The Truth About Why I've Not Been Wearing Henna

Cardamom Clove Henna Baltimore MD

Though I've spent plenty of time decorating the women who visit me for henna services over the past few months, I have to be honest... I've only applied henna to my own skin once since August of 2016. That's seven months without it, and yet I work with henna almost daily.

I haven't talked about it. I'm generally a private person, and the thought of really examining why I've chosen not to treat myself to this act of self care is... not something that I wanted to even consider.

My clients have noticed. They've asked me what's up. I've brushed it off, giving one or another reasonable excuse. I didn't feel good about that. I couldn't. These women come to me, sit with me, and in many cases bare their souls with me during the length of our visits, and yet I haven't been completely honest about this with them. So here's the truth: I stopped applying henna to myself in August after an ugly run in with antenatal depression.

Antenatal depression is a perinatal mood adjustment disorder (PMAD) that presents in depressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors while a woman is pregnant, not after she's had her baby like the postpartum variety. Unfortunately, I am predisposed to experience this disorder based on some genetic attributions and past occurrences in previous pregnancies (women who suffer from PMADs once are susceptible to experiencing them again in subsequent pregnancies be it antenatal or postpartum).

While I'd been fighting with it for months prior, it was in August when my depression peaked. It was August 27th, specifically, when it reached a point where suicide was contemplated, and by September 1st I replaced my voicemail at Cardamom & Clove Henna with a message indicating that I was on maternity leave. My baby wasn't born until October, but I was barely holding onto life, so henna was placed on the back burner. I'm so thankful for my clients being so kind and gracious with me during that time.

Thankfully, the antenatal depression that I experienced did not carry over into my postpartum life, so once I had my baby (and once I started routinely taking care of myself in even the most basic ways) things did improve for me. I felt distance between me and henna, though. I felt disconnected.

You see for me, henna is something beautiful and joyous. It lifts the spirit. It celebrates life and happiness. I've been afraid to become close with it again. I've been afraid to celebrate the happiness that I have now out of fear that it will disappear again. My choosing to avoid henna has been something like an attempt at outsmarting Murphy's Law, and it's ridiculous and silly - but it's real.

So late last night I decided to be brave. I picked up a henna cone, and I started to create on my skin. I drew without direction or plan. While my hands know what to do, emotionally it was hard to do. Once I my design was complete, I paused. I'd missed henna so much.

It felt like reconnecting with an old friend - creating without concept or pressure. Feeling each stroke rather than only thinking it. It felt like fitting into an old pair of jeans or smelling the scent of your mom's homemade biscuits. It was nostalgic and new all at once, and I'm so happy to have made the decision to go for it again. Just this one more time.

As the 2017 season starts, I'm so excited to have reconnected with this art that I love so much. I can't wait to share it with you.

xo, Chelsea