Last year I discovered tie-dye. I'm pretty late to the game, and had no idea what I was missing. Its cathartic nature rivals gardening, and since I can't seem to keep my plants alive after having our third kid, I've latched on to this with great enthusiasm.
Just ask Mike. He can take you on a tour of our house.
After last Christmas when I gifted all my friends and family with tie-dyed creations, he sat me down for an intervention.
"I need you to take a break, Kace. Wait a little until the next time, please?"
"Why?" I asked.
He just pointed. "There's A LOT all around. Our sheets, the kitchen towels, kids clothes, the curtains. Your underwear?! And mine!"
I had to text my friends and let them know I was out. My family needed attention.
But like addicts we kept our text chain going, with designs we could try, colors we could use, new techniques to get a really beautiful final product. And we held off, for many months, until we couldn't handle it any longer and we reconvened the other day, giddily, in my backyard.
8 months after Boston was born, the people I love most gently pointed out that I seemed unusually tired, and they thought I was depressed. The accumulation of caring for 3 young children had taken its toll on me and the daily feeling of overwhelm was like a big heavy coat I couldn't take off.
But wasn't this what having 3 kids was supposed to feel like? Especially 3 kids under 4 years old? Wasn't it normal to feel like I was constantly trying to hold these caving walls of my life up?
I managed to press on, and do my best to course correct. I ate more salads. Incorporated a daily nap. Ran. Swam. Set boundaries. Went to bed by 9 pm every night. Prayed.
But the symptoms didn't go away. In fact, they just got worse.
Difficulty concentrating. Check.
Little pleasure in activities I once enjoyed. Check.
Morbid thoughts. Check.
My eye even started twitching, and didn't stop for a week.
At the time, if I could liken myself to anything, I was a person treading water, lost out at sea, in the middle of a storm.
I didn't want to die, but the thought of at least, resting, from the constant paddling of being a wife, mother, daughter, nurse, sister, neighbor- all of it-offered some sense of reprieve. And I was in too deep. I couldn't make sense of what rest looked like, or how to get it.
In bed one night, I muttered up an exhausted little prayer. 'Help'.
The next day, after life group, I had a heart-to-heart with one of my friends who has known me a long time and is very wise. She prescribed me a wellness plan, which she delivered with sincerity and matter-of-factness. Her history as a social worker, and as someone who loved and knew me well made it so that I could trust her. Even though it seemed drastic, I made a decision to just do everything she said to do.
I cancelled all my commitments for 6 months (except work, and motherhood. Both of which I modified.)
I talked to my doctor, was prescribed, and started an antidepressant (which was incredibly humbling)
I started counseling.
Part of canceling my commitments meant that I told Serge, our missions agency, that I was unwell and needed to be healthy before interviewing for any position anywhere. They were incredibly supportive and encouraging. They also mentioned this experience may be excellent in giving me tools to cope if we became missionaries. Missionary life is not easy, they said, and if I can learn my red flags and how to be my most healthy me, I could only benefit from that in the future.
Going through this experience felt other-worldly to me. It was hard to break through my denial, that I wasn't doing alright. I started drawing faces in my journal, to track how I was feeling each day, and that helped with seeing my mood objectively. There weren't as many happy or even neutral faces as I would have guessed, or liked.
And then my counselor told me one day as I was lamenting the fact that I didn't know how to make homemade bread (depression does weird things to you),"Your kids don't need a perfect mom, they need a mom who loves life."
That comment weighed heavily. Since when was I trying to be perfect? Since when did I not love life? I was present with my children. I loved being with them. I put my all into them. And up until that year, I had considered myself a generally joyful human, and a person who was comfortable having many flaws. Yet somewhere along the way, I had lost something.(Definitely some serotonin and dopamine.) I was swallowed up, gone, overtaken.
So I added to my wellness plan to rediscover what brought me life, which seemed silly, but exciting.
Lisa, Morgan and I all gathered, crosslegged in my living room with a mound of white fabric between us. It was my first time, and they were walking me through it step-by-step. We opened a huge bag of rubberbands and grabbed pieces of fabric and began twisting, folding, pleating.
"Do you think this is right?" I'd ask, holding up my fabric.
"It's gonna be amazing." Lisa would say, in her slow dreamy talk.
"But really, should I redo this one?"
"Kace, believe me, even when you think its gonna suck, it turns out really cool."
I was astounded by my level of anxiety, of my inability to just let go and be okay with the fact that there was no exact way to do it. I couldn't help wondering, what if I do all this work, and its all wrong. Or ugly? Or just not as good.
In the hour or so we spent binding up our things, we had time to really talk and hear each other. And the stress of life's demands lifted. It was nice to just enjoy my friends, with no timeline, doing something sort of pointless.
I liked the idea of scavenging through my house, looking for old things that needed new life. Any white thing of ours is guaranteed to be dingy, so besides the newly bought Christmas presents I was making, my pile was an unimpressive heap of items screaming for a better day. I kept reminding myself it could really only go up from there.
Each bound cloth then got taken into the backyard and soaked in a bucket of extremely hot water and Rit dye for hours. It wasn't until the late afternoon when we put on our big rubber gloves and began retrieving these things, rinsing, and wringing out did I become a convert.
We clipped off the rubber bands and let our creations unravel before us. What was previously one of my daughters old stained sheets, was now an incredible-fuschia color, completely unrecognizable, with bursts of white fireworks. She was going to love this! The places where I had bound up the rubber bands the loosest, and cared the least, actually looked the best. The more imperfect the rubber banding, the deeper the dye penetrated, the better the final product.
Lisa was right. It was an art form. Of relaxing. Trusting. Delighting.
"This was that old shirt!" I said, hanging up another beautiful surprise.
As we cut off the rubberbands my friends would gather around and oooo and ahhhh over the unexpected display. Never did anything turn out exactly what we anticipated it to look like, and it almost always turned out better. I did not think this day of DIYing would do anything for my soul, but with each shirt, napkin, tote bag, onesie, and blanket we loosed- something in me also ungripped.
I too, an old garment, had been tightly twisted into an uncomfortable shape. Postpartum depression had me bound up, constrained, stuck in a position I desperately wanted out of. I had tried to unbind myself through good things- a nourishing diet, restorative sleep, exercise. I wanted to be the one in control, to release myself back into the person I was.
Instead I had to learn to say 'yes' to something different. God had a dye bath waiting for me, and I was to sit in it. To deepen my understanding of vulnerability. To be reminded of my brokenness, and in turn my neediness. To look up and ask for rescue.
And I was met in that, by His goodness shown through the love of family and friends, medicine, and therapy. Rather than being lost out at sea, paddling on my own trying to keep my head above water, the dye bath was completely different. It required me to be still. It was a process of transformation. And like the balls of fabric bobbing inside the buckets, waiting for hours to absorb a new hue- I waited to be changed.
Strangely enough, as I walked my pieces to the clothesline, I could see this. Admitting and even embracing our imperfection and need for help allows God to soak in more deeply, producing something far more compelling and interesting.