I usually tend to smoke to keep my lips busy from talking too much. Because talking is venting my mind out, and when I do so for too long it has a copious habit of making me think too much and walk me down some dark alleys that no one really wants to wander through. Or at least I don’t. Not anymore.
Once upon a lifetime ago, anxiety and stress had crippled me from the few moments of happiness I had in front of me and tried to somehow enjoy. 22 long years of overthinking that have been eating me inside out and that usually translates itself through the poor state of my nails (not my favourite snack I must say, I’d rather have some knafeh instead).
Getting used to my heart shaking instead of beating properly on a daily basis wasn’t easy. Nor was it for my family or close entourage. Growing up in a religious household, most values we share and cherish are things that I tend to still keep close to my heart until today. But as the years went by, I did notice a gap between me and them.
Although there are loads of religious verses and rituals in the Quran to help you ease from pain and burdening thoughts, for some reason they just didn’t to me. Doesn’t mean that I am not a good Muslim. Or at least I hope not. It just for some reason felt deeper than that. I felt guilty of whispering verses to myself only in desperate times of need, thinking about how hypocritical it was of me to summon God when I was stuck and unhealthy, and didn’t when I was in good health and satisfied. And even when I did, I never felt any better than I was in the first place. But that’s maybe the whole point of religion and God himself, he blesses you in ways we don’t see and provides us with what we need rather than what we want without us noticing.
As we say, the first step towards healing is recognising the pain you’re going through. But once it was recognised, my peers and elders tend to send me back to Quran teachings and prayers (which may be useful don’t get me wrong) without necessarily taking into account that psychiatry is a science and that there are proper ways of healing and dealing with it just like there is with other health issues and relevant medicine. And it really isn’t about the lack of doctors or medics in the region, we all know about the stereotype of parents wanting their kids to be doctors – and there’s a whole lot of them, trust me when I say this.
My mental health was bad. And still is to be honest. And praying for the sake of praying wasn’t hitting the spot anymore. You can’t imagine how guilty I feel saying this. I couldn’t connect with this whole realm that most people, starting from my own family, could string themselves back to. It got to the point where guilt had taken over most aspects of faith each time I tried practicing it. From there, things started dangling. From my side of things, it felt as if each time I would call God, I was being left on hold so I just stopped dialing. On the other hand, the idea of going to a psychiatrist, arguably the god of atheists, or at least that’s how I saw it, kept on being pushed further and further away. Because if God can’t help, who can? I was stuck in between what seemed like dead-ends, I remember feeling as if I deserved being where I was at. To be suffering from my mind’s tormented interpretation of reality. Not only did I feel like I was doomed in this life but I was already stressing about how I was about to be also doomed in the next.
Overtime, I managed to take the first step and see what was out there for me. Took me some time. But better late than never as we say. Did it help? Probably, but I did still pray for my psychiatrist to be able to unknot my mental mess. Ironic isn’t it? But at least things were looking up and my relationship to faith as a whole became less heavy. Not that I’m the best at it, it simply feels more genuine whenever I do – and that is still something I can take away with me. It shouldn’t be taken for granted.
It’s like if only people understood that religion isn’t the only answer to these specific issues then most of us youngsters wouldn’t be struggling as much as we are. Praying and devoting time to pray can provide peace. It alone might suffice for some to see light at the end of the tunnel, but not for all. And that’s fine. I’m still far from taking my life back from anxiety but the steps taken since I went to seek professional help are unmeasurable and I cannot stress how much the community needs to start heading that way for a healthier atmosphere to stand out from within it.