Mental Health

Because it is not just in your head. It is REAL.


*Generalized Anxiety Disorder: GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than 1 specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as 1 anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.


Disclaimer: Despite having had severe anxiety since childhood, it is only now that I have decided to give a deeper and personal account of my experience. This isn’t to acquire any sympathy or pity for I believe Allah does not burden a soul beyond its capacity, but rather to use this platform to share more information on mental illnesses and hopefully make you, dear reader, be more enlightened about such matters, and to be more understanding, compassionate and empathetic towards people in your own circles that have similar challenges. And also give a chance for those with similar issues to know that they’re not alone and that they’re emotions are valid. Anyway, here goes nothing…


Living with generalized anxiety, especially since childhood, is an extreme sport. The mind is a wild, wild place; everything escalates from 0 to 100 every.single.time. Even when it shouldn’t be so. Even when you have deep faith in Allah. Even when it is something so small, it is silly to overthink like that. But we still do. There is a fellow who told me a couple of times after reading my blogs that my anxiety is just about my mindset and that I should JUST STOP overthinking and think more positively. Just stop then khalas, you’ll be good to go. And as much as having a positive mindset can reduce your anxiety, it is a bigger struggle than that. Ask anyone who’s ever been diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist with any type of anxiety they’ll tell you that living with such disorders is jihadu-nnafs. Quite literally. It is a continuous battle with yourself and your brain.

Every thing, every encounter, every experience with anyone is catastrophized; always thinking of worst case scenario. Then there’s the excessive worry over the smallest of matters and big ones too. Then there’s the panic attacks that make you feel like you’re about to go crazy or lose it completely. There’s the crying spells which can come to you at any time, out of the blue, and the tears just keep coming and coming-uncontrollable! There’s the excessive fear which controls your life; it makes you always live on edge. Then there’s the obsessive and repetitive thoughts that often overwhelm the mind. There’s also the depression and physical illnesses that sometimes tag along with the anxiety…The list goes on and on…

When I am extremely happy, I keep thinking that something bad is going to follow shortly thereafter. Happiness makes me anxious too. And even when it is someone else who’s extremely happy, I get nervous for them, ‘What if they lose that? What if the happiness doesn’t last long?’ And I quickly make dua for them so that their joy lasts. Then there’s the over-analysis of situations which take you down a dark rabbit hole of overthinking. Every single conversation is scrutinized; ‘Did I say the right thing? Should I have said this instead? Are they mad at me? I felt their tone change, did I hurt them? Perhaps they still misunderstood me? Should I clarify further for the fourth time?’ Every single thing goes so far; blown out of proportion. Worries; worries every day, worries everywhere. 

A simple trip to town could easily bring about death anxiety. I start imagining the car I am in getting into a very tragic accident. But it never ends there. I start imagining the details of the accident, the position they’ll find me in, when my family are informed, when I am declared dead, and when my loved ones start crying because of my departure. And this wild imagination is so real to me that it makes me tear up and I sometimes get a panic attack abruptly. I am grieving my death. 

When I am using a water heater or a toaster, I imagine getting electrocuted. And when a huge lorry or oil tanker passes by close to me, I immediately think of the ‘Final destination’ movies and imagine the lorry falling over me and crashing my bones 😀 When a stranger approaches me on the road, my guard is immediately on because I am afraid I could be conned or kidnapped or worse than that. There’s so so much to anxiety than people ever understand. That I wish they understood.

It wasn’t helpful that I grew up hearing people say mental illness is because of weak imaan. It really made me question my level of faith. Yet to be very honest, anxiety is one of the most draining and exhausting things to experience. It is so hard to fully experience the small and even big joys of life.

In a crazy world like ours where there is too much information everywhere, it is even harder for people with anxiety. You scroll, a mother has stabbed her two year old and ate her internal organs. Scroll further, a pastor has brainwashed an entire village to starve to death so as to meet Jesus. Scroll further, a father has been raping his daughters for years after his wife passed away. Go to another app, Palestinians and Uyghurs are being tortured to death. A war in Sudan; so many people stranded. Something is going on here, something is going on there…it never ends, the world never pauses Subhanallah. The information overload overwhelms you and drains you deeply. It makes you sad and helpless and truly anxious. Even with the knowledge and trust in Allah, even with the understanding that Allah tests us so that we can return to Him, the anxiety is mostly there. Jihadu-nnafs.

Being an educator, a recently graduated psychologist and a spiritual (among other categories) blogger for about ten years, there’s a kind of pedestal that people put you on. You never asked for it but it is constantly being mentioned, ‘You’re my mentor,’ or ‘I look up to you’. They think you’ve made it in life even when the reality is very different. This deeply terrifies me. The imposter syndrome kicks in. ‘But why? I am not the right person to look up to. I have so many flaws. I am really struggling with surrendering 110% to Allah or trusting Allah about the unknown. I always try to control how things roll out in my life, and when they don’t happen my way, it takes me down a very dark hole of heartbreak and pain. I am definitely not the person to even consider as a role model.’ Even when I don’t say these words out loud, it always gets to me. What if someone is misguided through me? Or someone who looks up to me, follows my unsteady footsteps? How will I deal with that when I am standing in front of Allah and He asks me about it? I will never be ready for such questioning by Allah. So I divert the couple of people who look up to me, to instead, look up to the prophets peace be upon them and pious predecessors who died upon imaan and were promised Jannah. And of course, they are indeed the best examples for us to follow and look up to more than anyone else.

There is this hadith that always hits me. It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said:”The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive for that which will benefit you, seek the help of Allah, and do not feel helpless. If anything befalls you, do not say, “if only I had done such and such” rather say “Qaddara Allahu wa ma sha’a fa’ala (Allah has decreed and whatever he wills, He does).” For (saying) ‘If’ opens (the door) to the deeds of Satan.'”

My older sister whom I look up to is always the kind of person to say ‘Qaddara Allahu wa ma sha’a fa’ala whenever something doesn’t go her way. Even if she goes on to grieve but she doesn’t allow it to overweigh her brain. She knows and truly believes that Allah knows best, may Allah bless her soul. And I adore that so much because I wish I was like that too. I wish my brain could stop overthinking. I wish my heart could fully accept the challenges of life. I wish I was able to immediately accept Allah’s qadar without throwing a tantrum or crying on and on about it such that it may lead to despair (May Allah protect us).

The hardest thing for me has been to be kind to myself. To realize and accept that this is my test from Allah, to accept the little good and benefit I bring to this world and people around me and to be more forgiving towards my mistakes in life. And while I have not overcome the anxiety, I am doing my best. I am taking medication, I am reading widely about it (in fact I took the Islamic Psychology degree at IOU because I wanted to understand whether I truly had weak imaan or what exactly was happening to me), I go for therapy, and I constantly pray to Allah to grant my soul peace and tranquility, alleviate my restlessness, overthinking and worries, and to make me among the Mutawakkilin (those who trust in Him) and the people of ‘Qaddara Allahu wa ma sha’a fa’ala’.

One of my biggest motivations is a hadith by the prophet peace be upon him. He said, “Allah the Almighty said: I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a cubit, and if he draws near to Me a cubit, I draw near to him a fathom. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Hadith 15, 40 Hadith Qudsi). So I am doing my best to think better of Allah. To not allow my negative thoughts to divert me from Allah’s mightiness, wisdom and mercy. To never think that my plans are better than what Allah has chosen for me. That the tests from Allah are meant to make me get closer to Him rather than to punish me. And perhaps there’s a bigger benefit from this test, and that is, I get to talk more about such topics that are not openly talked about in our community.

Unfortunately, the fellow who used to tell me about changing my mindset developed anxiety during the early phases of Corona. He was unemployed at the time with no source of income. Having such abundant time on his hands while the world went into a panic, overthinking and anxiety of the corona virus kicked in him. He once called me to say that he now realizes it isn’t as simple as he initially thought. That it is much harder, and a huge struggle Subhanallah, and he asked for help on how to deal with it. Alhamdulilah his anxiety ended when things calmed down a bit around the world and after seeing a counsellor. The only reason I tell this story is for people to realize the same; it is not easy to have a mental disorder. Not at all. So please be patient, understanding and compassionate towards your loved ones and people around you, you just never know the huge mountains they carry. Educate yourself about these matters if you have to and offer help whenever you can. Be their support system and be there for them. Yet the best gift you can give them is making dua for their well-being and peace of mind.

We, as Muslims, believe that nothing is impossible to Allah Subhanahu Wataala. He can cure every single ailment and He can move mountains for us. However, we are also expected to do our due diligence by seeking treatment through talk therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. Most importantly is to get closer to Allah through the recitation of the Qur’an, making dhikr and always making dua to Allah to remove such conditions from us and to make us better believers.

Despite all the challenges and struggles of anxiety, it is not always doom and gloom. Anxiety makes people be highly empathetic, loving and compassionate. It makes you have high instincts which can benefit you in observing one’s surroundings, it keeps you motivated and can actually help in your performance nd make you have a great work ethic. It makes one highly aware of what could go wrong, and makes you think of all possibilities while dealing with a situation. This makes the anxious individual to be a careful decision maker and great problem solver among other benefits. Plus the anxiety memes are hilarious, that’s a bonus 😀

To end this piece, there’s a conversation I want to share that I once had with my father and brother while driving to another town. My father told us about an accident he witnessed many years back. An ice cream van was trying to overtake another car, but it lost control and hit a huge tree. When they went to check on the driver, they found the steering wheel had hit right into the driver’s seat. But the driver’s upper body was right above the steering wheel (on the roof of the car) and each of his legs was on either side of the wheel. Had the steering wheel hit him directly, he could have come out with major injuries probably, but Subhanallah, the man came out unscathed except for one small scratch on his arm. 

I asked my dad, ‘Was the man Muslim? Perhaps he had made dhikr that morning and it protected him by Allah’s mercy…’ Before he could answer me, I said, ‘I once heard a sheikh ask something powerful; how can you go to the battlefield unarmed? How can you start your day without dhikr?’ My dad nodded then explained that the driver wasn’t Muslim but at the end of the day, if something isn’t meant to harm you, it won’t, and some people give a lot of charity and for that, Allah showers them with His mercy.

I was about to get to my destination so I couldn’t continue with the conversation. I said to my brother, ‘Please drop me on the other side of the road, I am afraid of crossing this busy road.’ He then laughed and said, ‘Aren’t you the one who’s just from telling us about going to the battlefield unarmed?’ I laughed too and said, ‘I did do my dhikr this morning though.’ Then he said, ‘Then what are you afraid of when you’ve already asked for Allah’s protection?’

I was speechless.

I went out of the car towards my destination while deeply pondering on his last words, SubhanAllah.

‘What are you afraid of when you’ve already asked for Allah’s protection?!’ 

“Say: “Nothing will befall us except what Allah has decreed for us; He is our Protector.” Let the believers, then, put all their trust in Allah.”

 [Qur’an 9:51]

Thank you for reading this to the end. Please do make dua for me to acquire peace of mind and to go for umrah soon for I really yearn for the tranquility made available by Allah Subhanahu Wataala in the holy cities. And do pray for those with mental illnesses. May Allah grant us all ease, relief and comfort, ameen. Shukran 🙂

P.S: If you have anxiety, always remember this: ‘YOUR ANXIETY IS A LIAR!’



Many times, across different types of relationships, we face some turmoil and challenges that may bring about animosity, chaos and intense emotions. One major cause of most relationship problems is communication. However, there’s one other issue that is critical in relationships yet remains rarely identified; our attachment styles.

Attachment is the emotional bond between an infant and parent/guardian and it is through this bond that the infant gets their primary needs met. According to renowned psychiatrist John Bowlby’s attachment theory, the relationships with our primary caregivers during our earliest years have a major and long-lasting impact on our social and intimate relationships, including connections made at workplaces. How we bonded with our parents and guardians sets the stage for how we perceive and build all our relationships thereafter.

There are four attachment styles, the last three are considered insecure:

1. Secure attachment

2. Anxious Preoccupied attachment

3. Dismissive Avoidant attachment

4. Fearful Avoidant attachment

It should be noted that parents don’t necessarily or intentionally choose these attachment styles. Most of the time, they’re unaware and it is just automatic behavioural patterns passed from one generation to another .i.e. an anxiously attached parent might have an anxiously attached child due to unhealed generational trauma and they raise their kids the same way they were. Nonetheless, other factors might also affect which attachment style a child adopts as they grow up, such as trauma, life experiences, environment, or the close relationships they have with others.

1. Anxious Preoccupied (High anxiety, Low avoidance): Also known as anxious ambivalent in children, is often associated with an inconsistent parenting pattern. The caregiver tends to give mixed signals by sometimes being responsive to the child’s needs and sometimes being misattuned or unavailable to the child. This may be very confusing for the child, make them feel unstable and regard their parents’ actions as unpredictable or unreliable. They may become very distressed when separated from their caregiver, and even when he/she returns, they continue to display anxious behaviour and do not appear comforted. 

Please note that this doesn’t mean that the parents intentionally neglect the child’s needs but it could be that the caregivers didn’t meet the child’s needs in the way that they wanted. As such, they opt to throw tantrums and become clingy to get their attention. These children tend to be very sensitive and self-sacrifice to take care of others even at their own expense. 

When one grows up with this style, one may have some of the following characteristics:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Need for constant reassurance
  • Being needy/clingy
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Depending on a partner for validation and emotional regulation
  • Codependent tendencies
  • Jealous tendencies
  • Low self-esteem
  • Highly sensitive to criticism 
  • Needing approval from others
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Difficulty being alone
  • Feeling unworthy of love and not being good enough
  • Self- critical and indecisive 
  • Overthinking tendencies 
  • May develop anxiety disorders as adults

2. Dismissive Avoidant (Low anxiety, High avoidance): This attachment style is formed when the child’s caregiver is absent or emotionally distant or busy or disinterested in their emotional needs. The child could be expected to be independent and the caregiver might also disapprove if the child shows any display of emotions. When the child is upset, their distress is regularly ignored or dismissed. Because their needs aren’t met, the child perceives that as rejection. They thus learn to detach from their feelings because they don’t trust that their caregivers will be there for them and they rarely seek comfort from parents/caregivers. So even when they’re separated from their parent they react fairly calmly and do not embrace their return.

As such a child grows up, he/she may develop some of the following:

  • Super independent 
  • Have a hard time trusting others
  • Fear of intimacy or closeness (Most of their relationships are surface level)
  • Uncomfortable expressing their feelings
  • Have commitment issues
  • Emotionally unavailable
  • Often feel self-sufficient and don’t need others
  • Feel threatened by anyone who tries to get close to them
  • May distance themselves or shut down during conflict
  • May find relationships to be suffocating

3. Fearful Avoidant (High anxiety, High avoidance): Also known as disorganized attachment, this style is often associated with childhood trauma or abuse. Fear for their caregivers is also present. The child grows up in a chaotic, threatening or abusive environment and because the caregiver shows inconsistent and unpredictable behaviour the child starts fearing for their safety. The child might seek closeness to the caregiver but at the same time, pull themselves away from them, due to fear.

When such a child is separated from their caregiver and then the parent returns, they may act oddly, by approaching them then turning away from them or freezing or even hitting the caregiver. All this is because of the childhood trauma they’ve experienced. In short, the parent is considered a source of both comfort and fear and thus the child adopts disorganized behaviour.

A child with a disorganized attachment may grow up to have some of the following symptoms:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Signs of both avoidant and anxious attachment styles
  • In relationships, they almost always expect and wait for disappointment, hurt and rejection to come.
  • Contradictory and unstable behaviours i.e. might be clingy one moment then dismissive at another.
  • They both desperately crave affection and want to avoid it at all costs.
  • They want to love and be loved but are afraid to let anyone in.
  • Likely to develop mental disorders such as personality or mood disorders or even substance abuse and self-harm.

4. Secure Attachment style (Low avoidance, Low anxiety): A child with this attachment style grows up with reliable caregivers who were quick to soothe, comfort and meet their needs. This creates trust towards the parents. The child feels safe, seen, understood and valued. They know they can depend on their caregivers to be there for them consistently and support them to explore the world around them to attain autonomy and independence.

The child feels safe to ask for reassurance or validation without punishment from the caregivers. When such a child is separated from their parent, they become distressed but upon their return, they welcome them warmly and with positive emotions.

As adults, those with this attachment tend to have healthy relationships and positive traits such as:

  • Ability to regulate emotions
  • High self-esteem and confidence
  • Great and effective communication skills
  • Comfortable being alone
  • Comfortable with closeness and mutual dependency
  • Easily trusting and bonding with others
  • Goal-oriented
  • Show healthy and balanced behaviours in relationships
  • Ability to open up and seek emotional support
  • Being easy to connect with
  • Ability to manage conflict well
  • Strong capacity to reflect on how you are being in a relationship

Take note that attachment styles aren’t everything in relationships and can be influenced by other factors as well. 

These styles are not permanent and can change over time through different experiences and variables in one’s life. For example, an individual with an insecure attachment can change to become secure when they’re in a relationship with an individual who has a secure attachment style and influences them to feel safe and calm as well. The opposite of this is also possible. Also, attachment styles are not mental disorders, even though they can make one more prone to certain disorders.

Nonetheless, we cannot undermine the impact of these styles on our relationships. Many times, people have unhealthy behavioural patterns and are unable to regulate their emotions without understanding the root cause of it all; attachment styles. These styles affect how we function, behave, think, connect with others and even feel. Inadvertently, they also affect how we raise our children and which kind of environment we provide for them. To break this dysfunctional cycle, it is important for each individual with an insecure style to actively work on changing to become secure.

How can one change that? Below is your answer.

Here are a few tips to acquire the secure attachment style:

1. Self-awareness is the first and most important step towards healing. Do some research on the topic so that you may understand the different attachment styles further and yourself better. YouTube can be a good place to start for we have many resources there concerning this topic. Personally, I love ‘The Personal Development School’ on Youtube for how they explain these matters, but the resources are so many.

Do understand that sometimes an individual could have different habits that are associated with different styles and this is because of the different experiences and traumas we face at different phases in our lives. We have several online quizzes on attachment styles that can help you in finding out which style you predominantly have. One link where you can conduct the quiz is here. They usually show you percentages of the attachment styles that you have according to your tendencies and habits. The biggest percentage shows your most predominant attachment style.

2. Once you have understood your attachment style, you should do some much-needed self-reflection and take the time to analyze your own emotions, habits, your triggers, how you deal with conflict, communicate and your interactions with other people. Pay attention to the emotional and physical sensations that come up around emotional intimacy. You could have a journal specifically for this and you could jot down what’s going on with you daily. This helps in not just understanding oneself but also gives you some relief from whatever emotions you carry with you.

3. This journey might not be easy so you must be ready to do the work however hard it might get. It is important to accept your weaknesses, unhealthy habits and the things you might need to work on. Be self-conscious about your thoughts and emotions and learn how to regulate them, soothe yourself, and positively interact with others.

4. Most of the time, we tend to attract people who will represent all the suppressed parts within us, or the parts that we wish were stronger within us or parts we’re ashamed of and wish to change. So for example, if someone is quiet and emotionally detached, they will attract a partner who is emotional and expressive. If someone is controlling and demanding, they attract a partner who is pleasing and submissive. If someone has a hard time asking for help, they attract a partner who asks for help all the time …etc.

A good example of such a case according to attachment styles is that anxious preoccupied individuals and avoidants tend to subconsciously attract one another despite the two being very opposite. The anxious one is impressed by the avoidant’s independence and mysteriousness as they wish they could depend less on others and be more self-reliant. The avoidant on the other hand is attracted to the anxious person because they provide endless love, warmth and intimacy-something they didn’t quite have while growing up.

But the problem is, the two individuals have very different needs when it comes to relationships. The anxious one wants closeness and intimacy from their partner and tends to be clingy and needy, while the avoidant one is intimidated by closeness and really values their independence and personal space. So despite their attraction, the relationship tends to become a chaotic trap of triggers and unmet needs. The two genuinely struggle to provide their partner with what they need. The avoidant feels the anxious one is too much, while the anxious one feels their avoidant partner is not enough for them. In fact, they call it the anxious-avoidant trap/dance/cycle, because the two individuals feel stuck. They have a hard time making it work but also a hard time moving away from each other. (You can read more about this here)

 It is thus very very important for a couple to understand their individual attachment styles and how they could be triggering each other. It is not impossible to make such relationships work but they need a certain level of self-awareness and willingness to grow and change for the better.

The two of you must have open and effective communication about your needs, worries and concerns so that you can also support each other in your healing journey. It might get very uncomfortable, especially for the avoidants but there is no shortcut to the process. The good thing is, the outcome is totally worth it!

Side note: Many times, the partners we’re seeking have traits and behaviours like one of our parents. The reason for this is that we’re trying to find an outcome that will be different from how it was with our parent. For example, if your father was inconsistent with you, you’d subconsciously find a partner who will also have inconsistent habits. The hope here is that you’ll be able to make them grant you the stability and consistency that you lacked in your childhood and thereafter heal your childhood wound.

We subconsciously get into such relationships in an attempt to heal that part of us that is insecure about our worthiness and to prove that we’re lovable after all. And sometimes it becomes a lifetime pattern of seeking such partners.

The way to avoid this pattern of attracting people who have unappealing behaviours like your parent, is by first trying to understand what you’re trying to heal. For example, are you trying to be loved by an abusive partner? Are you trying to attain affection from an avoidant? Once you identify what your core wounds are, then you can seek what you need from people who are actually capable of giving what you need-accepting you and proving to you that you’re not too much.

5. Working with a therapist may be the best way to go about this for they will guide you on how to regulate yourself and change for the better whilst taking into consideration your unique life story and personality.

6. If it might be hard for you to work with a therapist on this, you can enrol in online courses that are specific to your attachment style and they can help you navigate all types of relationships and emotions to attain a secured attachment. There are also some attachment-style workbooks that have practical exercises to deal with your style. Among the websites that offer such courses and workbooks include and among many others. There are also courses that are specific for couples of different attachment styles-showing them how their pairing works and how to navigate their relationships in a healthy manner.

7. Do understand that sometimes parents aren’t aware of how they’re emotionally affecting their children and are simply doing their best (abusive parents are a different case here). So you can acknowledge the effect they had on you, without blaming them for it. Most times they can’t undo anything they did and it is best if we all just looked forward and focused on the healing journey.

8. Regardless of the painful experiences of your past that shaped who you are, as an adult, it is best to leave the past where it is and take full control of your life now. Healing is an intentional choice that each one of us should make. So don’t allow your trauma to permanently ruin your emotional stability and how you relate with others.

9. Start working on building closer relationships with people by listening to their needs, worries and concerns as well. You could develop a step-by-step approach on how to effectively communicate with others, how to let them in and meet their emotional needs as well.

10. Do not beat yourself up for your shortcomings and don’t try to change everything at once. Have a system/plan which takes you step by step without overwhelming yourself. Remember that this is a long process and your effort is much appreciated. Involve a close friend or partner or even a trusted family member so that they can act as your support system and also hold you accountable. Most importantly, remember that consistency is key! Don’t expect your partner or your friends to do the work for you.

By consciously working through your unhealthy patterns and triggers, you can create satisfying relationships. So don’t give up! This is your personal project-strive to take intentional steps towards healing and healthier relationships.


Kp_counseling (on IG)

No one can deny it- relationships can be very hard. We all want healthy, balanced, nontoxic and magical connections that can feature on other people’s hashtags as #couplegoals, #friendshipgoals or #parentinggoals. We all want that fulfilment in our lives. Yet sometimes, in our attempt to have these fantastic relationships, we go up and beyond to achieve them, to the detriment of ourselves. Whereas caring for your people is an act of love, when it goes to unhealthy extremes then it becomes codependency.

The word ‘Codependency’ was first used to refer to patterns where partners of substance abusers were deeply entwined in the destructive lives of their loved ones. However, the word is currently used in broad terms to refer to being overly focused on helping, rescuing or controlling others at one’s own expense. The individuals involved take over the responsibility of meeting the needs of others while neglecting their own. They become the rescuers, the savers in a toxic relationship and continue to give themselves beyond limits. 

Coming from dysfunctional families is one of the common causes of codependency in adulthood. Most codependent traits usually develop due to childhood trauma, especially in cases where a parent/caregiver has an addiction, is abusive, neglectful or mentally ill. Codependency is thus a learned behaviour and can be passed down from one generation to the next. The individuals caught up in these unhealthy relationship patterns are referred to as ‘Codependents’.

Melody Beattie in her book ‘Codependent No More’ defines codependents as:

“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behaviour affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behaviour.

The other person might be a child, an adult, a lover, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a grandparent, a parent, a client, or a best friend. He or she could be an alcoholic, a drug addict, a mentally or physically ill person, a normal person who occasionally has sad feelings, or one of the people mentioned earlier.”

Most times, a codependent doesn’t realize the impact of this imbalanced relationship despite the persistent misery they feel in their lives. This is mainly because most codependents are under the impression that they’re caring and simply trying to fix a relationship with someone they love. However, the problem is that this reliability and giving often develop to very unhealthy degrees and it is the caregiver who suffers the most.

To ensure that you’re not caught up in this rollercoaster, here are some signs of codependency to look out for:

  1. Feeling responsible for other people’s actions, feelings, thoughts, problems and needs.
  2. Regularly try to change or fix people even when the problem is beyond you.
  3. Inability to say no even when something makes you uncomfortable.
  4. Apologizing and feeling guilty often even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
  5. Have people-pleasing tendencies yet feel used/a victim.
  6. Fear of rejection, abandonment or being disliked.
  7. Have trouble setting and holding boundaries.
  8. Have low self-worth & self-esteem- feel unlovable.
  9. Worry a lot and sometimes lose sleep over problems or other people’s behaviour.
  10. Try to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination.
  11. Feel exhausted, irritated, hopeless, frustrated and anxious.
  12. Self-sacrifice to avoid upsetting others.
  13. Desperately seek love and approval.
  14. Don’t feel happy, content, or peaceful with yourself and look for happiness outside.
  15. Have a difficult time asserting your rights.
  16. Don’t trust yourself or other people.
  17. You easily lose yourself in other people’s plights, dramas, needs, problems, or needs.
  18. Feel trapped in relationships.
  19. Afraid of conflict or making mistakes, are very sensitive to criticism & seek perfection.
  20. Stay loyal to your compulsions and people even when it hurts i.e. have a hard time letting go.
  21. You feel frustrated and resentful when others don’t want your help or advice.
  22. You derive a sense of purpose from taking care of others.
  23. Your relationships can have an obsessive quality.
  24. You have difficulty accepting help.
  25. You’re hard-working, overly responsible, and may give to the point of exhaustion or resentment.

The question now becomes, how can you overcome codependency? Here are some ways to do it:

  1. Prioritize self-care and your needs rather than sacrificing them for others.
  2. Stop caring too much about people’s problems and needs. Don’t try to change or fix people and let them make their own choices.
  3. Value yourself instead of seeking approval from others.
  4. Practice self-compassion rather than judging/criticizing oneself.
  5. Say no when you don’t want to do something.
  6. Stop obsessing over what is not in your control.
  7. Ask for help when you need it. You don’t always have to take on the role of a helper/caretaker, sometimes be the one receiving the help.
  8. Set boundaries, be assertive and don’t allow people to take advantage of your kindness.
  9. Detach yourself emotionally from people, situations, experiences, behaviours and problems.
  10. Choose to find happiness in your life regardless of other challenges or unhappy situations you’re facing.

The first step to healing is being aware of your codependent tendencies and accepting that you care to unhealthy levels. You can decide to read more, work on yourself and overcome codependency but in cases when it is severe, you might need the guidance of a therapist. Here again to remind you that going to a therapist doesn’t mean you’re crazy, yet there are some important patterns and behaviours you might need to unlearn and sometimes you need assistance on how to go about it.

Everything is a process. Remember to be kind to yourself as you take this journey, and be patient until you finally acquire peace of mind and personal growth. This will assist you in leading a better, healthier, more fulfilling life together with your loved ones.


To read more on the same, check the references below:

*Book: Codependent No more- By Melody Beattie




Assalam aleykum warahmatullah wabarakatuh good people,

Late last year, I did a study on ‘Understanding the Perceptions, Attitudes and Coping Mechanisms of Mental Health Issues Among Muslims in Kenya.’ Finally, we have the results:

To view the results, click here

To read a summary of the findings of the study, click here

To read the ‘Brief Mental Health Guide’ with contacts of Muslim therapists in Kenya, click here


I want to thank all the participants who answered the survey questions eagerly, all those who diligently shared my google form with their networks, my mentors & my very helpful supervisor; Dr. Francesca Bocca-Aldaqre. Thank you all for your continuous support, may you always be showered by Allah’s mercy and love, and may you attain peace of mind, ameen.

Kindly share this link with other participants & interested parties as well, and do subscribe to my blog. For any corrections, suggestions or feedback, kindly email me at:

Thanks! 🙂

Photo Courtesy:

Definition of terms:

Mental health: A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Mental illness: Health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

It is crucial to understand that mental illnesses are not only the common disorders like depression, anxiety, OCD and bipolar. There are other mental disorders including learning disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, sexual disorders, mood disorders among many others. It is thus important that none of us ignore any distress we are experiencing and seek help when we can. Parents have to look out for their children for any unusual behaviour, slow response in their learning or interaction or how they deal with difficult situations and take them for therapy in case of anything unsettling.

When should you seek help?

  • You feel an overwhelming and prolonged sense of helplessness and sadness, and your problems do not seem to get better despite your efforts and help from family and friends. 
  • You are finding it difficult to carry out everyday activities: for example, you are unable to concentrate on assignments at work, and your job performance is suffering as a result. 
  • You worry excessively, expect the worst or are constantly on edge.
  • You often find it difficult to sleep, nothing seems to calm you down and feel frustrated most times, sometimes for no apparent reason.
  • When you’re seeing/hearing unusual sounds that others are not.
  • When you experience a major shift in your life or a tragedy, for example war, abuse, an accident, marriage, divorce, violence, loss of a loved one, moving to a new country/city/school etc
  • Your actions are harmful to yourself or to others: for instance, you are drinking too much alcohol, have a temper, abusing drugs, becoming overly argumentative and aggressive think/plan on committing suicide.

Please note that these are but a few of the symptoms. There are many more and you may decide to research further on them.

Another important thing to note is that counselling/therapy is not only for those crazy or addicts. For a healthy lifestyle one should seek therapy even when they feel pretty much okay. Just like you would go for a physical check-up at the hospital, you should also go for a session for your mental health whenever possible. We all experience difficulties in life and it is not bad sometimes to have a safe space to just open up and release the stress.

How do I choose my provider?

Mental health providers like any other health professionals are different. Some have more experience than others. Some come from different backgrounds. Some are more qualified than others. Some have worked more with specific kind of clients (example: children, addicts, spouses etc). Some charge more than others. Seeing a therapist at a public hospital is mostly cheaper than seeing them in their private clinics/offices. Most importantly, their methods also differ. It is thus important to take your time to find out which mental health provider is appropriate for you.

Here are some of the questions you may ask:

  • Are you a licensed psychologist/coach/counsellor? How many years have you been practicing?
  • I have been feeling (anxious, tense, depressed, etc.) and I’m having problems (with my job, my marriage, eating, sleeping, etc.). What experience do you have helping people with these types of problems?
  • What are your areas of expertise — for example, working with children and families?
  • What kinds of treatments do you use, and have they been proven effective for dealing with my kind of problem or issue?
  • Do you incorporate Islamic principles, values, methods and techniques in your treatment plan (for your Muslim clients)?
  • Are your sessions strictly physical or do you also do virtual ones?
  • What are your fees per session? How is the payment process (can one pay weekly or monthly? Can one pay via Mpesa? Is there room for a discount?)

Wellness & Mental Health Providers:

Life Coach: A life coach is a type of wellness professional who helps people make progress in their lives in order to achieve their goals and attain greater fulfillment. Life coaches aid their clients in improving their relationships, careers, and day-to-day lives.

While working with a life coach may help you to deal with certain unresolved issues, life coaches cannot treat mood disorders, anxiety disorders, addiction, or any other mental health condition.

Counsellor: A counsellor is a mental health practitioner who gives guidance on personal or psychological problems. They mainly address clients’ emotional and relationship issues through talk therapy and skills development. They often work in school or career settings and private practice.

Counsellors can go by different titles depending on the type of education they received, the population of clients they work with, and the settings they practice in. Common examples are Licensed professional counsellor (LPC) and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT).

Psychotherapist: A psychotherapist has specialized training in treating mental disorders. They use talk therapy to help people find better ways to cope with emotional issues and overcome unhealthy behaviors or thinking patterns. Psychotherapists can be psychiatrists or psychologists.

Psychologists: A psychologist is someone who studies the mind and behavior.  This profession actually encompasses a wide range of specialty areas including such things as animal research and organizational behavior.

The term psychologist can apply to people who:

  • Use psychological knowledge and research to solve problems, such as treating mental illnesses
  • Work as social scientists to conduct psychological research and teach at colleges or universities

Examples of psychologists include:

  • Counselling psychologist: A counselling psychologist helps people of all ages deal with emotional, social, developmental, and other life concerns using mostly psychotherapy (talk therapy). These professionals use a variety of strategies to help people manage behavioral issues, cope with stress, alleviate anxiety and distress, and deal with the issues associated with psychological disorders.

Take note that a counselling psychologist holds a higher qualification that a counsellor. As such, they primarily treat clients with serious mental health conditions than counsellors. 

  • Clinical Psychologist: A clinical psychologist assesses, diagnoses and treats individuals experiencing psychological distress and mental illness. They also perform psychotherapy and develop treatment plans. Clinical psychologists tend to focus on psychopathology (abnormal mental states) and thus often work in hospitals, mental health clinics, and private practice. They typically deal with clients experiencing more severe mental illnesses that counselling psychologists do. 

While clinical psychologists often work in medical settings, they are not physicians and in most cases cannot prescribe medications.

Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of mental disorders. Because psychiatrists hold a medical degree and are trained in the practice of psychiatry, they are one of the few professionals in the mental health field able to prescribe medications to treat mental health issues. Much like a general practice physician, a psychiatrist may perform physical exams and order diagnostic tests in addition to practicing psychotherapy.



Kindly take note that these are submitted names after a call-out I made on my social media platforms right after conducting a survey on ‘UNDERSTANDING THE PERCEPTIONS, ATTITUDES AND COPING MECHANISMS OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AMONG MUSLIMS IN KENYA. Unfortunately, I was limited to providing full information about each one and there are also many more therapists/coaches out there that are not mentioned.

I also cannot verify anything more about them (than provided below) and will therefore not be responsible for anything beyond this article. I would therefore advise the client themselves to do their homework, ask the questions mentioned above and find the appropriate therapist/centre.

In case of any wrongly/missing written names/addresses or any short-coming, kindly pardon me and would appreciate a correction email:

I pray that the information provided will be beneficial biidhnillah. Kindly share this post and subscribe to the blog below; you never know who might need it!

Dr Ilham Mohamed FarajPsychiatrist at Afya first medical centre/ Coast General Hospital
Spaki, Mombasa0721946477
Dr. Nabila AminConsultant psychiatrist at Chiromo hospital group
Dr. Neema ArakaPsychiatry resident at Mathari hospital/Psychotherapist & Life coach at FITAHI
Dr Husna Salim Ali
Psychiatrist at Mandera county referral hospital South C & Minaret Hospital South B
Dr Salwa Haithar
Consultant psychiatrist at Chiromo hospital groupLavington, Nairobi0797784446 (Clinic line)
Dr Janbibi Yusuf
Psychiatry RegistrarEldoret0707180531
Salma Bashir
Clinical psychologist at Health Source
Nyali, Mombasa0786477699
Wafiyyah HamidClinical psychologistMombasa0722425000  (Prefers SMS/Whatsapp to calls)
Mumtaz MohamedshafiClinical psychologist/psychotherapist/Art therapist/Play therapist etcMombasa0717408069
Soud Alli TengahClinical psychologistMombasa0114152081
Salma AhmedClinical psychologist (working with National Police Service Commission)
Riziki AhmedClinical psychologist at Hidaya Timeless Solutions
Nafisa Abass
Clinical psychologistNairobi0722492999
Halima Khalif
Clinical psychologistNairobi0732082869
Aysha Ali Hassan
Mohamed Said Athman
Psychotherapist/TrainerSouth C, Nairobi0796757074
Musa Mwale Kanenje
Nuru AminPsychotherapist/Psychologist/Ongoing MAMFT
Nana Ali MohamedSenior accredited counselling psychologist (KCPA registered) at Potreitz Subcounty/ Private practice at Kheiyrunnisaa Medical CenterMombasa0712820121
Saida Bukheit
Counselling psychologistMombasa0722662568
Nawal Mareai Al-Karbi 
Counselling psychologist/Child & play therapist (Women & Children only)Nyali, Mombasa0725202777 
Aisha Hassan (Munira)
Counselling psychologistNairobi0790398212
Khadija Hussein Abdow
Counselling psychologistNairobi0792612238
Rukia Mohamed
Counselling psychologist/General counsellorMachakos county within Nairobi Metropolis0723024017
Fawziya A. Hashil  
Counselling psychologist/TEAM CBT & mediator certification (on-going)Nairobi0769889359
Hamida Ahmed
Counselling psychologist & Wellness services/TrainerNairobi0718233759
Imaad Saleh
Counselling psychologist/Certified associate counsellorMombasa/Nairobi0736693525
Muslima Essak
Counselling psychologistFree Virtual during weekdaysmuslimaessak@
Halima Abdalla Al-Harazi
Community counsellorTown centre, Mombasa+254104001211
Zeitun Juma

Counsellor at Amani Counselling/Freelance tooNairobi0727802749
Farhiya Yusuf Abdi
Counsellor (mostly young adults & teenagers) Virtual0792928988
Nusrat Mohammed
Mindset coach/Corporate wellness coachMombasa0708944883
Ilham Amin
Life & spiritual CoachVirtualilhaminated@
Ruwaida Abdulaziz Dohry
Life Coach & Islamic psychology counsellingVirtual appointments/scheduled appointments at masajids (At the moment, TSS)0756903506
Noor Counselling Centre
Guidance & Counselling institutionMombasa0739724234
Ta’alluful Quloob
Guidance & Counselling/Match making institutionMombasa0774222204/ 0111222205
Shariffa Centre
Family/Marital counselling institutionMombasa0722499986
Mewa Rehabilitation Centre
Rehabilitation & Counselling CentreMombasa0722819795/
Ruby Family Care Clinic
Mental health care (among other health services)Malindi0722523847
Family Resource Centre
Guidance & Counselling institution/Family servicesJamia Plaza, Nairobi0717767888
The Pearl Recovery
Addiction and Mental health recoveryAthi River0798756046



To read the second part of this article, please click on this link:

What exactly constitutes making it in life anyway? 

Is it an enormous bank balance with multiple health problems accumulated over the years? Is it owning three companies while having strained relationships with your children because you were never there for them? Is it being a workaholic only to be let go the moment you get sick? Do we all have to become doctors and engineers to be counted as worthy children or citizens (as many in our society perceive)?

This mindset problem is not only within the school systems but with the majority of parents too who’d rather see their children slaving around than ride a bicycle during a weekend. A child’s performance in school should never determine their validity or worth.

Most times, all these kids need is someone who will hold their hand with love and guide them through life until they find their calling, rather than constant admonishing and mocking. I am not saying you don’t push them to do better but don’t push them off the cliff either. You can’t measure a fish’s intelligence by asking it to climb a tree. What if this child is a fish and she is best at swimming? How will she know what she is capable of if you are all confining her in a box with your set standards of intelligence?

How many first-class degree or master’s holders are currently in low-paying jobs, despite their endless hard work? And how many students that were considered ‘failures’ are now thriving in life because they followed their passion and achieved their dreams? 

The greatest joke of all is the thought that once you start working you can finally settle down and have some peace of mind. Says who? 

You spend the next two, three years after university, tarmacking, in search of a job. If you’re lucky you have a spot saved for you at your family business or like others, you resort to giving bribes and nepotism just for a chance at an interview. 

By the time you get that job, you have tried five different businesses that failed miserably. At one point you even worked as a type-writer at the cyber in your neighbourhood despite your hard-earned glorious bachelor’s degree. Sometimes, even with your master’s degree, you end up working in a different field. How many intelligent and successful individuals with high academic achievement and degrees have we seen on the news selling water or working at salons? Some opt to go outside the country in search of greener pastures and the debate has always been: is the grass really greener on the other side? Very few privileged individuals get an opportunity to choose which job to go for. We mostly just grab the first chance we get regardless of our passion, our dreams, our capabilities, or even our academic field.

Having a job doesn’t guarantee you rest either because now you have to arise early to avoid the terrible traffic jam to get to work in time, and your days are now a matter of clocking in and clocking out. Most Kenyans also have to work more than one job or get employed while also having a side gig in order to survive the tough economy in our country. A mundane and very tiring routine but you gotta do what you gotta do right?

You will get the time to rest. 

That’s the biggest scam that is fed to us when we’re young. It never gets easier. The responsibilities double and triple. You get out there and see how everyone is hustling and fighting so hard to make it. It is survival for the fittest, and if you’re not a shark then you get eaten at the first chance. 

The reality of life is that it has no formula. None of us can ever be sure what will lead to our eventual happiness and satisfaction in life. We might think we know until we realize we don’t. We’re all just trying our best. So we might as well do everything in moderation; studying smart, working smart, and living smart. None of us has to die from burn-out for a job that would not mourn us more than one day. The perfect illustration of this is how many employees got fired between last year and the current one due to the pandemic. We do understand that the pandemic was beyond anyone’s control and that the entire world has suffered physically, emotionally, and economically. Nonetheless, it is proof enough that slaving for a company can never guarantee your place in it. Competence and integrity at the workplace are highly recommended but they shouldn’t lead one to poor physical and mental health.

I don’t know who came up with the idea that the future should be about survival, but it shouldn’t be! Instead, it should be about thriving, supportive families and providing a positive, conducive environment for growth. It might be too late for the majority of the adults to change their childhood experiences or how they perceived life then, but we can make a difference now for our children and students. This is the generation known for its abundance in information and self-awareness, for the bravery and courage to break ‘generational curses’. And so we’ll use that to be better, both for ourselves and for future generations.

If I was ever given the chance to go back in time to when I was a child, I’d sleep more. I’d play more. I’d read more books. I’d take care of myself. I’d stop worrying about an endless future. I’d work on my writing talent more and build myself. I would make more friends. I wouldn’t cry myself to sleep just because I didn’t get a 98% or 100% in maths. I wouldn’t skip my meals in a rush to get to school. I wouldn’t allow the pressure to seep into my veins. I would ensure I had the best childhood I could afford to have. 

Right now, what I consider important is very much different from what I thought at school. You grow up and realize the importance of good health and physical fitness, of mental wellness, of having goals that YOU chose for yourself, of nurturing talents, of having faith and integrity, of a good support system and social network.

To whoever it may concern, let these kids be kids. Let them play, let them be silly, and write silly letters to their best friends. Let the only hurt they feel be because their friend refused to share food with them or that their knee got hurt while playing or that they can’t race faster like their mates. They will never be twelve again. Life doesn’t get any easier from here. Please, let these kids be kids.

Before dawn, I see these kids and my heart sinks. Home-schooling seems like a very attractive thing to me right now.

BACKGROUND SOURCES:,mature%20into%20adulthood%20%5B23%5D.’s_Education_Sector_and_Implications_for_Development_Some_Empirical_Reflections#:~:text=The%20Competency%20Based%20Curriculum%20(CBC,served%20Kenya%20for%2032%20years.

To read the first part of this article, please click on this link:

Have you realized that PP1 students, children of about 4 years only, study around 7 textbooks? And sometimes have to leave home as early as 6 a.m?!

When talking about the well-being of children, we must also talk about the draining effects of the new education system in our country.

The intention and vision behind the new curriculum (CBC) may be brilliant but the amount of pressure this system has exerted on parents, teachers, and the students has been immense so far. CBC aims to shift Kenya’s educational paradigm from a teacher-centred approach to a more student-centred one. Student-centered learning places more emphasis on skills development, a child’s well-being, and inclusivity. However, despite this new curriculum’s appeal, at least on paper, we know that there’s a lot more that needs to be done in reality. We have deeper systemic challenges that need to be dealt with i.e. teacher training, ineffective policy, and infrastructural barriers. Not to mention how these children and even the parents were not mentally prepared for all these changes. AT ALL!

Some assignments require the use of smartphones and the internet. Some require the active participation of parents for example practical making of scarecrows or musical instruments and the like. The number of lessons has increased for school children by almost double, which can be quite overwhelming. The number of textbooks plus supplementary books required in schools has been a big burden to most parents too. The reality is that many Kenyans still struggle to make ends meet let alone afford the internet. Some have to work overtime to bring food to the table such that they barely see their children let alone assist them with the assignments. What happens to these children? Or what can these helpless parents do? Weren’t all these factors to be taken into consideration before the implementation of the new system (even if we acknowledge its long-term benefit?)

We can see how bad things are by the number of children attempting or committing suicide for losing money intended for school or when achieving lower grades than expected. Just this year, students have had to attend 4 schools terms in an attempt to catch up with the time lost to COVID-19 last year, while parents have had to pay school fees 4 times too. The frustration and exhaustion are affecting many parents, students, and even the teachers to scary depths.


Parents too play a major role in creating emotional distress amongst school-going children. Some of them offer conditional positive regard and love on the basis of their performance or the career path their children partake. If one was lucky enough to have joined a university or a college, then there was the endless reminder of how much money (most of which were loans) is being paid for the school tuition. You could never afford to fail, or God forbid repeat a class, even if you really did your best! 

There’s also the very common habit of forcing children to take up courses they have zero interest in. How many students have we heard went into depression because they were forced to study medicine or engineering despite the child’s apprehension and protests? Parents set the standards for their children based on their own personal dreams and self-fulfillment, and induce pressure on their children to do as they expect. When the children attempt to resist the university courses that their parents want them to enrol in, they are threatened with abandonment – “you’ll pay your own fees” or “please move out of my house.” Some are even ready to disown their children if they don’t follow the career path they choose for them.

Understandably, parents want the best for their children and they have more experience in life. However, that does not in any way help when their son or daughter is passionate about a different career path. It is also not helpful when the children have to suffer psychologically and emotionally in order to please their parents. So many children have had to resort to two degrees; one that the parents want them to undertake, and another that they want for themselves. Some had to drop out at some point due to the dissatisfaction and lack of interest in the degree courses their parents chose for them.


The struggle for young adults doesn’t end here. 

After being forced into careers that they’re not passionate about, many students at the university are often faced with myriad other challenges. Even for the students who genuinely dedicate themselves to their education, university life can become overwhelming. This is the phase whereby everything seems to put one on the edge. You’re either thinking about your future, your career, or your piling, unpaid fees; and at the same time, you are thinking about the need to establish social networks crucial for career progression in the future; or worried that you haven’t seen your family for close to eight months, or missing out on forming important long-lasting relationships. 

When were you ever going to rest?

In a report by the Kenyatta National Hospital that was released in 2015, over 100 cases of attempted suicide among the youth aged between 18-25 (mostly campus students) were reported within a span of two months. These numbers have escalated since the Covid-19 pandemic. Keep in mind that these are only the reported cases. With suicide and attempted suicide still being considered taboo in the majority of Kenyan cultures, many of the cases are hidden.

In a 2019 publication by The Standard Entertainment epaper, there are growing concerns over the number of young adults committing suicide. One victim of suicide was Ndirangu Mwai, a second-year student who committed suicide at his rented house outside the university premises. It is said that Ndirangu had confessed to a local pastor about his suicide plan over squabbles between his parents regarding poor grades.

Another 23-year-old student, Edwin Mwaizi, a fourth-year Petroleum Engineering student, committed suicide by inhaling carbon IV. In the note that he had left behind, he stated that he was stressing over lack of money and upcoming end-of-semester exams among other reasons. 

According to someone who knew him closely, Edwin was smart and ambitious.

The surge of suicide attempts and cases haven’t only been reported among campus students. We’ve also heard quite a number of times from the news, of children at primary school level committing suicide too. In 2018, a class eight student allegedly committed suicide for not performing well in a test. The 15-year-old had been leading his fellow candidates in other internal tests. However, it is said that he came out second out of 26 with 372 marks during the second term while the leading candidate scored 373 marks. As reported by The Standard Entertainment epaper, sources said that the boy wrote on the blackboard, explaining his disappointment with his performance.

The note – “Congratulations to all my teachers who have been teaching me since I joined this school. It is not my fault to bid you goodbye but because of unavoidable circumstances, I’m forced to do so. It is useless to live without peace according to my gradual poor performance. To all candidates, best wishes in your exams. We shall meet again.”

According to the school headteacher, the student hadn’t performed poorly: “The information I have is that some children reported to his guardians that his academic performance was declining when they saw him become number two. But that is untrue because last time he was number one with 369 marks while this time round he was number two with 372 marks,” he said. The headteacher speculated that the boy’s problems might have emanated from home.

Whether or not this young boy truly died from suicide because of his results, isn’t it heartbreaking that a child would even consider 372 marks (out of a possible 500) as a failure? 

This is just one example. 

There are many others who take their own lives due to their perceived poor performance in school. Who’s responsible? 

Parents, for instance, are known to have helped their children cheat in exams, to have bribed the system, or to completely subvert it. For example, they have registered their children to sit their exams in poor-performing schools, so as to take advantage of the quotas reserved for these underprivileged schools by prestigious secondary schools: Alliance, Kenya High, Maseno School, Mang’u, Starehe, Limuru Girls, are often amongst those most prized. Students resort to cheating in exams, after realizing their parents are also doing it. 

Where did this obsession for ‘success’ through shortcuts, really come from?

I once spoke during a parents-teachers meeting for KCPE candidates and the on-going discussion was whether the candidates should attend classes on Saturday too during the holiday period. First of all, the Ministry of Education had already banned holiday classes, but several schools were doing it secretly. In addition, plus the assignments being given daily, they wanted the children to go to school on Saturday too. 

‘When will these children rest?!’ I remember protesting. 

Even if they’re examination candidates, it gets to a point where it is just too much for them too. How do we expect them to learn if we keep over-feeding them with information and assignments to a saturation point?

Only one other parent, a mzungu, agreed with me in the entire room, all rejecting my apprehensions. They all recounted how hard they had to work, relayed the pressure they endured during their time as students. 

Then I was tempted to ask, ‘and how did that turn out for you? Are you happy with your life?’ But well, I decided against it. 

Throughout the entire meeting, as the mzungu and I conversed, I could sense an air of disappointment, ridicule perhaps, coming from the parents’ present. An atmosphere that gave life to the old adage, ‘Coastal and white people often spoil their children.’ 

They proceed to talk about how life is challenging, and of the need to toughen up children so that they could deal. In my mind, I kept thinking, the economy and life in our country has always been tough since I could form any independent thought. That it is very likely that our children, including their own children, would also have to hustle hard so as to make it in life. But then again, why do we feel the need to put our children through the same dysfunctional system? Why do we need to make these ten, twelve-year-olds understand struggle at such a tender age? Why do we romanticize struggle and poverty and hustling and harsh environments like it is the ONLY way that we can ever succeed in life? Why do we make it seem like one needs to work fifteen to twenty hours a day, or even more, so as to make it in life? 

What exactly constitutes making it in life anyway? 


Stay tuned for the final part of this article. Thank you!


Also, my book ‘Reflection & Resurgence: A Believer’s Journey to Islam’ is available at 1500/= only. To get yours contact me at 0704 731 560

Before dawn, while I am still yawning and full of sleep, I see these kids trudging across the street, hunching from the weight of their school bags. I see them rub their eyes, the older one pulling the younger to move faster. Sometimes, it is just the older one, running while peeping at his watch every two minutes. I bet he has missed breakfast today too. 

Sometimes, they leave for school before their parents leave for work. And my heart sinks. 

When did we become okay with this? 

Isn’t this some form of slavery? 

Will children ever be allowed to be children?


When you walk into a therapist’s office, one of the first things they will ask you about is your childhood, regardless of whether you’re there for drug addiction or seeking to resolve your marital problems, or when grieving the loss of a loved one. It is by no chance nor for the sake of striking a conversation do they ask you about where you come from, the dynamics of your family, or even which school you attended. It has everything to do with who we are, how we view the world, and even the manner in which we deal with problems. The nurture debate in developmental psychology is proof enough that the environment in which one grows up in has a significant impact on one’s future. 

Previous research has shown that childhood experiences affect one’s health in their adulthood. Children who experienced several adverse situations are at a higher risk of developing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, developing substance abuse habits, and detrimental health behaviours as they grow up. The opposite is also true: children who grew up in a positive environment and with supportive families are said to have better health as adults. The effects of one’s childhood don’t end here. Research has also shown that parenting styles are handed over to their children, who then parent their own children in a similar manner. Children who were abused are likely to do the same to their children, and those with unresolved emotional problems become disorganized with unhealthy attachment styles and exhibit more frightening parenting behaviours. It thus becomes a chain of unhealthy behaviours and lifestyles from generation to generation for the majority of families.

How does this relate to our school system? 

Our Kenyan education system is such that a child, of very tender age, starts spending the majority of their time within the school compound. This means that the school environment, the teachers, the schoolmates, have a great influence on a child’s growth, the shaping of their behaviours, and their worldview, sometimes more than their parents.

The truth is, we come from a society that really glorifies hustling and the idea of bending over backward in order to achieve our goals. We’re told, ‘wake up at 2 a.m. to study; arrive at school at 6 a.m. sharp; conduct prep studies until 8 or 9 p.m.: basically, do whatever it takes to be number one in class and with consistency.’ We’re led to believe that the only way to make it in this life is if you continue studying even with a torch while the rest sleep in the dorms. We’re made to think, the more you work, the more you thrive. 

We’re brainwashed to assume that skipping sleep and lying down for just three to four hours makes you a legend. 

We’re talked into believing that it is either now or never, whatever the cost is. 

We glorify the future.

We invite motivational speakers and make children feel that without 400 plus marks (out of a possible of 500 for primary school kids) or an A at the end of secondary education, then you can kiss your dreams and goals goodbye.

Most parents blackmail their children emotionally, with famous statements ranging from ‘I had to walk 20 kilometers to get to school’, to ‘I had to cross the river barefoot every day in order to acquire an education or ‘I used to stay hungry the whole day because we were very poor but I still achieved good grades.’ 

Granted, to some of the previous generations, hardships had to be endured so as to acquire an iota of a decent education. They indeed deserve all the respect for striving so hard. However, the struggle should never be glorified in such a way that we expect our children to also slave in order to achieve what society defines as success.

The past has everything to do with the future. 

And unhealthy beginnings filled with overwhelm, sleeplessness, and wild expectations can never give a child the proper foundation for a future that supports them according to their abilities, talents, and IQ. The pressure placed upon school-going children to succeed later translates to adults working merely to pay bills, with no passion, and many times, filled with sadness. 

Remember when we were young and the adults then would have us believe that we’d finally get to rest after successfully completing our primary school education? And then once we were done, we had to prepare for secondary school where the workload was twice as heavy, coupled with more intense competition for grades and as a result, more hours dedicated to study? 

The teachers would lead us into believing that this is the phase that will determine whether you will ever be somebody in life or remain invisible forever. So, everyone joined tuition or extra-school academic program, including group discussions that went on until after dusk. The non-academic extra-curricular activities were mostly there for show. Physical exercise was done scarcely throughout the year, while life skills classes were taken up as a free lesson to finish assignments. The only active clubs for several schools were drama and debating clubs, which would organize activities only once or twice a year. The only dreams we could afford to have involved Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. We were denied family time, with all these assignments and exams always lurking. We would come back home feeling like zombies, with eyes half-open, the only thing we’d want to see is the bed. We would barely have time for madrasa. For anyone who cared to be somebody someday, life was a robotic experience.


I remember when I was in primary school, we had a mathematics teacher I would now call Mr. M. As a form of punishment, he would cane us for every wrong answer in his tests (and those tests were almost on the daily!!). Those who received 98% on the tests were not spared. They would get a cane for giving an incorrect answer to that one question. That also meant if someone got a 50% they would get 25 good strokes!! 

He had this fine and strong cane that he would use on us, and he would cane us right below our thighs with so much vigour that my skin would turn greenish-black. According to Mr. M, this was for our own good. It was the best way to make us improve in maths. However, the only thing it did was make us terrified of him and maths.

Our whole day was spent dreading that it will soon be maths class. 

Other than that, it made us feel less of ourselves. 

When someone jumped or cried whilst being caned, the rest of the class laughed, even when all of us knew we would get a taste of the same cane. So, you can imagine how it must have been like for the students who would get 50% or below, as the whole class watched and laughed at them whilst receiving twenty-five strokes of the cane on their little thighs.

I for one did improve in maths slightly, but in retrospect, it made me hate the subject entirely. It made me detest going to school. I used to have a maths phobia and sometimes before an exam, I would panic about failing the subject. And this went on for my entire life, I would avoid anything that had any math or even had the slightest similarity to the subject. Sometimes I wonder what happened to Mr. M, whether he is really proud that he made us achieve better marks in maths by causing us such unnecessary dread and panic, despite the cheating that was done by some? What exactly is the point of putting these young kids under so much pressure? When will teachers understand that all kids have different abilities? 

I didn’t realize it back then but when I look back now I am convinced that that was plain old-school bullying. Mr. M broke my self-esteem, just like several other teachers along the way. I am not anti-disciplining; I am just anti-bullying. The saddest part is that several of the teachers who were known for their brutality and nastiness don’t even realize how much they have scarred students over the years; some to the extent of making their students detest school, transfer elsewhere, or drop out and gave up entirely…


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N.B: This article is focusing on the distressed student. However, it can be helpful in all spheres of life such as at home, work places and social life. Please read through.

We all face stress in our lives. Stress can be positive sometimes, however, it can be debilitating when it is a lot. Students are usually under a lot of pressure with both their academic and personal lives. While students have found different ways to cope with the system, sometimes it can become too much and thereafter lead to distress or even depression.

Emotional distress can be explained as a state of mental anguish which may result from a certain circumstance or mental health issue. The staff of a school have the better opportunity to notice when a student is distressed and that includes the school counsellor and fellow students too. This is because, they get to interact with them throughout the day. It is crucial for all school staff members to be familiar with, and watchful for, risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior. The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing such information. 

Sometimes, students who are distressed may be perceived as simply ‘naughty’, or ‘bad’ by teachers and peers. This perception may in turn damage their self-esteem and make them feel shunned by those around them. It is thus important that teachers and school counsellors be on the look-out for any indications of stress or depression.

There are several matters that could cause distress to a student, including (but not limited to):

• Broken relationships/family

• Loss of a family member/friend

• Illness of a loved one

• Conflict with family or a close person

• Victim of assault

• Sudden change i.e. moving to another town/school

• Traumatic experience example rape, war, accident, floods etc

• Mental health condition

When one is faced with such difficult situations, there might be some changes in the person. The following are some of the indications of a student who is struggling.

  • Unusual Behaviour:

 • Falling asleep in class frequently

• Threatening or disruptive behavior in classroom  

• Marked changes in appearance, example hygiene and weight

• Extreme mood swings or inappropriate, excessive display of emotion

• Sudden withdrawal from others or excessive sleep

• Chronic irritability, excessive anxiety or hyperactivity

• Confusion, bizarre behaviour or disorientation

· Unusual bruises or cuts on hands or body

· Sadness, tearfulness

· Extreme loss of appetite or binge eating frequently

· Dependency, i.e. the student keeps making appointments to see you

· Lack of energy and enthusiasm about various aspects of student life

• Preoccupation with death

  • Problems with Academic Performance:

• Poor academic performance or a sudden decline in performance from previous tests.

• Request for special accommodations

• Speech or test anxiety

• Not attending classes or not doing assignments

  • Harmful Statements or Behaviours:

• Uses statements of helplessness or mentions about suicidal thoughts

• Indications of prolonged unhappiness

• Extreme risk-taking behavior

• Use of drugs or alcohol

• Getting violent or aggressive with classmates or other students

In addition to the above mentioned signs, if a student is suicidal, they show other clues of their struggle:

  • Verbal cues: a student may directly or indirectly communicate their suicidal thoughts (sometimes even using jokes) or intentions by saying things like:

· “I’m going to kill myself.”

· “Everyone would be better off without me.”

· “I just can’t take it any longer.”

· “I wish I were dead.”

“I am tired of this life.”

  • Behavioral Clues: a student may do something that may reveal self-destructive intentions, like:

· A previous suicide attempt, especially if recent

· Giving away valued possessions

· Procuring means: asking for sedatives or buying a gun

· Composing a suicide note

·  Resigning from social groups, extracurricular activities,  

· Crying spells without external triggers

· Visiting a physician for unexplained or vague symptoms

· Substance abuse

Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school staff, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to ensure the student’s safety. According to Worthington (1982), the most crucial step in assisting another person, is make them believe that you understand them. This can be achieved by asking the right questions, listening attentively to their concerns and evaluating the person’s needs. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:

• Remain calm: To be of greater assistance and to reduce the student’s agitation one needs to stay calm.

• Provide a quiet, private place (if possible) for the student to rest in the mean time

• Talk to the student clearly and in a straight forward way on whether they feel suicidal or are considering committing it.

• Listen to them and do not judge! Be kind and empathetic.

• Reassure them that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.

• Do not leave them alone

• Make arrangements for appropriate aid from other experts

• Remove means for self-harm.

Get help: No one should ever agree to keep a youth’s suicidal thoughts a secret and instead should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a parent, teacher, or school psychologist/counsellor. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional or administrator.

As for the students themselves, it is also important to be on the look out for any weird or unusual behaviour in yourself, your mates and friends. A lot of times nowadays, youth use social media as a way to seek help. DO NOT ASSUME THAT THEY ARE SIMPLY SEEKING ATTENTION. Don’t gamble with that. So whenever you see any posts with suicidal ideation or posts of self-harm like cutting oneself or jokes on suicide (especially when done more than once) reach out! This could be their cry for help and you could be all they need to stay alive (Okay perhaps not ALL they need but you could play an important role in preventing them from taking their life and that should count for something).

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, once a child or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth. These include:

  • Family support and cohesion, including good communication.
  • Peer support and close social networks.
  • School and community connectedness.
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living.
  • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict-resolution.
  • General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, sense of purpose.
  • Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources.

To get assistance, here are some counselling offices that you can reach out to, not just when feeling suicidal, but whenever in distress.

  1. Taalluful Quloob: 0780 222 205/0111 222 205
  2. Noor Counselling Centre: 0739 724 234
  3. Amani Counselling Centre: 0735 744 389


Benton, S.A. & Benton, S.L, (2006). College student mental health: Effective services and strategies across campus. National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Inc.

DeRosier, M. & Lloyd, S. (2010) The Impact of Children’s Social Adjustment on Academic Outcomes, Reading & Writing Quarterly, 27:1-2 DOI: 10.1080/10573569.2011.532710

Grothaus, T. (n.d.) School Counselors Serving Students with Disruptive Behavior Disorders. asca | Professional School Counseling, 16(4).

Worthington, E.L.. (1982). When someone asks for help: A practical guide for counseling. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

National Association of School Psychologists:

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We’ve all been in some sort of drama in our lives, haven’t we? Not necessarily pulling someone’s hair and scratching their face or fist-fighting in the middle of the conference room. But you get the gist, don’t you? At some point, we willingly or unwillingly got into conflict with someone else. It could be a small confrontation once upon a time or a grudge that’s been going on for ages, either way, we’ve been there. However, most often than not, we are unaware of our roles in the whole drama and how we affect our relationships with other people.

A psychologist by the name Stephen Karpman came up with a social model of human interaction, which maps conflicted or intense-dramatic relationships. He called it ‘The Drama Triangle’.

The Drama Triangle consists of three players: The victim, The Rescuer and The Prosecutor.

The Victim: The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” or “why is this happening to me?” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, Shameful, Guilty. The Victim sees life as happening to them and feels powerless to change their circumstances. Victims place blame on a Persecutor who can be a person or a situation. Feeling helpless, the victim seeks a rescuer to save them or solve their problems.

The Rescuer:The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” The rescuer is an Enabler, Pain reliever, takes the responsibility of others’ problems. They feel guilty when they don’t rescue someone else. He/she keeps the victim dependent on him to always help and save him. The rescuer focuses their energy in helping other people in order to ignore their own anxiety and issues and feel good about themselves.

The Persecutor: The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault” or“They’re wrong I’m right. They need to do as I say.”  The Persecutor is critical, oppressive, frustrated, angry, critical, controlling, superior, blaming.

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We, as human beings, tend to switch around the three different roles in our lives. Sometimes we’re the victims, sometimes we’re the rescuers and sometimes we’re the persecutors. Each one of us has a starting gate, which is the dominant role we play i.e when a conflict arises, there’s the role we automatically take. For example, when a misunderstanding happens at work, you could automatically start blaming the other person for the mistake, which makes you the persecutor. Maybe a little while later, when summoned by your boss to explain the conflict, you turn to be a victim. And in case there was a third party involved who was not at fault, you become a rescuer, you stand up for them and fight for them even when they didn’t ask you to.

Rescuers most of the time have low self-worth and they tend to take part in destructive helping i.e. they do what they don’t want to. They say yes when they mean no and they fix other people’s problems and feelings, sometimes even when not asked. Rescuers typically feel unlovable so they settle for being needed. Caretaking provides them with a temporary hit of good feelings, self-worth, and power.  However, caretaking is also martyrdom and people-pleasing behaviour (not healthy AT ALL!).

Sometimes, rescuers use religious beliefs to justify their destructive helping. Religion does encourage us to help people but not at the expense of our own destruction. A rescuer needs to understand that there’s a difference between supporting someone and rescuing them. All that is expected from us is to support people, be there for them without necessarily sacrificing ourselves or our own lives for the sake of other people. Caretaking breeds anger: Unsatisfied, frustrated, confused and this is because ultimately, you will get tired of trying to save everyone. And this frustration and exhaustion is what typically makes one turn to be a prosecutor; you start getting angry that people don’t appreciate you enough and that’s when the cliche lines comes in (when the one helped tells the rescuer): “Did I ask you to do this for me?” Or you feel hurt when people don’t reciprocate the amount of energy you invest in them which could turn you into a victim: “People always mistreat me or under-value me.” It is noted that self-destructive behaviours like chemical abuse, sexual and eating disorders are developed through the victim role.

Now on the flip side, we have ‘The Empowerment Dynamic’ (TED) which is made up of three roles that stand as antidotes to (or escapes from) the Drama Triangle Roles:
1. The Creator: (previous victim): In this case, the victim asks themselves questions like “what creative ways can I deal with this problem?” “what are my goals?” “what is my passion?” They take charge of their own lives and have self-awareness.
2. The Coach: (previous rescuer): In this case, the rescuer is no longer an enabler but a supporter. They listen and hold your hand, they support and they want you to be the best version of yourself.
3. The Challenger: (previous persecutor): In this case, the persecutor asks themself questions like “Don’t you think you’re doing this because you want this?” They challenge you to grow.

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How To Save Yourself From The Drama Triangle:

1. Being aware of the toxic patterns: “what am I seeking when I play out the victim/rescuer/persecutor role?” “Am I seeking attention? Do I crave love? Do I yearn for power? Am I trying to hide my insecurities? Am I helping people to run away from my own problems?”

2. Honest communication: Say exactly what you need or seek from the other person or what you’re feeling. e.g. If you feel insecure whenever your husband goes out with his friends during weekends, then tell him you feel insecure and need reassurance. If your wife wants to go on a trip with her friends and you think they’re a bad influence, talk to her about it instead of just trying to sabotage the trip. Save everyone the drama and the conflict. Silent treatment doesn’t do anyone any good. Honest communication goes a VERY long way in building better connections (It can be very difficult to really be vulnerable and speak your heart out, but that’s exactly what is needed for healthier relationships)

3. Say no when you want to say no.

4. Do the things YOU want to do, not to please other people, not to rescue someone, but because you literally want to do the thing.

5. Refuse to guess people’s needs/wants i.e. If someone hasn’t directly asked you for something don’t do it (of course it depends on the situation. If someone is stabbed, please help them without them asking?). Sometimes your intention could be to help yet end up making matters worse or spoon-feeding the victim who should stand up for themselves.

6. Insist that others ask you directly for what they want or need from you. i.e. when someone is telling you their problem, ask them nicely what they need from you or how you can support them (if you are in a position to help that is, if not, don’t kill yourself with guilt over it).

7. Refuse to assume others’ responsibilities. Refuse to rescue and refuse that other people rescue you. At the end of the day, each human being should deal with their own lives. Not unless someone is disabled or mentally challenged, very ill, or very elderly, (even this depends on context), don’t be anyone’s saviour or persecutor. If your child does wrong, let him/her face the consequences of their actions. Saving sometimes leads to more terrible damage than we intended.

I honestly believe we’ve all been here, but some more than others. Accept your mistakes, take charge of your life and work on being better, build better connections and have healthier relationships!

P.S. We see these triangles a lot in soap operas movies and shows, (fairy tales too!) but that is why they are called ‘drama series/shows’. They are NOT healthy and there’s nothing romantic about it! Drama makes a good book, a good show or movie, but it doesn’t make a good life. Let’s please leave those for entertainment only.


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