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Where to in 2021, a personal (& possibly boring) reflection of where I’m at.

January 12, 2021

First I’ll start by reiterating what this is, mainly because that’s how my brain works. It starts at the beginning (each and every time) and builds from there, never assuming, never bolting on. This is, indeed a tiresome way to be but it’s how I am…

This is a blog about cosmetic chemistry. More specifically it is a blog about my experiences, interactions and research as a scientist in general and a cosmetic chemist in particular. I am a cosmetic chemist who has a formal education in chemistry plus a long history of applied field work as a hands-on cosmetic chemist (factories, brands, laboratories, test facilities, consulting, speaking, teaching etc). I’ve been writing this blog since 2007 and up until the last two years I was quite prolific and enjoyed the process of sharing my ideas and seeing them form in real-time as I typed (yes, that’s how I write, there’s no plan and not much editing which some of my readers have, over the years, pointed out as annoying. Their loss). I knew that in time, the thrill of sharing all of this for free, for the shear joy of doing it, would wear off a little as things do when you keep on. However, I hadn’t anticipated just how that joy might be eroded and what it would do to me, how it would leave me feeling.

Turns out it would be eroded by my lack of ability to cope with and adapt to how people now interact with it, it being the information, insights and research I pump out, now being 2019-present vs then which was when I started…

Back in the beginning there appeared to me to be a real appetite for deep thinking and real investigating. Now it feels like opinions are all that matters and they who dress it up in the sexiest clothing or that look the best on Instagram, You Tube or Facebook win. That to me requires a different skillset. That to me doesn’t matter as much as what I have always tried to do and aspired to be. This has frustrated me forever but it finally became too much…

Also turns out that when it comes to fight, flight or freeze I do the latter and that goes on for a long, long time sending ice-cold ripples through my muscles, leaving me tense and with no blood supply to my extremities (brain being one of them). Once I’ve thawed (if indeed I do) I prefer to fight rather than flee but with so many perceived fights to pick from, the exhaustion sees that instinct turn inwards, leaving me questioning the point of everything. I know, I think I’ve said this all before but I guess us humans are doomed to walking around in circles until we notice the small detail that marks a way out.

Like many people 2020 threw up some outside-of-work challenges, a significant and persistent one being the changing and increasingly fragile health status of close family members. This plus Covid after a torrid 2019 which saw epic drought turn into flame meant that my limping brain and body gave up completely come October, since which time I’ve been hanging on by a thread to both my sanity and physical health (physically I can’t praise proper Chinese medicinal acupuncture highly enough, it’s really helped get that Chi moving again). While life remains somewhat complicated outside of work, as 2021 unfolds I do feel slightly more capable of tackling things again after having taken a solid break this Christmas period – the first full break in over 10 years.

But my crash in enthusiasm and stuckness wasn’t just caused by the environment be that the weather or my family, it was also about me.

When I mentioned above that the joy I had found in my work had been eroded because I couldn’t cope with people (that’s it in a nutshell) I knew that I had to dig into that further. The first truth of adult life is learning that you can only control yourself and the only real choice you have is in how to respond. Turns out that freezing is not a great business response and on that note I decided to turn my science mind inwards…

Somewhere between 2019 and early 2020 I was formally diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD is often thought of as the ‘naughty kid’ mental problem. The stigma around ADHD exists in a soup of skepticism where many un-labeled people seem permanently pissed off because everyone else has a mental health label which somehow excuses them from taking full responsibility for their actions and inaction. Further, this weird label fetish seems to make some un-labelled feel their life is harder and less fun because they have to change/ do more/ miss out because of it. Well I’m now part of that problem.

But that’s not all. Turns out I’m also very likely Autistic too.

The autism part is still being probed into but the odds are looking high for me hitting the double whammy of ADHD and Autistic by the time this year is through by which time I’ll be 47. That is quite late in the day for such a revelation but on balance it is not surprising given I’m a high IQ girl for whom ‘people’ and ‘being human’ are special case-studies.

Not wishing to jump the gun on the autism diagnoses I wish to fully acknowledge where I’m at currently so I can move forwards with the tools I already have at my disposal:

  • My time outside of family commitments which is still highly variable and less than it has previously been.
  • My intellect and access to resources which, in many ways continues to broaden and deepen.
  • My mental wellbeing and processing capacity which is influenced by both my neurodivergent (ADHD) way of attending to and processing input plus my limited ability to understand and manage interactions with people (this is what the autism may help me explain and if it isn’t that, the process I’m going through will still enable me to access some skills workshops to improve my capacity here).

With that acknowledged it is pointless for me to say ‘2021 is going to be an awesome year, a big year of change, just watch-this-space while I prepare to take over the world’. It won’t be that, it may even be harder than 2020 on the family front but that’s out of my direct control. What I can see is I am entering this year with eyes that are starting to re-adjust to a new way of relating to myself and the world. I am starting to feel a new energy pulse through me and it feels free and vibrant.

Over the last few months I have been keeping myself physically and mentally alive (basically) by slowing down and noticing more about the land on which I work – the trees, animals, mushrooms, flowers, rivers and human history. I’ve been planting seeds and watching them grow, travelling by foot and seeing relationships between things evolve and change as they go through their life cycles. I’ve re-tuned my ears to the vibrational energy that exists in and connects all things and realised that I interpret that as chemistry, living chemistry, life-giving chemistry. I have returned to my roots, the roots that had me lay on my stomach for hours as a child as I observed every little thing about the lawn in front of me, every little stary twinkle in the sky. I acknowledge that I lost this energetic sparkle somewhere between 2019 and now but am ready to welcome it back in its new, older and hopefully wiser form. That I can now use this energy as a light to guide my writing, research and lab work and as a source of power to push me to address and change the things that no longer serve me.

So 2021 will see Realize Beauty change because I’ve changed but hopefully it will all work out for the better. For those of you who need to know practically (rather than metaphorically) what this will look like I expect to be re-focusing myself on deep topics such as tracing where chemicals come from, why ingredients behave as they do (in formulations vs alone) and how products interact with the skin (cosmetically rather than from a dermatology perspective – not qualified for that).

I want to spend some more time modelling what scientific joined-up thinking actually looks like, how experimenting works and explaining why ‘you just can’t google that’ and other such jolly things. If COVID permits I will be doing some more out-of-state field work, if not I’ll be concentrating on, and talking you through how I’m growing cosmetic ingredients and birthing ‘chemicals’ at home on our 50 acre woodland called Fox Hill Hollow. I will also be spending more time researching how the communication of cosmetic science has changed through history and in particular, exploring the balancing act between truth and great story telling (creative marketing/ lying/ fake-news…). As always I’ll be teaching (maybe in person, definitely in our live, online classes via New Directions); stability testing products, distilling my home-grown essential oils and chemistry and manning the technical help desk for New Directions. But I’ll be doing all of this in a way that allows me enough head space so I don’t become overwhelmed and so that I have enough time to address the challenges that being me throws up both mentally and physically (so that means highly managed social contact, I’m not the type of person you’ll find hanging around just waiting for a chat).

So that’s that.

I’ll be posting some cosmetic chemistry content on the weekend probably but until then, stay as safe and as healthy as you can out there.

Amanda x

9 Comments leave one →
  1. essentiallyaudreyaus permalink
    January 12, 2021 3:39 pm

    Good on you! Sounds like the break gave you a much needed rest and time for reflection.
    As someone who worked for years with adults with ASD, many people especially women as often diagnosed late and it is often highly intelligent women.
    Good luck with your next steps. Looking forward to reading what’s to come.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      January 13, 2021 4:41 pm

      Thanks for the comment, I’m intrigued by it all for myself to be honest. I do like to pick away at things until I get my final ‘but why’ itch scratched (knowing that there probably isn’t just one answer or an answer at all for a person) but its the investigating that’s fun. Born a scientist, being a scientist, die a scientist, autistic or not 🙂

  2. January 12, 2021 4:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Autism Candles.

  3. January 13, 2021 3:28 pm

    Hey Amanda!
    Why am I not surprised that my very most favorite, most esteemed, the singular Person of Science whom I constantly reference to my friends & family, & to whom I refer to as the most brilliant Scientist alive at this time in history & for many generations, is diagnosed as ADHD & on the Autism spectrum?
    I’ll tell you why I am not surprised; because your unique mind & perspective is, IMHO, just one of a myriad of reasons why you think the special way you do, & no more could you divorce yourself from those aspects of Amanda the Chemist, than the fact that you wear glasses or have eczema.
    We are all collections of traits. I was going to say ‘diagnoses’, especially when regarded by any team of experts in western medicine, however, our diagnoses are just as much parts & pieces of us as eye color, or how long a fuse we have.
    My main concern is that I hope you continue to write this blog. I have told you before, but I can’t stress it enough, that without the scant handful of opposing voices, the entire internet will be overrun by the mommypotamuses (not to target just one blogger, but why do I feel like there’s more than one?).
    I hope you don’t misunderstand me. I am a year older than you, but unfortunately, have collected quite a menagerie of my own diagnoses, & I don’t want you thinking that I am trying to assuage feelings which I interpreted you to be wrestling with from what you wrote above. I am a careful reader, & got no subtle or overt innuendo from your words that you are seeking assurance of any kind from your readers or anyone else in your life. I’m not sure if you worried about that when you posted this or not, but I can assure you any generally astute adult of average intelligence will hear exactly what you said & no more.

    Lastly, reading what you said about growing things, observing & participating in their green trajectories, forces me to do something I loathe doing. I have a book to recommend for you to read. I loathe doing so because inevitably, it means a great deal to me & inevitably, the recommendee will never actually read said book. But here goes anyway, keeping in mind I am literally your number one fan & I pay very deep attention to the things you write (oo, that sounded creepy, not meant creepy, just true) & in my opinion I believe you would thoroughly enjoy it.
    Normally, I would never suggest a novel to you, but this is more of a very factual, illuminating Natural Sciences book, inside of a fictional format, for the purpose of presenting the unbelievably exciting Science within. The title is ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers.
    Of course, I am completely invested in whether or not you read it, therefore, I will never mention it again.
    I apologize for the Ted Talk, but at least I only occasionally write you!
    Sincerely & with humble admiration & respect,

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      January 13, 2021 4:39 pm

      Why thank you for your response and yes I am glad to hear that I didn’t come across as seeking validation or anything like that. I share because I’m a scientist and I like people to have the facts on where I, the author am coming from – my perspective, my ‘wiring’ and my bias I guess. Glad that was clear. I see that book is available as an audio version too so I will try listening to it first and if I like it I’ll get myself a paper copy and give it a read. I love trees so anything about them, fact or fiction is usually of interest. Thanks

  4. January 18, 2021 10:01 pm

    Hello Amanda, your new writing direction sounds awesome. I too got my ASD diagnosis mid 40’s. And that book Suki recommended,The Overstory, it rocks. Love from a tree lover in Devon, UK, Wendy

  5. Malin permalink
    February 22, 2021 7:07 pm

    Hi! I just wanted to thank you for the awesome bank of information you have put out here for people to read and learn from! (even though, as you say, most people don’t want to do that, they just want the quick answers and ready recipes..)
    Possibly too long and uninteresting, but here it goes: I was also adult-diagnosed with adhd 2019 (random coincidence!) and possible autism, and am a female scientist with high IQ.. (not within chemistry though) Anyway, I recently got inspired by the diy/organic skin stuff-craze, but what’s funny is that I instantly started looking at ingredients because I HAVE TO undetstand what “it” (organicnaturalecologicalvegan ingredients) is, and can’t just accept the selling websites’ fancy words. Do it 100%, or not do it at all, you know? So, down the rabbit hole we go xD
    So, again, thank you, because finding your blog has been such a pleasure. Even if you make it “complicated” (which I love) it’s sooo much easier than trying to scavage the internet for first-hand research on your own. And this is just because I want to make things for myself, no interest in selling or distributing anything (mentioning because I HEAR YOU, about people thinking they can be formulators or hobby-chemists after taking an online course).
    Another funny thing is that I’ve bever had the slightest interest in cosmetics until now, when it turned into chemistry and physiology!
    Also, thank you for this open-hearted personal post, really appreciated to get to know a little more about the person behind the blog 🙂 Wishing you all the best for the coming year!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      February 27, 2021 9:15 am

      Thank you Malin, it is a very rewarding place to play (the cosmetic industry) and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it very much. As for the neurodiversity, that’s fun too albeit a bit odd at times, especially as I keep ‘discovering’ how very different to the norm my brain is. Still, I guess that can be a good thing…

  6. Michelle Knijnenburg permalink
    March 3, 2021 12:33 am

    I wish you all the best. Thank you for really caring and for sharing.

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