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*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.

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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…

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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!’

REFERENCES:

https://sunnah.com/qudsi40:15

https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah:79

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/overview/

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To read the first part of this article, please click on this link: https://lubnah.me.ke/before-dawn-part-1/

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.

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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.

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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? 

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

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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

Human beings are like jagged pieces of a puzzle. Everyone has a different shape with different edges and different shades. That naturally makes us dissimilar. It also makes us unable to fit in positions that can’t accommodate us. Sometimes we break entirely for being pressured to fit into spaces that can’t hold the weight of our value or the sharpness of our edges. The problem is, most times we get so absorbed into the idea of belonging that we forget our own worth. We forget that in this beautiful, wide world, there is something for each one of us too.

In life, there’s always going to be people who won’t agree with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest individual in the globe, the prettiest, the kindest, the most ambitious…someone will always have something to differ from you. Differences are okay, but more often than not, people do not take them graciously. Someone might be displeased with how anti-social you are despite your excellent grades in school. Another will consider you vain just because you inherited great wealth from your ancestors. Someone else will dislike you for how you dress, or how you work out every day. You’re either lazy or too aggressive. Anorexic or too fat. Dumb or too nerdy. Stingy or too wasteful. It doesn’t matter whether what you’re doing is extremely positive or not, someone out there will always have an opinion about it, about how you should live your life, and most often than not, it will be negative.

The reality, however, is that life is not simply black and white. It is a mixture of so many colours, some that we don’t even have names for yet. Just because your path or choices is different, it doesn’t make you any less valuable. It doesn’t make what you’re doing worthless. In fact, how do you think this world would be if we ALL thought the same way, did the same things, took the same exact paths? How dull and boring would it be then?!

Remember when the Quraysh plotted to kill the prophet due to his faith and call to Islam. The animosity and bitterness they had was simply because the prophet had taken a different path from theirs and he was succeeding at it. The prophet and his closest friend Abubakr Assidiq escaped to Madina and on the way, they took refuge in cave Thawr. The Quraysh had set a prize of 100 camels upon the head of each one so the two friends stayed in the cave for three nights. Horsemen, infantry and tracers of tracks searched the country for them. But once the Quraysh reached the mouth of the cave, Allah prevented them from being seen. A spider had spun a web from a bush across the entrance of the cave. When the pursuers reached close to the cave’s entrance they thought it was impossible that someone could have entered the cave without ruining the spider web. It is recorded that Abubakr had said to the prophet: “O prophet of Allah! If some of them lower their sight they will see us.” The prophet replied: “Silence Abubakr. What do you think of those two with whom Allah is the third?”

Allah Subhanahu Wataala says in surat Tawba, verse 40 concerning this event: “If you help him (Muhammad SAW) not (it does not matter), for Allah did indeed help him when the disbelievers drove him out, the second of two, when they (Muhammad SAW and Abu Bakr) were in the cave, and he (SAW) said to his companion (Abu Bakr): “Be not sad (or afraid), surely Allah is with us.” Then Allah sent down His Sakinah (calmness, tranquillity, peace, etc.) upon him, and strengthened him with forces (angels) which you saw not, and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowermost, while it was the Word of Allah that became the uppermost, and Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” And this doesn’t only apply to the prophet peace be upon him, it applies to each one of us. Even if the entire world decides to break you apart, they could never do it while Allah is on your side.

People will plot against you. They will slander you. They will throw you under the bus. People will be utterly ruthless sometimes, whether with words or actions or hidden malice in their hearts. They will always feel entitled to an opinion about your life. The important thing is that you never let their doings drown you in sorrow. Every time something is thrown at you, keep picking yourself up over and over again. Do your thing. Work on being a better version of yourself rather than trying to fit in or impress other people. The reality is that you will never please everyone. Try to impress ten people, another hundred will have something else to say against you.

Whatever is done/said to or about you, never let it shake your faith. Or make you think less of yourself. There is a place for everyone. There is a space that is meant for you, good people who are meant specifically to be in your life, things that will suit you. Your thoughts matter, your existence matter, YOU matter. The universe is too large, too diverse and there’s definitely a place for your existence. Choose your battles just as you choose your people. Not everyone is worth fighting for and not every fight is worth your energy. Allah Subhanahu Wataala states in surat Muzaamil, verse 10: “And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance.”

I’ll end this with a quote from my book ‘The Striving Soul’ that I go back to always: They try to bring me down. Do they forget who my Lord is?

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Dear Reader,

*Insert random YouTuber’s voice* Welcome back to my chanoooolll 😀 I pray that this year has brought greater opportunities and moments in your life than the previous. I would like to take a moment to appreciate you and thank you for taking the time to read my write-ups. I never take that for granted.

May God protect you and bless you in ways you never imagined. Ameen! Please stay safe!!

Warm Wishes,,

Strokes of my pen 🙂

Photo Courtesy: https://kaylafae.files.wordpress.com

So I went to Port Reitz the other week and visited the mental unit. The place was so quiet and calm, with a neat, green compound. You can imagine my disappointment of not finding a lunatic running around with a doctor following him with a huge needle in his hand. That’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear of Port Reitz right? Well sorry to burst your bubble. Apparently the only time the place is as you picture it is when a maniac or violent patient is coming in for assessment for the first time. So yeah, as much as mental illness is often equated to madness, that’s just NOT the whole picture. Mental illness is depression and anxiety and OCD and all these other things we go through and brush away because well, who wants to admit they are mentally ill?

It is also at Port Reitz that I got to know that by a range of just 150/= to 300/= you could get to see a therapist. But because we’ve stereotyped mental illness and this place so much, we’d rather not even think about going to this place.

By now we already know that therapy is as expensive as it gets. So if only we kept aside our insecurities and decided to seek the desperate help we need, we would have made good use of these very affordable charges. Anyway, getting to my point now, do you realize that for you to get any better you need to get help?

It is rather sad that we would go to see a doctor for the smallest of physical aches yet choose to continuously ignore the pain within our souls. Each one of us is carrying a baggage, a painful story, things they’d rather not talk about because it is easier ignored than faced. But the reality is that, time is not necessarily going to heal you as the theory goes. We are very different human beings and we cope very differently to the challenges we face. For example, you could meet two victims who were involved in the West Gate attack and perhaps underwent the same scenario but you’d find that one was resilient enough after the attack was over. They quit the job they didn’t like, spent more time with family and started pursuing things they are passionate about. The other one however, was probably stuck in that messy moment for an entire month and still having nightmares about it. That’s just how different we are and it is OKAY to feel whichever way you feel.

To ensure that you remain sane and not entirely lose control of your being, here are a few steps to help you cope.

  1. Admit to yourself that you have a challenge that is pulling you down: You have to be honest to yourself without feeling any guilt or shame. You have to accept that this is how you feel right now and there shouldn’t be anyone or anything to make you less of a human being for feeling the way you do. Remember that your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage does…and if you want this nightmare to end, this step is very crucial.
  2. Talk to a confidant: Go talk to a person you trust and who will listen to you without judgements or with less regard as to how you feel. Be open and be yourself. Letting it out is an efficient way to feel better.
  3. Keep a journal: Writing down what you feel is proven to be really helpful for anyone undergoing stress or any other mental illness. You can be angry, emotional, detesting or whichever feeling you’ll be experiencing and you don’t have to worry about what your journal thinks about all that you are talking about. It gives you the chance to be free and yourself. Furthermore, it will be more helpful if you also have a gratitude journal whereby you write down what you are grateful for by the end of the day or maybe weekly.
  4. Pray: While experiencing very stressful situations, praying can be the hardest thing to do. You have so many questions for God and you are almost giving up. You lack the enthusiasm for life and you are just in this dark phase whereby you don’t know what to do. However difficult it is for you, pray. Because if there’s any time where you have to prove your faith in God, this is the period. This is your test and this is the time to trust blindly. Yes, blindly. You may not see the light ahead and you may not understand a thing but pray still. Trust His plan for you. Pray to Him. Cry to Him. Talk to Him. Tell Him about all these things only you and Him know about. Tell Him about your pain, your confusion, your anguish and struggle. He is listening. He is always listening.
  5. Seek help: This is an important step when things get overwhelming for you. Do not worry about what others will think about you or label you. Do not worry about what will happen next or how the therapist will judge you. Close your eyes and take the step. Seeking help doesn’t make you mad or crazy or weak. It makes you brave. It makes you strong and courageous. So go for it. Seek help while you still can. Seek help because you deserve a peaceful mind and a grateful soul. So go for it!

That said, here is good news for my dear ‘strokes of my pen’ family. To make it easier for all of you to seek help, Strokes of my pen and Taaluful Quloob have joined hands to assist you to access therapies at a special price.

Taaluful Quloob is a registered community based organization in Mombasa with a mission to proactively address family issues through a collaborative care, offering comprehensive package embodied with assorted services to help replenish homes. They offer services such as general guidance and counselling, Islamic marital counselling (pre-marital, marital and post marital) and match-making (Interesting huh?!). They also train community counsellors and organize workshops and seminars.

Coming back to the special price, Taaluful Quloob will be charging a small fee of 300/= plus a one-time registration fee of 100/= only, for general counselling for anyone who uses the code: Strokes of my pen. Please take note that this offer is only for the general counselling matters and not for marital counselling.

You can book your appointment via their number: 0708 964 809 or you can email them for further inquiries via: taallufulquloob@gmail.com

It is my hope that you will make use of this great offer and seek help. Please do while you can. Please be kind to your soul and allow it to heal.

P.S The offer is valid until December in shaa Allah.

One of the great therapists I know repeats this like it is the most important statement to live with: Mental Illness is NOT a choice but your RECOVERY is. I believe she is right.

One of the saddest things is hearing people say, “I need help but I don’t want my family to know…”It says a lot about the person, the situation and the family; especially the parents. It is a messed up society. The youth are afraid to speak up about their struggles and depression because they are afraid of their parents’ reactions. The situation is such that depression is almost becoming a trend now. And the parents? They remain oblivious of how much their children are struggling. I am not pointing fingers at anyone. As I said, it is a messed up situation. The youth could be unnecessarily worried about speaking up. Perhaps their parents would in fact listen and help them get help. Perhaps they would be supportive. Perhaps you speaking up would be a wake up call for them. How would you know if you never approached them? This generation is so good at hiding so we can’t entirely blame the parents for not miraculously knowing you’re in pain. The family on the other side could be playing a role; sometimes a major role, in the problem itself. Carrying on with the same old traditions and customs, our parents seem blinded on how much they actually play a role in facilitating depression amongst their children. Here are some ways in which parents, unintentionally cause unnecessary pain, struggle and hopelessness.

1. Forcing them to take up courses/careers they aren’t interested in: I was talking to this 18 year old girl who just completed form four. She says she HATES maths, she FAILED maths and she doesn’t want anything to do with it. Oh well guess what, her family still thought that being an accountant is the only way to succeed in this life.I couldn’t understand how anyone could see her misery and still force her do this. It is sad, so sad, that parents have this one track mind. Parents believe they know what is best for their children (which majority of the times is true) but sometimes this is not the reality. If someone despises something that much, what kind of life do you expect your child to have at university? Sleepless nights, over-working themselves, breaking down cause of constant failure…what for?? Is it really worth it?? Even if they indeed work their sweat off and pass their exams, what kind of a career will they have? One whereby they deal with numbers for eight constant hours, seven days a week…do you expect your child to lead a happy life? Will they be any less valuable or worthy if they didn’t become that person you expect them to be or that they didn’t follow your footsteps?? Go ask around the students at university, ask them what they study and majority will tell you they do it because they had no option. Because their parent chose this course for them. Because becoming an artist or a chef or a journalist won’t take you that far. But would it give them a chance to grow? A chance to go after their dreams? A chance to be happy? So long as it is something that can still earn them some money and is decent enough then why not?? WHY NOT?!

2. Imposing their beliefs/opinions on their children: This happens a lot. A child is rarely allowed to have his/her own opinions. So a father would tell his son, ‘A real man marries from his own tribe’ or ‘A real woman should know how to carry firewood on her back’…This and that and that..Opinions are fine but imposing them on someone else is what is wrong. What if your son would love to marry someone from a different far-off culture, does it make him any less a man? What if your daughter knows how to sew clothes instead of carrying firewood, what do we label her? As much as we’d love our children to think in a certain way or to be our copies, it is wrong to force to them think in a certain way. The best a parent can do is advise. If a child follows their own path despite your words, they’ll be the ones to face the consequences of their actions; whether good or bad. Let your children fly. If they bump into a tree and fall down, they’ll come back to you crying and seeking your wisdom. Yet still, don’t cut their wings. You can’t protect them from the word, you can only guide and pray for them.

3. Forcing/Pressurizing them into marriages: ‘I got married at 18, you are 28 and you are still single’ ‘I was a father at your age’ ‘This is the best bride you could get’. I get it, parents get worried about their children; where they are headed to, whom they’ll have a family with, whether they’ll settle down like their mates or not. We get it. It is a scary world and it’s natural for them to be worried or desire to take control of their matters. But the reality is that your son/daughter is the one who will live with that person, that it is them who will handle the responsibilities, that it is them who will live that life. At least give them the chance to choose their paths; what time they decide they are ready to settle and who they want to settle with. Don’t make them any less human for not not being married yet or for not wanting the person you chose for them.

4. Comparing them with other children: This includes comparison amongst siblings. We are all built differently, with different personalities and different emotions within us. We experience the same things differently and different things the same way. We come from different backgrounds and the words we use in our home could be banned in yours. Your child could start speaking at two years and another at four. Your child and your neighbours’ could go to the same school since kindergarten and live in the same environment, yet they’d still perform differently and have different opinions. That is how it is, even for siblings living under the same roof with the same parents. We are different. Parents tend to make this mistake to always compare their children with others. It could be in performance, achievements, beauty, neatness, skills…anything really. Yet this is how they slowly ruin their childrens’ self esteem from a very tender age.

5. Getting children mixed up with adult problems: This is in the case of divorce or separation or just parents having frequent fights amongst themselves. Many times the parents never consider the effects of these fights on their children. Many children from broken families end up having trust issues or being depressed or unable to commit to any relationship. Parents would fight over custody of children, make them choose whom they want to live with, keep repeating to them how their other parent is worthless or is a bad parent, comparing the bad habits of the children to their other parent and so on. Children end up being exposed to unnecessary drama and chaos, traumatizing them psychologically and the effects would be seen way into their adulthood.

6. Rarely showing appreciation: A child could be responsible, obedient, hardworking…but the parent would never take a minute to praise them or show them appreciation or tell them how worthy they are. But once this same child does a mistake, he/she would be lectured, insulted and maybe even not spoken to. There is no balance and as such, the child ends up feeling worthless despite everything else good that they do.

7. Absent parents: These are the worst. Because you can barely tell if these children have parents or not. They are either too busy working, or too busy fighting, or too busy travelling, or too busy with their own business, they rarely have time for their children. They could be providing for them their basic needs but they don’t offer the emotional connection they desperately need. Sometimes they are forced to take up responsibilities, bigger than their age to cover for their parents’ absenteeism. This sometimes leads to the children seeking love or any emotional bond elsewhere to compensate for what they lack.

8. Never involving children in family decisions: It all starts with the small things. If a parent involves his/her child in decision making with regards to the house issues, then the child automatically feels valued. Even if it is by asking them what food to cook today or what colour they think will be best if painted in the room. The child feels that his opinions and thoughts are welcomed, wanted and appreciated. Even if their suggestions won’t be accepted, the children will still feel proud and their confidence will obviously boost. Yet what happens when the opposite happens? A child gets home and is just informed that the next day they are moving to another town. A child gets home and his father has traveled abroad without a word. A child gets home and some of his clothes have been given out. As much as parents have the right to do whatever they want in their homes, it does certainly have an impact on a child with regards to whether or not he was informed/involved or asked his opinion. Unfortunately we tend to think asking for children’s opinions is too Western but children often surprise us with their thoughts. And it is by these small decisions that children get to assume how much their opinions are valued or not.

9. Never supporting their ventures: So your child decided to open a furniture shop instead of the tiles shop you wanted them to. You decide you won’t support them. In fact, why talk to them even? They disobeyed me. But maybe your child believes that this will work out better for them. Maybe they love dealing with furniture and decors. Maybe this is a risk they must take for them to know what they are capable of. Sometimes all a parents needs to do is show support despite the differences in opinions. One can’t say the support doesn’t matter. It definitely does. One becomes more confident when they know they have their family backing them up.

10. Parents who are too proud to accept their mistakes: Indeed we are all human beings with so many flaws. Parents sacrifice and do a lot to ensure their children have good, stable lives. No one can delete or ignore their efforts. However, parents sometimes ignore their own wrongdoings and mistakes despite them having an impact on their children. They wouldn’t accept they are wrong when they publicly embarrass their children for lack of some skills, they wouldn’t accept their mistakes when their children’s teacher complains of their absenteeism to the parents’ meetings. They wouldn’t accept they are wrong when they demoralize their own children or when they send their young children to buy them weed. So first they make the mistake and second, they demand that no one questions the way they raise their children. Having stubborn parents like that, a child may end up having low self esteem, or have the wrong view of life or themselves. The child may end up thinking that accepting mistakes means one is weak, so they follow suit. There are many ways in which this could affect a child.

As much as we love and respect our parents, maybe it is high time we said it out loud that many are the reason their children are undergoing depression or being constantly sad. They also play a role in silencing the screams from within due to the children’s’ fear. Maybe it is high time we are open about these things so that maybe, just maybe, the future generations can have better, understanding parents. Ameen!

P.S. I dare you to try talking to your parents about what’s stressing and eating you up. You never know. You just never know. It could be your gateway to a healthier relationship with them. Plus, they could help you through your dark times, who knows?!

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:

Photo Courtesy: www.pixabay.com

The kind of lives we lead nowadays is quite sickening, disgusting and most of all, heartbreaking. Indeed this world is full of trials. All universal religions believe that we are here to be tested and on a mission to prove our faith. That aside, there are many many disappointing situations that could be avoided entirely if only we are mature enough. If only we are thoughtful, empathetic, patient and truthful to ourselves and others.

And honestly, I don’t get it. I don’t get it how our conscious is still so intact even when we know we have ruined someone’s life. How we intentionally and very soberly, mastermind the downfall of our very own friends and people who trust us. Doesn’t it bite you inside? Doesn’t it pinch you deep inside that someone somewhere cries for the difficulty you put them through? For the money you borrowed and intentionally refuse to return? For the trust they gave you before stepping on it like a used cigarette? For the times they awaited you to take responsibility for the role you play? Doesn’t it eat you up that someone wakes up in the deadliest of nights to cry to God about you. About what YOU did to them? About how you tore their hearts and how their souls ache for you or because of you? Doesn’t it bother you that you are the reason your mother no longer smiles? That someone slept hungry today? That someone gave up on life? That someone is contemplating suicide just because you have been so reckless with your words?


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I don’t get how a man carries himself, step by step, full of confidence and promises, full of charm and over-stretched smiles to a lady’s home. He marries this woman and takes her away from her loving family, from her comfortable life, from her king-sized bed, from her cute kitchen, from her tiny library that has been her source of bliss of years, just to turn her life into hell. I don’t get it, because even if this woman was having a miserable, tough life in her own home, you have no business giving her hope just to transfer her from one hell to another. I don’t get it. Were you forced to marry her? Did anyone hold a knife on your neck to take her to your home? And even if you were pushed to marry her, does she have to pay her entire life for a mistake your father, mother or grandparents did to you??

I don’t get it when parents are so irresponsible, so thoughtless, so immature, when they make their children pay for their failed marriages. I don’t get it, how you even allow yourself be the reason your child falls into depression, why your child has insomnia, why your child wants to end their life before it has even started. Why do we assign ourselves these duties if we are not ready for them? I don’t get it how we allow ourselves be the reason our children justify their depression with,’I come from a divorced family.’

I know you don’t care. Most of us don’t. We are busy faking our happiness we forget how much we damage other people. But you know what’s the scariest yet still the beauty of life? Whatever you give out is what comes back to you. Give out love and compassion and it comes back to you. Give out misery and tears and you’ll remain wondering ‘where did I go wrong?’ You want to know where you went wrong? It was that person you hurt and broke. It was that person you stole from. It was that person you oppressed. It is the prayers of that person you mistreated being answered. You are wondering why you are never succeeding in whatever you do? How misery engulfs you like charcoal on fire? Find out who you hurt; could be intentionally or even unintentionally. Their heart ache is perhaps the reason you won’t be able to smile for the next few years. Indeed, what goes around comes around. It’s all a matter of time.

Food for thought…


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Photo Courtesy: http://realbusiness.co.uk/

I am not really sure when Introvertism became trendy or anything fancy but all I know, for me, it has never been easy. It’s never been easy for anyone. It’s not comfortable, it’s weird and awkward and clumsy and precipitation and anxiety, sometimes creepy. Yet, it’s also solace and small circles and deep talk and books and coffee and cats (not for everyone but we do have our good moments 😉 )

But oh well, we are the millennials. We have previously tried to make something out of absolutely nothing and we have succeeded. We are so desperate to be SOMETHING and then BOOM! came the word ‘Introvert’; such a sassy word mahn nay? and so we made it be something most of the time is not. Feels so classy even saying it. “Hey hi, I’m Lubnah and I’m an introvert”
Then everyone replies, “Hi Lubnah, welcome” like the way they say in these Hollywood movies during self-help group sessions.

Well for people like me, the Introverts who are Millennials I mean, we are lucky to be born in the 21st Century because we can get away with some things and claim it on ‘I’m an introvert’ or at least we can say, “some few people understand and accept us for what we are”. This is where I blush stupidly 😀 I mean, aren’t we lucky? We could even start our own society soon 😀

You know sometimes though, you meet people or you are going through someone’s bio and they’ve written ‘Introvert’ on their bio and you know them too well to be even CLOSE to being an introvert and you go like, “Ati Whoott?!” 😀

I mean do people even have an idea what it’s really like to be an introvert? The struggle? The trying-so-hard to be fit in somewhere? Especially when you want to be at the corner yet everything is round. Or do people just assume it’s something fabulous and sophisticated to say and mention in our biographies?… But well, I do get that same above reaction several times. People read my blog and hear me rant about very ‘serious’ and bold issues and they haven’t even met me in real life so they entirely dismiss the idea that i’m an introvert. Well, that’s until they meet me. And they go, “You are the writer?…I expected…” I want to say, “You expected someone as huge as my words, probably slaying in some long heels and so much sass or perhaps elegance and then you meet this timid girl looking like a hungry squirrel, you almost confused me to be a school girl” But then I just politely laugh it off with, “I know I know I hear that a lot.” I thought this was the generation who knew better that what we see in the internet rarely and barely describes our true lives. We are quite different people behind those screens. Well, at least most of us.

I know my journey as an introvert is different from others but I also know it’s still very similar. And what I mean for this is, if we are going to make ‘introvert’ seem so cute and fancy then we should also accept the weird, absurd side of it too right? So here we go, i’ll take you through some of my thoughts of being ‘weird’:

Invitation to an event
(Just outside the event venue)
“Hey excuse me? Umm, is the room full already? Like how many people? Umm, is there a back door? urgh, no back door? Could you please my friend her name is so and so, please tell her to pick me up? I can’t reach her via phone. It’s off. No no I’ll just wait for her then we can walk in together. What?! You can’t find her? Can you escort me please?? Oh thank you so much! I already feel like everyone is watching me. *Gasps* Never mind. Thank you for escorting me!”

Going into the elevator
(Rushes in to a corner)
Okay okay we are enough people already, why are people still over loading this small tiny thing? Uff! I can’t even breath. What if someone hears me breathing loudly or everyone? Oh my God that’s terrifying. I can hold my breath for a moment or do it as slowly and silently as they do it in yoga. This thing still makes me feel dizzy ;/ …Wow! This lady has so much courage! She is talking on the phone while all these people are at a pin-drop silence! How do you do that ma’am? Just hearing your voice in an over crowded tiny space? (I almost wanna ask.) Bravo bravo!!

Eating in public
Okay slooowly let’s take a bite. It shouldn’t disrupt anyone’s peace or even worse, draw attention. Eat like you chewing stolen food. No one should feel you are even there. Make sure your mouth and teeth behaves. No embarrassments please? Good. Like that. No fuss. No one is noticing. Good. Slow but sure. No hurry ma’am. (You can imagine the struggle when trying to eat something like crisps or an apple)

Dialing a call
Please don’t pick up
Please don’t pick up
Please don’t pick up
1 2 3…3 seconds are gone, she hasn’t picked up. not my fault!
(Shouts across the room excitedly) “She hasn’t picked up. I will just send her a text message or a mail 🙂 ” SATISFACTION.
Then someone decides to ruin your moment.
“Try dialing again”

On a call
“Hey hallo”
“Why is your voice like that? Are you whispering?”
“I’m with people”
“So?”
“So I can’t talk loudly. Let me go outside… Okay, tell me now…”
“Is there a secret?”
“No why?”
“Why can’t you talk in front of other people?”
“It’s just uncomfortable listening to my voice echoing to my ears. Do you get it? No you can’t get it. Never mind.”

Texting a friend
“Oh my God I have good news for you!!”
“Aha bismillah what’s up?”
“Let me call you…or wait, video call is better. I want to see your reaction”
Me:

In a public transport vehicle
Okay, I have to rush to my seat. The last seat at the very last corner so that I can look out the whole way and don’t have to have people pushing and rubbing my knees to pass back and forth. That seat is solace. You can read a book or send a text message without wondering whether the two people sandwiching you are peeping at your screen or book.

Going out
Wow it’s a beautiful day to talk a walk. I could do good with some sunshine.
Someone: Hey, do you want to accompany to the mall?
Me:

When your friend doesn’t show up at the event and doesn’t pick your calls

When talking with a friend at a public place

That’s too loud iiy! Lower the volume please!

Going to the market for shopping
Me: Yey!! Finally going to get what I wanted.
Also me, five minutes after entering the market:
Where are all these humans coming from?!!

When strangers or people you barely know ask for a meet up

When people ask for justification for your very awkward, weird social tendencies (especially since you’re a journalist)

 Bruh!! Not again please!!

Well, we have a reaction for everything so this would probably not end today lol. All in all, I think people should just accept us for who we are. I mean, like for me, I do talk in front of crowds of people, my job sometimes requires me too and I do and sometimes I shake like an old generator running out of fuel and sometimes I perform so well. Sometimes I do bold things like start up a conversation with a stranger or eat in public but the end of the day, i’m going back right to my cocoon where it feels home and safe. Don’t judge, don’t criticize, don’t manipulate.

Social interactions especially when it goes beyond our scope, suck up our energy and I mean that literally. We become drained and exhausted. Sometimes we want to make friends sometimes we don’t. We talk a lot on the internet more than we do in our real lives. Sometimes we want to meet up with friends sometimes we just want to lay on bed in our pajamas, whole day long and watch or read something nice. When we say we need the space, we really need it. We’re complicated humans. We’re trying our best to act normal and bond and maybe you don’t get it how we are what we are, but we appreciate ourselves and it is OKAY if you don’t get it. Just respect our boundaries and accept us for who we are. Halla introverts! 😀

No hard feelings people. This was meant for fun and to learn 🙂

All these awesome gifs from: https://giphy.com/

Photo Courtesy: http://www.khilafah.com

People who know me very well know two truths about me. One is that food and I don’t get along. Truth number two, food and I can’t really stay apart. We tend to have this love-hate relationship that never ends. You know, like Tom and Jerry? So most of the times it would roll out like this.

Me: “Aarghh, I’m starviingg” or “Yeepyyy can’t wait to have my delicious food!”

Two minutes into eating: “Really food? Really? All that joy, excitement, tears, anticipation and blood sacrifice yet this is all you offer?!! You and I are soo done!”

Also me: (every two hours) “I need you food 🙁 ” (There should have been the kermit meme image over here lol)

So automatically, truth number three is that fasting is my hardest ibadah.

Just the other day (4th of Ramadhan) I was walking in town headed home from work with a tiny flower between my fingers. So I was swirling it playfully, my mind so far deep in thoughts it took me time to realize there was an elderly man looking at me right ahead. He was in his traditional Swahili clothing of kikoi, shirt and kofia and he was looking into my face with such scrunity. I thought perhaps he is mistaking me for someone else so I went ahead and said the salam.
“Saumu inkushika?” He said, still giving me a concerned look. I just laughed it off and went on walking but I could still hear his voice behind me, “Saumu inkushika eh?! Nakuona…nakuona vile inkushika” *Face palm* I know right? And I just happen to be this frequent victim of having awkward embarrassing moments with strangers. But that’s a story for another day. Back to fasting…

Due to how much fasting drains me, at work and even at home, I always get comments like, “Can you walk? Lest you fall on the way.”
“Can you do this? Can you carry this?”
So every Ramadhan I’m subconsciously fully prepared to such teasing. Yet Ramadhan is still the best time for me.

You know, you walk around and see Muslims and you can greet each other, smile with that look like, ‘We know each other’s ‘suffering’ (not per say, but you know what I mean :p ) or like we are one people, we are partners in crime, something of the sort. The Ramadhan ambiance is special and it does feel so. Food stalls all over the streets during the evenings, people sending the kids to take a plate of goodies to the other neighbour and the other neighbour takes to the other and when known to be an awful cook, your food just seems to go in circles; forever trying to get a ‘mstiri’. Taraweh, tahajjud…the list is endless.

It’s that time where our mango trees produce in abundance. My mum would fill the bucket with mangoes and ask my brother to take to our neighbours. I would hear my dad get excited, reminding my brother of which neighbours to NOT miss. I would be standing there half-thrilled half-sorry that I am not the one to do that. You know, introvert problems? Mum would ensure to spice it up; ‘Ukigonga kila mlango, give them the mangoes then say Ramadhan kareem’ 😀 My brother puts on his kofia and sets out to knock doors. Then with a sigh and a smile, “I wish all year was Ramadhan.”

Muslims walking around just before Maghrib, sharing dates and water to fellow Muslims on the way. Some stranger passing dates to you to the back seat of a public vehicle so you can break your fast. I mean, any other random day we would probably pass by one another and I would mumble salaam and I wouldn’t even get a response or perhaps you’d mumble back or vice versa. But then Ramadhan, we have something making all of us familiar to one another such that we can strike random conversations with strangers on the way.

I am super delighted of how humanity is at its peak. We remember the orphans, the old, the sick…we remember to pray, to be more gentle, to read qur’an a lot, to hold back our insults, to donate, to forgive and most importantly, work on ourselves.

For me, besides it being the time for more Ibadah, Ramadhan is a time for me to work on my inner self. Get the peace of mind. Submit totally to Allah. And this is something many take for granted; our inner health. How composed are we to life? How much at peace are we with our fate? How much do we actually and sincerely talk to Allah? This is the time. It is my time to unleash my heart to Allah. It is my time to be a better human being not just for this month but for the rest of the year.

And as much as fasting is hard for me, Ramadhan has meant progress for me. I remember a time I would really admire people who could fast Monday and Thursday, Ayamil bayth or sitta min shawwal simply because I couldn’t do it. But then with every coming of Ramadhan, I tried more sunnah fasts and I keep trying over and over again. My biggest push has always been the thought that ‘If this is hard for me, then the rewards will definitely be more’ and that remains my motto as I keep trying.

Ramadhan means a lot of things to me; it means kindness, love and compassion. It means submission, forgiveness and willpower. It means struggle, endurance and success. Ramadhan means a lot to me. What about you? What does it mean to you??


 

On another note, my partner and I are embarking on another business journey, the branding of strokes of my pen. So alhamdulilah we have the first bunch of shirts out. We kindly ask for your support. Besides that, 10% of each shirt goes to Ahmad, a young boy who is undergoing kidney dialysis treatment yet he has a large outstanding balance at Pandya hospital to pay. If not the shirt then you can always mpesa their family directly (no. shown in image).Remember your reward is multiplied in this month so don’t hesitate to support in any little way in shaa Allah.

 

For the shirts, they come in colours of black, white, blue, grey and yellow. For more info: contact us via this no: 0734 201 665 or view our page: https://www.facebook.com/simplex.styles/. More is to come biidhnillah!

P.S. Please remember me in your duas! Whatever you pray for me, may you get just that a thousand more times. Ameen! Ramadhan Mubarak!

Read part 1 at: https://lubnah.me.ke/my-other-half/

Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

It’s been exactly…wait, lemme count…from February 10th, 2015 to date; 11th of May 2017, how many days are those? 1,2,3…Ah too bad I am terrible with math. Anyway, it’s been all those many days since I first wrote to you. Ages right? I knowww! I almost forgot you ‘somehow exist’. Lol, i’m kidding. *silly grin* I’ve mostly been pursuing my dreams; both the daydreams and the literal ones 😀 But I’ve been planning to get back to you..and *drums rolling* here I am!

There’s just been something in my mind lately and I thought of talking it to you. By the way, talking to you almost seems like monologue or like me talking to the wall or some ghost in the room because your existence at the moment is delusional but we can always talk about that when you become a reality right? in shaa Allah 😉

So back to our topic, oh wait, speech alert: This is going to be a long monologue :p

A friend of mine posted this a few days ago:
{“The thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only way to go is up.” I’m having a slight problem with this statement. Okay yeah sure maybe, but what if rock bottom is as wide as the Sahara and before you go up you’re gonna spend a heck of a long time moving sideways? Some people hit rock bottom, and stay rock bottom, and move sideways for the rest of their lives. How miserable.} Those are the ramblings of an insomniac and well what do you expect from an insomniac than a critical out-of-the-world thinking?! But then ever since I came across this, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

For a matter of fact, I do know several people who hit rock bottom, stayed there for as long as the memory lane can go down and died just right there; at the bottom. Now for a perfectionist and an empath with anxiety, hitting the rock bottom is beyond normal. It is a norm. And as much as it scares me that I might stay down there forever, it scares me more that I might never live up to the expectations of coming right back up.

You know, there are just some days you can’t really be the hero or someone anymore and you just need to survive. And survival is what all of us are working for. But also, survival has always been for the fittest, and sometimes, being in the least bit fit let alone being the fittest is totally out of the dictionary. There are days you wake up you can barely breathe, your heart is heavy, all aspects of failure are rubbing on your face but mostly, its like sand paper being scrubbed on your fragile beaten-up heart. They say the scrub only makes you shine brighter but in the meanwhile, it hurts, and it will hurt a lot more.

What I got to learn is that you can never really be prepared enough to face anything or armed enough for a war. They’ll always be a lesson to be learnt in between the cracks of your heart. You can protect yourself all you can but the day you let down your guard for one single second is the day world war 3 happens; when all hell breaks loose and when you have to fight for your own survival. This kind of reminds me the story of Nabii Musa and Firaun. See how God downplays the best twists?! Firaun demands all male children to be killed after being foretold that a boy will be born and takeover his kingdom. But when his wife Asiya (R.A.A) picks Nabii Musa (A.S) from the river, she is able to convince Firaun that the boy could be beneficial and a son to them. Yet he turns out to be the one to takeover the kingdom. He protected himself from every boy he considered a threat, yet he welcomed the threat with his own two hands. Yes…fate. You can do all you want in this world; you can build walls around yourself, you can be vigilant and firm, you can be superman for all you wish, yet if you are meant to hit the rock bottom, you’ll just go right down there; for as many times as it’s written for you. But the thing is, everyone hits rock bottom, and the real test is how everyone finds their own way to get back up or stay below forever. People will put the blame on you for taking up the wrong choices, for making mistakes, for not working hard enough…yet they forget, it only happens for a reason.


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I’m still finding my way up and i’ll tell you this, it’s tough and really rough. Plus being a millennial only makes it harder. Sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong Century for not relating to my peers. They say i’m an old soul. And when you are an introvert you just have no option but to turn to books and tv, to get out of your world. Some friends the other day were joking that people like us, ‘the outcasts’ should start a group and call it ‘chama cha wanyonge’ 😀 😀 Idiots! or I know someone else who would call it ‘chama cha washokaji’ Not wachokaji, WASHOKAJI. Hilarious how the world views us; the introverts, the artists, the weird, the empaths…right? But maybe i’ll one day really start the group, but of course with a fancy name dah! Or maybe it could be a movement, and we could help people move from rock bottom 😀 Or maybe that’s where i’ll meet you who knows 😛

I’m not sure if you really do exist or maybe you don’t. They say soulmates don’t always occur in this life, maybe in the next…but if you don’t, I have a plan B of going to live up the cave. I would say I will be with my 60 cats like its always the assumption with people but pets scare me (The introverts will disown me for this). So maybe I will be with my scarier dolls like Chucky from Child’s play or Annabelle from The Conjuring filling up the entire house. Plus I got this brilliant idea from a meme of writing it on the wall outside: COME SEE MY DOLLS..and that’s how the horror movie begins *silly grin*

Well, I said what I needed to say. Thank you for being a wonderful listener. Plus please do remember to pray for me; to rise like the phoenix from the ashes. Ameen? I really don’t want to stay rock bottom, who wants anyway?!

P.S. You are the hope i’m waiting for 🙂

Until God decides our fate, take care.


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