amphetamines & me

Today, I want to talk about meds.

Almost a week ago, I met with a psychiatrist for the first time in 8 years. Back in the day, I sought out pharmaceuticals to help me with my anxiety, but soon discovered that I didn’t like the way those pills made me feel. Since then, I was really resistant to trying any kind of medication. Early in my therapeutic relationship, my therapist suggested that I try mood stabilizers, but back then I was really adamant about healing holistically. I think at the time, it was the right choice.

But I’ve recently–within the past year and a half–passed a major, major hurdle in my emotional healing, and since then I had hit a sort of rut. My loneliness and lack of self-worth was what had originally driven me to seek out therapy, and meeting my partner Cristopher in September 2019 marked the end of that era for me. Before I started therapy, I was constitutionally incapable of selecting an appropriate, emotionally available partner and relating to them healthfully, but the healing I have done has enabled me to both attract and thrive in my current relationship. That sector of my life is sorted–I found a wonderful man who loves me, and I’m happy.

But with love and its trials off my mind, other struggles came to the forefront. I’ve mentioned before that I have been really unhappy with my job/career on the fringes of academia; I’ve also mentioned that I struggle greatly with executive dysfunction, and that as a result I have trouble “making moves” on things despite having grand ideas that I feel strongly about bringing to fruition.

My executive dysfunction also affects my domestic life and my health. I have historically gotten overwhelmed to the point of paralysis by simple tasks like cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. I’ve always managed to get by, but have found those basic responsibilities to be huge, exhausting burdens that sap energy from me–energy I could be using for higher-order tasks, like working on my various projects. I’ve also been wanting to get in better shape, but have struggled immensely to consistently muster the motivation to go out and exercise.

Well, as of last Saturday, I seem to have turned a corner. That was the first day I took my prescribed 20mg dose of Vyvanse, and I can’t even begin to express how much better I’ve been feeling since then.

Vyvanse is a stimulant in the amphetamine family, and it’s used to treat ADHD, which I guess my Psychiatrist has decided I meet the criteria for (we didn’t talk about autism much, but the few words we exchanged about it tipped me off to the fact that she has an outdated understanding of it). In addition to helping my mind focus on whatever task is at hand, it has also helped me maintain a positive mood and a healthy energy level throughout my days. I was actually shocked by how much I have been able to accomplish each day since I started taking Vyvanse. I think the best part is that once my dose kicks in, I feel like I have the energy and wherewithal to tackle the day and make it a productive one–a feeling I am by no means used to.

Something especially notable is that, out of the six days I have taken my pill so far, I have gone on 4 hikes. This is a great track record–much better than it had been pre-Vyvanse. I’ve been enjoying hiking more, too, because I feel less emotionally overwhelmed by it. I have also noticed the appetite suppressant effects of the drug–I spend so much less time thinking about food, which, as someone who is rather overweight, can only be considered a good thing.

Admittedly, I feel a little funny about relying on a pill to be able to function at optimal levels–especially because I anticipate there being periods of time when I will have to stop taking it. For a long time, I have been wanting to attend an Ayahuasca retreat, and those retreats typically ask participants to cease taking all medication that is not strictly medically necessary. I anticipate that going off the Vyvanse after having gotten used to its benefits will be pretty difficult, and may even cause a spike in my depression. But, I guess I will have to take that as it comes.

On a more positive note, I’m really excited to see how my creativity unfolds now that my more debilitating symptoms have lifted. I have some big ideas for this blog (although it may take a while for me to make them a reality), plus something like three other projects I’ve been intermittently working on.

I don’t know if there’s a takeaway to this post–I just felt like sharing this new development in my journey. If anything, I guess I’ll say this: if you struggle with executive dysfunction and other ADHD symptoms, don’t underestimate how much of a difference 20mg can make! Everyone is different, of course, but if you’ve been thinking about it, I say give it a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised.

-SFP

12. my many faces (autism and social media)

Welcome back, reader. Nice to see you again. Maya has returned.

I’ve written on the subject of my social personae before. In a nutshell, I have described how my neurodivergences and resultant mental health issues have led me to have a diffuse sense of identity, such that I have little idea how others perceive me. Tonight, I have some more thoughts on that.

I’ve also written on the subject of how autistic people are not comprehensively understood by the wider world; as a suspected autistic, I have a lot of thoughts and theories about that. This comes into play, too.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about tonight: I am intensely uncomfortable about posting on social media. This has been the case since I was 21 or so. When I was younger I would do it without a thought, but over the past decade, I have become increasingly self-aware, and as a result, increasingly self-conscious about how I come off when I post. Even now, after having done a tremendous amount of work on myself to feel at home, I hesitate to show my authenticity to my broader social network.

Or maybe it’s not that I hesitate, but more like I don’t know how to be my authentic self in a way that will make sense to all or most of them at once.

Growing up, and even into my twenties, I was constantly hiding myself in one way or another. The environment around me taught me that who I was would not be accepted, and so to survive emotionally, I selectively hid parts of myself that I intuited would be rejected by the people around me. Since I could sense that different people would reject different parts, each person or group of people I knew would get a different cross-section of me, with certain traits exaggerated or suppressed. I’m not proud of who I was in front of some people. With other people, I hid most of myself and shrunk to nothing. With others still, I have outgrown the way I was, and now find recalling it to be mortifying.

What I’m describing is the process of “masking,” something that autistic femmes tend to be particularly adept at.

I’m also describing the “unstable self image or sense of self,” which is one of the traits that characterizes folks who have Borderline Personality Disorder–something I have been formally diagnosed with in the past.

Something important to know when trying to understand autism–especially in what I will call femme-type autism–is that there is tremendous overlap between autism and Borderline Personality Disorder. Experts and those read up on the subject often cite the fact that many autistic women are initially misdiagnosed with BPD. I have a theory that the stresses of being autistic–particularly the emotional sensitivity coupled with being consistently unseen and misunderstood–is what leads to BPD in some people. In other words, BPD is a complex that develops in emotionally sensitive people as a result of not being properly emotionally cared for. As a sensitive person, even the most subtle emotional incorrectness can cut incredibly deep. The BPD complex, I would argue, is a natural response to repeated, long-term trauma.

I mention this because, for me, it has been helpful to view my difficulties cultivating my social persona through the lens of my autism/BPD. I think it’s also key to understand the identity confusion phenomenon I’m describing as something that resulted directly from my emotional sensitivity: I felt unsafe presenting a consistent version of myself to some people, and yet felt the need to be intimate with others. My friends on social media are a hodgepodge of people who don’t know me at all, and may judge me, and people who know intimate things about my life in the past.

So when I go to post, I feel like I have no reference point for how I will be viewed. Will my “friends” judge me? Will they ignore me? Will seeing my post provoke disdain? These things are all subtle, and won’t affect me in any concrete way, but putting myself out there induces stress. I realize that many would consider all this to be “overthinking”–“it’s just an Instagram post!”–but when you live in the Subtlesphere, overthinking is all you know.

And so, I don’t post–not unless I have something unambiguously positive to share.

Around six months ago, I made a new Instagram for myself. I only shared it with people who know me now–people who are a part of my new life, who have passed the “sniff test” as folks who will only be supportive and not judge. Even there I have some trouble presenting a persona, but at least it’s easier.

May we all find circles of acceptance.

-MM

10. personae

I am not Maya; Maya is not me. I am not the author either.

Who am I?

This is not a riddle—at least, not one with a solution. It is the reality of my existence.

It is true for many autistic individuals (especially AFAB ones) as well as many people with Borderline Personality Disorder—two conditions that almost certainly apply to me—that one may have a diffuse sense of identity, or else a fluid/malleable one. For a long time, I did not understand this symptom or how it applied to me; I did and do have a strong sense of who I am internally.

But recently I have realized that I have very little sense of how others perceive me. I go into almost every situation expecting to be disliked, and find myself surprised and confused when people respond to me positively. Sometimes, that disconnect between expectation and reality can be so extreme that I experience a sort of dysphoria similar to physical overstimulation: I freeze up and cringe away from the positive energy, at least inwardly.

Outwardly, nobody can tell that I’m struggling. At least, I don’t think they can.

When I realized that I am autistic and I started diving deep into what that really meant, one particular piece of information stood out to me as illuminating: AFAB autists tend to have an excess of emotional empathy and a dearth of cognitive empathy. That is to say, we deeply sense the emotions of others, but have trouble predicting what they may be consciously thinking and what their intentions might be.

This has made sense of a lot, in retrospect. I think back to all the times when a younger and more naïve version of me responded to someone’s effusive kindness and interest, when really they had been hiding less charitable feelings.

I also consider that my reflex to match others’ emotional energy was habituated as a means of overcompensation for lack of ability to intuit others’ thoughts.

So what has become of me? I am a collection of personae. I am one person to my family; another to my friends; yet another to my students. I experience continuity between and through those states, but sometimes I fail to recognize myself in them. It can feel like being in a hall of mirrors….

Hence: Maya. Maya is who I am on this blog. Maya is something I can anchor myself to for these purposes. Maya is the observer of all—but also that which is able to report back on that continuity of experience.

She can only exist in the vacuum of cyberspace.

-MM

8. download mode.

Reader, I am in what I like to call “download mode” right now.

What is download mode? It’s a state one can achieve through various techniques which puts a person’s consciousness into a special state in which things just start falling together; and brick by brick, one is able to assemble an understanding of the big picture.

I have understood much tonight, reader. Not about anything grand or ultimately poignant, but just about myself.

Sometimes I feel self-conscious when I share my own experiences, because I feel that some perceive that as egocentric–but I have been learning to stop shrinking in fear of what others will think. The truth is, over the years I have been very moved by hearing the personal accounts of others. Here is mine. I hope it can be a help to someone else, just as other goddesses’ accounts have helped me.

As I have recently indicated, I am struggling. Here’s what’s been going on:

The Pandemic allowed me, a terminally busy person, to finally slow down and take a long hard look at my life. I saw all new possibilities for myself. I started to practice my passions. I decided on a career change after years marinating in academic purgatory.

Then I had to return to my old jobs, where I feel overworked and exploited.

Even though I’m still in an incredibly sweet spot vis-a-vis proportion of remote work, the result was an overload and a breakdown. I’ve become conscious of all the subtle energy drains and stress points, all the things I used to tell myself I just had to “get over.” Because I’ve learned to love myself more deeply–and frankly, because cannabis came back into my life–I’ve become aware of all the ways I could be doing myself a deeper kindness.

What society at large says should be a breeze is not easy for me. I’d venture a guess it is not easy for many of you, either. Waking up at 6am destroys me for the rest of the day; driving to and sitting/standing in a public space, for even just a couple hours, kicks the shit out of me; although I’ve managed to learn how to mask it rather well, I experience a tremendous amount of anxiety in certain kinds of (avoidable) social situations, and that drains me too.

Why shouldn’t I be accommodated?

I want to be clear, reader, that I think everyone should be accommodated. This isn’t just about me. It’s only about me insofar as my having had this experience made me aware of its existence. I am certain it is a common one, because today’s world is not very accommodating to most people.

Especially to those of us who are sensitive.

I vow to make that space for myself, reader. And know that contained in my vow is a vow for you as well.

The thing is, I know I won’t need this space forever. I am still in a phase of healing. I’ve been at it for nearly five years, but I still have a ways to go. I suspect, reader, that once I am able to establish this freedom for myself, my healing will become exponentially faster. I suspect that after enough time has elapsed, I will be ready to reemerge into the world a new woman.

My struggles are just patterns that do not serve me. I can change my patterns to work with my strengths and limitations.

Already, I have been gifted with new opportunities that are shifting me in the right direction. I won’t try to guess what the future holds, because it could only ever be better than I ever imagined.

Well. Eventually.

-MM

a ramble about autism

I am coming back to myself for the first time in days.

My weekend was beautiful, but I spent it in a very different state of consciousness. My post history indicates that I was posting all weekend, but that is not the case–I have been scheduling posts days in advance. I tend to get my best work done when I do it in short, hyper-focused bursts, because when I am in the mood to do something I do the hell out of it. Anyway, I spent the weekend very tuned into my partnership, with not enough psychic space to immerse myself deeply within so I could do a check-in and assess my state.

Well, I am alone now, and now I can think.

I love spending time with my partner–I am at my happiest when we are together. But because I feel things so intensely, I need a lot of focused processing time so I can sort through what I’m feeling, glean what I can from it, and then release it. I’m sure it’s something we’ll figure out, but right now, when I am with him, I can’t separate my energy from his enough to get as clear with myself as possible.

I’m there now. But I didn’t get here just from being alone and willing it to happen–I had some help.

Over the weekend, I did some (safe) traveling to celebrate my anniversary. My partner and I ventured to a different region of our home state–a region containing much friendlier and more talkative people than I normally encounter.

I have written recently about my suspected autism. I have been reading and watching as much content as I can get my hands on about autism in women, and I have been identifying with the vast majority of it–but I also have my partner and my therapist reminding me that I am actually quite friendly and socially graceful, which would usually contradict an autism diagnosis.

Well, this weekend, I observed myself socializing, and I saw how graceful I was (for short, superficial bursts at least), and I started to panic. What if I’m wrong? If I’m wrong, that means I have yet again overreacted, which is yet another thing I can turn on myself for. It also means that I would have to reject and reverse all the feelings of understanding and belonging I have gained from venturing into the neurodiverse community.

Now, taking a step back, I can see that this is no cause for alarm. I may have been externally graceful, but internally my anxiety was off the charts, and I was feeling supremely drained from keeping up the front of grace. I should not invalidate my internal experiences–I have been feeling identified with “autistic” for a reason.

This period of self-diagnosis is not the first time I have researched autism. I am a curious person, and most of all I yearn to understand people–both myself and others. I find subjective experience fascinating–an alluring topic to ponder. For the longest time, I felt like I could not fundamentally understand the concept of autism. Now, identifying with it and therefore having an inside perspective, I feel so strongly that it is not yet fully and holistically understood even by mainstream science.

I’ve written before about my feelings regarding neurodiversity, but I want to be perfectly clear: I believe wholeheartedly that “different” does not mean “worse” or “disordered.” I think there may be a lot more neurodiverse people on Earth right now than most realize. I think once we start giving voice to our own abstract, subjective experiences, this will become more and more apparent.

What if it’s just one big spectrum? What if people’s internal experiences don’t match up with the Selves that the world mirrors back at them, and therefore they don’t see themselves clearly enough to accurately self-assess? What if understanding these things can help people of all neurotypes learn from their weaknesses and make best use of their strengths? What if this can make us all happier?

What if I could spend the bulk of my time investigating those questions instead of grading papers?

Reader, my biggest problem right now is that I cannot muster the motivation or enthusiasm to do my work–the work I have to do for my job. You know, real world responsibilities. The work can’t hold my attention. I get sleepy the moment I’m left alone with it. My mind drifts off…

I could take Adderall or some other stimulant, and that would help me focus. I still may do this; I have an appointment with a psychiatrist early next year. It may be necessary so that I can continue to perform under capitalism, and can therefore maintain my independence.

But ultimately, Adderall is a productivity drug designed to “help” people conform to the status quo. Deep down, I can’t abide that. There is nothing wrong with me–it’s just that my soul yearns to read, to write, to paint, to contemplate, but those aren’t very lucrative occupations.

At least, not for most people.

So I have to write this. I have to let some of my true soul slip through into the third dimension. Here it is. It thanks you for witnessing it.

-MM

3. cursed with a gift.

I submit this to you, dear reader, whilst mired in the pits of a bone-deep existential dread. Maya is tired. Maya is frustrated. Maya is feeling worse than she has in a very long time.

We have all felt bad things and have all found ourselves, at times, mired in conflict. But I think sometimes it’s hard to understand, unless some details are revealed:

Maya Moonstone had a subjectively terrible and painful childhood. The world was too much for her, and she often got the message that she, too, was too much for the world. This, dear reader, ultimately brought her to a very dark place as she approached her Saturn Return. Things were so bad that her soul almost took leave–but when she was at her darkest hour, the All stepped in, and she landed handily and by utter chance in front of a healer who was perfectly equipped to help her get well.

She is now well past that nadir, and in general, she is feeling better than ever. But as the wheel of the year turns, so too do the cycles of the human spirit; having taken a human form during this life, Maya is not immune to this. This time of the year is significant for her–two important autobiographical dates glimmer on the horizon–and Maya has always found that the autumn tends to bring her something new every year.

This year, I am having my own limitations shoved in my face.

Maya has always been a high achiever. Aside from other times like this–“burnouts,” in the common parlance–Maya was always an A student. She liked school so much, and was so good at it, that she never left: she now works as a college professor. As such, her egoic identity has always been heavily invested in the concepts of intelligence and achievement. She has incredibly high standards for herself and, frankly, expects nothing short of perfection.

She is aware that this is an unrealistic expectation, but she can’t seem to shake it.

This job would be a good fit for her, except for the combination of late stage capitalism, degree inflation, and the absurd state of the academic job market. As a consequence of these factors, Maya is stuck teaching English 101, and, in order to keep her head above water financially, she must accept about triple the workload of a full-time professor.

She expects perfection of herself in other ways, too. She is deeply introspective and very invested in the idea of “emotional correctness”; when she acts in a way that she deems “emotionally incorrect,” she shames herself for it.

This is all to say that Maya is burnt out. For a long time–maybe years–she has actively gaslit herself about her own burnout: “If other people can do this, so can you,” she would say to herself. “You just have to suck it up. Be mature. You’re an adult.”

I think that any person with the amount of work I have–or even less–would be justified in feeling overwhelmed (in fact, I think anyone who is overwhelmed by anything is justified in feeling that way). I also think that other types of people with different temperaments may have a much easier time managing all of it. Because the “something new” that autumn has brought me this year is the understanding that I am neurodivergent, and that this fact takes a huge toll on me in my daily life.

I want to say up front that I do not subscribe to many of the underlying assumptions that the medical establishment makes about so-called “mental illness” and neurodivergent folks. I think that all of these assumptions need to be unpacked and reevaluated, and that we need to construct new frameworks of understanding in their place. So, when I tell you that I am neurodivergent, know that I am NOT feeling sorry for myself about being different. If I’m feeling sorry for myself (which I am, currently), it’s because the world we live in was not built for someone like me. If you have a so-called “mental illness,” or you are neurodivergent, it wasn’t built for you, either.

And I’m sorry. It sucks.

It’s hard to know how to write about what I’ve been uncovering. In my investigations I have made a lot of connections and formed a lot of hypotheses; many of them are not ready to be shared. So, for now I will keep it simple, and stick to terms that will make sense in our society’s shared language: I suspect that I am somewhere on the autism spectrum; I suspect this because I am extraordinarily physically, emotionally, and energetically sensitive; these sensitivities, at times, make it painful and exhausting for me to navigate daily life, and at other times overwhelm me to the point where I lose control and have a breakdown.

{Lights are too bright; noises are too loud; crowded places are too filled with vibes, vibes vibes.}

I have always known that I am sensitive, but I have only recently come to embrace it.

Maya began awakening to her intuitive gifts 7 years ago; when she reached her nadir, she renounced her gifts, thinking herself “crazy”; then, one year ago, she ingested some cannabis and it all came rushing back–boldly, clearly, beyond any possibility of denial. She’s been living in harmony with her gifts ever since–except, she now understands the full implications of their dark side, and finds herself overwhelmed.

So today I ask myself: gift or curse? The answer is “both”; but also, my gifts are only a curse if I give them permission to be–if I don’t accept the inevitabilities that come along with them and learn to work with those inevitabilities.

I am overwhelmed by my jobs because they’re a lot of work, but also because when I stand in front of a group of students, I can feel all the vibes: the tiredness, the boredom, the grade anxiety, the desire for my (the professor’s) approval… it’s all so much. And I take it all on.

I’m also overwhelmed because my jobs require me to be in a public place to do them. They also drain me: they force me to put my energy towards mental pursuits that I no longer find stimulating. I am fueled by mental stimulation, and without it I go utterly limp.

These are not deficits in me. This is how my brain works. And that’s okay–if my brain worked differently, I would not have the same gifts. I wouldn’t trade my gifts for the world.

Intrepid reader, I’d be willing to bet that you, too have gifts. I’d also be willing to bet that they have downsides; that’s the way the cookie crumbles–that’s how the third dimension works. I won’t be naively new-agey and tell you to “follow your bliss” or something like that, because I know that sometimes material reality is very much in the way, and that you might not have the mental or emotional energy to think positively or say affirmations due to your circumstances. I don’t know who you are or where you are, reader, but I do have unwavering faith in the light within you. If nothing else, I want you to know this: if who you are makes the world a hard place to live, it’s not you that’s the problem–it’s the world.

The world is ugly.

But you can learn to have your own back–I did. Things aren’t perfect now. Clearly, I am in the middle of a breakdown. But that which falls shall rise. What you are is perfect–may you find a pocket of Earth in which you can be you, harmoniously.

-MM

2. Why is Maya Moonstone?

Gosh, why isn’t Maya Moonstone?

I have a lot to say, intrepid reader. My brain is constantly brimming with thoughts and ideas about all manner of things: capitalism, magick, the trajectory of human evolution, consciousness, plant medicine and psychedelics, “mental illness,” neurodivergence, the journey towards wholeness, etc. etc. etc. I have so many thoughts that I wish to share with you. Until now, I have been all locked up inside.

I have made false starts in the past, but I was held back by a self-consciousness I could not shake. I believed in my message and what I wanted to say, so why couldn’t I just say it? Every time I tried, I would be assailed by voices of judgment that came from within. I realized that there was a hurt teenage girl living inside me, and she was trying to protect me by reminding me what others would think of me at every turn–specifically, others who don’t understand me.

It feels angsty and immature to say that I’m misunderstood, but it’s true. It’s a feeling I have had for all of my 30 years. For a long time, I unconsciously told myself I felt that way because there was something wrong with me. Other people are understood easily, I would say to myself, and therefore if you aren’t, there must be something wrong.

Of course, “wrong” isn’t the right word. The right word is “different,” no matter how you slice it. But a more specific word, which I have come to suspect applies to me, is “autistic.”

This entry isn’t about autism, so I will not get into it too deeply at this time. Suffice to say that many autistic women evade diagnosis until their 30’s due to the variance in the condition’s presentation in women (sexism, am I right?). I have not received an official diagnosis, but the self-assessments I have taken, in combination with my strong intuitions, have given me all the confirmation I need.

What does this have to do with answering the question of “Why is Maya Moonstone?” Well, it is the answer. I have been trying to share my ideas through more direct means–specifically, through YouTube–but my discomfort with my social persona has prevented me from following through. Instead of forcing myself, I am saying now: Why push? It has always been easier for me to express myself through writing–especially when I am anonymous.

As a child and a teen, it was through my writing that I shined. I lost sight of that somewhere along the way. Writing is vital. Writing reveals me to myself. Writing can allow me to share my visions with the world.

Because, dear reader, I have visions: visions of a better world for people like you and me. Visions of a kinder world; of one in which ALL people are taken care of, regardless of race, gender, ability, neurotype, family wealth or lack thereof, etc. etc. etc. I truly believe that there is a solution to every problem. I truly believe that it is possible for everyone to have access to self-actualization. I won’t be satisfied until that possibility is a reality.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. The world I hold in my mind’s eye and in my heart is not only possible, but inevitable–the only question is how long it will take for it to arrive.

If you feel misunderstood, Maya Moonstone is here for you. Maya Moonstone sees you, and she carries a wish in her heart: a wish for a world in which you could have grown up feeling seen and held. Let’s unpack it together; let’s all focus on the same vision, and bring it forth into reality.

Remember: the world is ugly, but you’re beautiful to me.