started washing my hair with vinegar, dyeing it with lemon juice, and moisturizing it with coconut oil.
Then I stumbled on a blog post about how to make your own makeup from flowers and stuff that’s in your kitchen. Now I make my own deodorant, foundation powder, moisturizer, laundry detergent and sunscreen. I order homemade bug repellant from a local woman. My friend Andi is an herbalist, so I’ve bought remedies from them, and I’ve started reading about herbalism on my own, too.
It started as a small attempt to get rid of unnecessary chemicals. But, coupled with my passion for growing my own food, it turned into an effort to learn how to take care of myself. After a couple years of random reading of the internet, googling, reading, and experimenting I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge about how useful and amazing the natural world is.
The knowledge is freeing. On one level, because it reminds me how much we do not need capitalism. We do not need corporate research and development on how to prevent sunburn, because we already have what we need. Capitalism only makes us want what is unnecessary because there’s money in it. I knew that already in theory, but proving how unnecessary these chemicals are feels especially great. I wonder how many other things that we think are necessary are actually not.
Then there is the implications for my body. Using some of these homemade products was weird at first. My hair has a different texture. The homemade sunscreen leaves a bit of a film on your skin. My homemade foundation powder is finicky, and many of these products have to be applied more frequently than the chemical versions.
But then I got used to them, and I feel so good using them. Not only is my skin visibly more healthy, I also started to feel different in my body, and to think of it differently. I love it more. My body must be pretty wonderful if I don’t need chemicals to make it look and feel good, right? I feel so much more in-tune with how it works, how it is feeling, and what it needs and when.
I am graduating university this month. I have weird feelings about it. There are times when I am happy about it, and other times I feel ambivalent. Mostly I remember how much the academy has fucked me over, especially as a disabled student.
But here’s the thing: regardless of what I learned in university, or didn’t learn, there is knowledge I have that is far more useful for taking care of myself. I have learned how to protect my skin from the sun, to make my own clothes, to grow my own food. I can learn to make my own remedies, to repair my own furniture, and fix my own house. To do those basic things that make life happen.
Being in tune with my body and knowing that I can learn to take care of it this well has so much more practical application than anything I learned in university. These are things you can’t learn in the academy, and I’ve learned some of them. I plan to keep learning them.
For someone like me who once thought I was stupid because I have nonverbal learning disorder, and who was told that I shouldn’t go to university, having this knowledge feels especially powerful. Being increasingly self-sufficient feels powerful.
There are different types of knowledge, and I have access to many of them, but it’s good to remember that the academy is not superior. It is one way of learning and knowing. Those of us who are neurodivergent have different ways, and they are legitimate ways of knowing, too. We have our own bodies of knowledge that are important, useful, and good, even though they often go unrecognized.
There is so much unshared knowledge among neurodivergent folks about how we take care of ourselves. There are so many methods of taking care of our bodies that our ancestors used and were stripped from us by the medical establishment, by patriarchy, and by imperialism. This knowledge is valuable. I want to go to every neurodivergent person I know and say, your knowledge is valuable. Especially your knowledge of your body and yourself that you have learned and that probably many people have discounted.
We have so much knowledge to share.