As a child, my fellow schoolmates would call me a cry baby and my family would say i’m moody. I heard those two words so often I believed that something was so wrong about me and that I was just a burden most of the times. This made me pull myself away and stay in my shell for the longest time. I believed, staying away is the only way to save people from my troubled heart. By the time I was nine, I was already facing physical drainage and excess fatigue. Coming from school, which was just 5-7 minutes away, I would have to pause on the way, sit down and catch my breath. Many years later I would sit in front of different doctors as they place the results in front of me and say, ‘The results are clear; your heart is in good condition, you are not over weight, your blood pressure is fine too…Everything is fine. Could it be that something is bothering you?’

The problem was, everything was bothering me. Starting from the stray cat I saw this morning to the whatsapp video on something that happened in China. I was carrying the entire universe on my frail body; it was shattering. At that time, I was quite desperate to be diagnosed with some physical ailment so that I could prove to people that there was a genuine reason for how my body functioned and how I am.

Over the years, I struggled with fatigue, over-thinking, too much worry and over-whelming emotions that brought me down over and over again. I would break down often, get panic attacks that would crash my soul down…I was bullied and manipulated many times. I lost a lot of ‘friends’ along the way. ‘Friends’ who thought my anxiety was attention seeking and that I was simply a nagging individual. To make it worse, my two very different personalities never made it easy for anyone to understand me fully. I was misunderstood; greatly. I was the black sheep everywhere I went. It thus made me create huge walls so that people wouldn’t get too close or they’d sink in my misery as well. The only other option would be that they’d leave.

For the longest time, one small phrase kept me afloat. When I was around eleven years old, there was some sort of fight at home so I locked myself in the washroom and broke down. My mother noticed my absence and kept knocking on the door asking me to come out. She kept saying everything will be okay but everything was blurry for me. In the midst of her begging, I heard her say to my sisters, ‘Lubnah ana imani’ to mean I am empathetic. That was the first time someone ever said something positive about my tears. I decided to cling on that like a drowning man holding onto a straw.

The biggest favour I did to myself was accept myself for who I am and start my self-discovery journey. I went both for ruqya and therapy. I keenly studied myself; what triggers my anxiety, my worry, my fear and my mood swings. I decided to take up Islamic psychology not just to help myself but hopefully help the many others who are like me and can’t speak up. Trust me, writing this down is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When I started doing my writing training I purposely included therapeutic writing so that more people like me can have an idea on how to cope.

The hardest thing in all this was dealing with the words people threw at me. Sometimes they’d joke about my situation but they’d never know how badly it affected me. It killed my self esteem. As I kept on with my self discovery journey, I talked to a lot of other people with anxiety and who’ve experienced depression like I did. Here are some of the silly questions and comments anyone with mental illness will relate to.

1. That incident happened 3 years ago. You mean you aint over it?!

2. Just forget about it.
: Oh wow Lisa! Thank you so much for that. I don’t know why I never thought of it!

3. Cheer up already!

4. You wanted this for yourself.
: Watch me summon my demons 😀

5. You have weak faith in God.
: Please explain that to my 9 year old self.

6. Stop being a drama king/queen

7. Don’t you trust God’s plan?!

8. You just like being sad.

9. Maybe if you get married you will be fine.

10. Come on you need to grow up. Stop acting like a baby.

11. Some people are going through worse. People are hungry, malnourished, in war-torn areas, with all their family dead…how can you be stressed about something like that.

12. You are just being ridiculous with all that over-thinking.
: You think so?!

Okay, gifs aside 😀 ( Oh I really love the gifs 😀 )

I know there are a lot of people who are suffering silently, being judged and misunderstood. All i’ll say is this:

# It is psychologically proven that religious people have less mental distress. Our holy books do confirm that for the comfort of the heart you need to get attached to God. It is true too that people who are far from God are mostly miserable and dissatisfied with their lives. NONETHELESS, we have to also be aware that for some people, this is just their test. They may be making mistakes and sinning, but not entirely evil people such that you’d say God is punishing them. Mental illness is as real as biting into your own skin. We need to create awareness on this.

# If you have any mental issue, you are going to lose several people along the way. Perhaps even your family isn’t supportive or understanding. But do know that, eventually, the right people will come into your life and they will NEVER disregard your pain or call you names or joke about your suffering or compare you to the other relative who had a similar issue. They will accept you fully and walk beside you through self discovery, self control and healing. Keep having faith.

#It is so ridiculous when people think that marriage or love is what will cure your mental illness. The support you get in a good marriage may help you immensely in your recovery journey but that is never a guarantee is it? Build up your own emotional independence and walk through the storm on your own. The friends, family and others can walk beside you but never be entirely dependent on one or some people to heal you. What if they leave your life or pass away? Be your own anchor!

#Talk to your parents. Most of the times we just assume our parents won’t understand us and what troubles us. You could be surprised the amount of support they’d give you once you speak up. You will be so relieved. It could be one parent or both parents or maybe one of your siblings; just anyone you are comfortable talking to. Talking it out helps!

#It is true that whichever battle you are fighting, someone else is facing a waaay worse situation than you are. Yes, we should be grateful always, but we shouldn’t disregard our own battles and struggles either. You can’t tell someone with diabetics to not worry about their deteriorating health because a homeless child in Syria hasn’t eaten today, can you? Let’s face our troubles and work them out instead of burying them just because ‘someone out there has it worse’. Let us be realistic.

#Seek professional help. When it becomes unbearable, don’t feel ashamed or shy to seek professional help. Be brave and take care of your own self. Remember no one can take care of you better than yourself.

#Yes, pray more and be patient. Everyone is tested differently in this life and this is your battle to win. God only gives you what you can handle. Make sure to not fail this test.

#If you’re a parent, please be keen on your children’s life. Talk to them. Ask them often how they are doing. Encourage them to open up without judging them. Don’t allow your child seek comfort from somewhere else while you are around. Be their best friends.

#If you’re a friend/relative to someone with a mental issue; you have two choices. If you can, be very patient and supportive as they navigate through their journey of growth and healing. They need it so badly you have NO idea how much. That’s something they’ll forever be grateful for. If it is too draining and toxic for you, it is totally okay for you to excuse yourself kindly and take care of yourself. Sometimes we are so engrossed in the lives of the people we care about that we neglect ourselves. That shouldn’t be so. You can’t save them if they don’t want to be saved. You are only human and struggling as well. Make sure you know how to balance your own life before helping out someone else.

#If you’re in good mental state, take a minute to thank God for it. Mental illness of any kind isn’t something you’d wish for your enemy even. Don’t be quick to judge people who are withdrawn or cry a lot or seem moody…YOU JUST NEVER KNOW what storms and demons they are facing that you have absolutely no idea about. It is so easy to say I broke my leg I need a doctor than to say I haven’t slept or eaten or even woken up from my bed for the past 3 days. Do know that it takes a lot of courage for someone to open up about their mental state. Appreciate their honesty. Be kind, be patient and give people benefit of doubt. Don’t joke about someone’s misery; you really wouldn’t like to be in their shoes. We don’t need pity, we need understanding. Remember them in your prayers too. That will be really helpful, thank you.

#You being the victim of a mental illness; depression, anxiety, PTSD…whichever it is, it is very important that you start your self discovery journey. Seek help, pray a lot, research on your condition and mostly, take care of yourself. Most people won’t understand your struggle due to lack of information and ignorance, but that shouldn’t bring you down. Take your time in the growth process. It won’t be a one day or one week thing. Sometimes it takes months or even years. But definitely worth the trial.

I am still on my journey and I know it will probably be like this for my entire lifetime yet I believe this is my test and God gave me this kind of soul for a reason.
May God easen it for anyone struggling within their own souls and may you find the peace of mind and solace you seek. Ameen.

As we end this, we have two important events coming up:

One is the writing training next weekend (28th & 29th). The sessions include: Basic writing skills, introduction to blogging, therapeutic writing, writing about the Coast, Islamic writing (for the Muslims) among other writing exercises. To register/payment or inquiries contact: 0704 731 560.

P.S If you can’t attend you can sponsor someone else so they can benefit as well 🙂

Another is the event on mental health. Check the poster below:

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A freelance writer, journalist, poet and blogger venturing mainly in social and community issues, study and analysis of behaviour and life, and the plight of the under-dogs in the society. 'I feed on human stories.'

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