- clary sage;
I recommend exploring the four links I embedded above, if you’d like to read more about the effects of specific essential oils; or if you’re more of a papery, traditional book reader, you could also consult this encyclopedia (I keep a copy on my nightstand):
You may react differently to essential oils, especially if you’re autistic; sensory sensitivity often walks hand-in-hand with autism, and aromatherapy is strong, so at least for me, fine-tuning is required.
Also, remember olfactories access deep parts of our minds—thus, aroma can trigger memory—so aromatherapy a) may bring emotions to the surface, and b) is best handled when you journal your reactions to different blends over the long-term.
Blend for Depression
My favorite blends combine a flower, a citrus, and a tree. I humidify, or diffuse, these blends in a visual-stimulation-friendly diffuser:
- Lavender goes in almost all of my blends for its multi-purpose benefits—it not only helps with depression, it soothes anxiety, helps sleep, and deters mosquitoes (although if you’re truly trying to chase off mosquitoes, it’s also good to dilute citronella oil in a spray bottle and give yourself a light, refreshing mist);
- Grapefruit, which can be easily substituted for orange or lemon in a pinch, is an excellent up-lifter; even skeptical aromatherapy experimenters will notice the way citrus opens you up physically (which, at least for me, helps opening up mentally);
- Frankincense—a scent I’ve never enjoyed on its own—is a marvel when mixed with lavender and citrus; and frankincense is also good friends with ylang-ylang, so if you’re not enjoying your flower (lavender), and you need a change, you can adjust your blend to see what’s better for you.
Once I fill my humidifier with half-a-coffee-cup of water, I put in the following portions:
- 2 drops lavender;
- 2 drops grapefruit (or 1 drop grapefruit, 1 drop orange);
- 1 drop frankincense.
I am not a fan of more than a touch of that frankincense. It packs a punch.
Story about My Depression
Not all autistic people are depressed.
However, autistic adults do have a higher likelihood of depression, and in my case, the world crashes down as a catalyst to living a “high function” life; so I can easily draw line between “I’m on the spectrum” and “I’m suffering as a result.”
What neurotypical people see as a “high function” autistic person is often a human being imitating to be someone they’re not—and they’re screaming on the inside—so this is why so many autistic people disapprove of ABA therapy, i.e., therapy models designed to teach autistic children how to behave “normally.”
Because of the dangers of “high function,” many autistic people also have to field a wrenching micro-aggression from people we should be able to trust, like family, friends, and co-workers; and it sounds like this:
“You’re autistic?—you don’t look it…?”
I have deep, dark, screaming demons beneath more masks than most actors keep in their closets. On the hardest days, I wake up feeling like a decoupage of a “normal person,” with my autistic insides hollowed out; and in horror, I realize, This is what neurotypical life wants from me. It’s what most bosses want. It’s what most parents want. It’s easy to confuse this decoupage for a successful life.
I wake up on these hollowed-out days thinking, If you breathe on me at the right angle, I’ll collapse into a mote of dust, into nothing; and so I move about the house with this emptiness and insignificance bearing me down. (Easy to see how this spiral ends at, “I am worth nothing.”) I spend my day making sure no one breathes on me; looks at me; I must ensure you never have an opportunity to hold a measuring tape next to me.
And I feel like, years from now, once I at last peel the final mask from my face, while I think I’ll feel free, what I’ll really feel like is a husk. A ghost. A burden. Because how long will this depression go?—how much has fear disrupted my flow?
I honestly cannot envision a full life.
I write about a full life;
I pro-talk myself into this full life;
Yet I still look in the mirror and think, Hollow.
Will I ever get beyond Hollow?
That’s when my passive suicidal thoughts kick in—after I feel cornered into a place with no options. After I decide this suffering is my norm. On the days my body is wracked with exhaustion, and I feel a chill of You will always be wracked with this exhaustion.
Autistic people have very touchy amygdala. It’s easy for us to get stuck in an emotional corner. We are more vulnerable to the fear of never finding a way out, because we’re often taught to ignore the authenticity within. (In an article I wrote for The Mighty, I explored this Freeze Loop more.)
Parents who think it’s good to post on #autismsucks, or otherwise add to negative perspectives about the spectrum—I implore you to understand, no matter how hard it is for people in our environment, at night, as everyone lies their heads on pillows, the autistic person is the one who has to search the emptiness within.
The autistic person is the one who is most disheveled by saddening rhetoric.
For me, depression is a crashing, a pressuring—a weight of worlds on two small shoulders—equally a somber lens to interpret reality, and a potentially fatal lens, all based on if I stare too long, too obsessively, or too inconsiderately within myself.
If I can open my lungs for just a moment with a deep, refreshing breath of citrus, flowers, and wood bark, maybe, just maybe, I can relax those backbones just enough to survive my internal collapse, and I can leave this frightening place a little stronger; I can make it through another day; I can invest in the hope that, someday, I’ll transform this awful experience into the knowledge needed to pull others out of life-threatening darkness.
I wish I wasn’t exaggerating when I call depression “life-threatening darkness,” but there you go. Now it’s time for me to blend some lavender and citrus!—with a hint of Frankenstein, of course. Or was it frankincense? I like Frankenstein.
Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.