Muslim Girl in America

I'm an American girl, born and raised, and a Muslim.

Depression

on August 24, 2014

This is the hardest post I have ever written, and likely will ever write. It’s about depression.

I’ve been trying to write this post ever since I heard of the death of Robin Williams. I’ve started it at least a dozen times and stopped, terrified of what my friends and others might think of me after they read it. But, today, finally, I have decided to stop being afraid and just post it. God help me.

Depression is a difficult thing to talk about, no matter your culture or country. While the U.S. is still better than other countries when it comes to diagnosing and treating mental illness, it’s still appallingly behind the times, in my opinion. It’s a taboo subject, even in this modern day and age, and even in the U.S. And it is rarely, if ever, spoken about in some other countries.

Chuck Palahniuk Quote

I remember on a past trip to Pakistan, I had come back home after a visit to the tailor’s. (For those that don’t know, tailor-made clothes are the norm in countries like Pakistan. While there are ready-made clothes, tailor-made clothing is the way many people buy clothes.) The tailor had ignored some of my instructions and mis-made some of my clothes, so I was upset (truthfully, I was also hormonal as it was a certain time of the month for me). When I returned home, my great aunt called me “disturbed” because I was upset. And that was just for everyday frustration and hormones. Depression is never spoken of, though I have seen many people depressed, even in my own family.

Even me.

I had an awful time in high school (really, it started even younger, around sixth grade or earlier), and I was also terribly shy and lonely. I fell passionately in love with books as a very young child, as it was an easy place to escape life without having to run away from it. I know people have had worse experiences than me, but I was depressed for most of my secondary schooling. I was not just depressed, but severely depressed at times. I did (deep breath) think about killing myself, on more than one occasion.

Robin Williams Quote

To reach a point where you think about taking it all, just for some relief from life, is a dark and terrible place. You are so completely in despair and just do not see any way out. You just feel pain and more pain all the time, and you just don’t know what to do; all you know is that you don’t want to feel pain anymore. You just want someone to reach out and comfort you, give you a hug, to acknowledge you and your pain. And, most of all, you just want someone to help you. You just want help. You just want help. You just want help.

And while I did think about suicide, and curse God for the bad things going on around me and to me, in the end, it was actually my faith that saved me. I never attempted suicide, I never got that far. Whenever I thought about it, I would think about what happened after I was dead. How my family would react, and how our community would react. And how, even in death, I would be a burden to them and ruin their life (as I often felt that way on a daily basis). And then I would think about the afterlife. I just wanted peace, and I wanted it so badly. I just wanted to get through one day where I could find some type of happiness and a few moments reprieve. Just one day where I could recognize the face staring back in the mirror. But in Islam, if you commit suicide, you don’t get into heaven. And I didn’t want to end up in Hell or some terrible limbo-state for eternity, so I never did it. So, even when I cursed God, it was, in the end, my faith and belief in God and the afterlife that saved me.

Robin Williams Quote from Upworthy

It’s hard, at least for me, to talk about depression. Most of my family did not know I was depressed. My parents knew I was depressed, though I doubt they realized the extent of my depression. I remember one day, my father was leaving on a business trip. As he turned to say good-bye to me, he also told me to “Be happy.” I never forgot that moment. They knew I was unhappy, but they never did anything about it, or maybe (and more likely) they just didn’t know what to do about it.

Depression is something, in my opinion, that you must live with every day. You have to learn to manage it, to control it, and know when to ask for help.  I remember hearing my co-workers talk one day. One of them said they just could not understand how people could not be happy every day, and why people just couldn’t smile all the time. I didn’t say anything, but I wanted to interject. I wanted to tell them that sometimes you just don’t have a choice. And, at that time, it’s exactly how I felt.

Be Kind

I brought myself out of my teenage depression. I could never bring myself to go to a psychologist (if I could ever find a psychologist who understood Muslim culture in the first place, nevermind if I actually had enough disposable income for the cost of it). Things started to get better in college. Away from the horrid halls of high school and the people who lingered there, I started to gain confidence and made some friends. But it really wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I really made a turn for the better.

I was having a really just terrible time between working multiple jobs and school, and just having no support. I was back to crying everyday (though, FYI, I have never pondered suicide since my younger pre-college days). And I suddenly asked myself, mid-sob, why I was letting myself be completely and utterly miserable. Why was I letting other people’s emotions and feelings and actions dictate my life? This was no way to live a life. And then I found that switch to turn my happiness on, buried under years of feeling shabby and unworthy and unloved. And I turned it on, just to see what would happen. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized it was like a switch, but really more like a choice. You need to make that choice within yourself and commit to it, and believe that you deserve happiness. For the longest time, I didn’t think I deserved it.

Albus Dumbledore quote

And I did find happiness, bits and snippets of it, until I would get to an end of a day and realize it had been a good day, and a happy one.

It’s still a challenge. It always will be. And sometimes, you just don’t know what can set you on a path to depression. After the ups and downs of Ramadan, I had a couple days post-Eid where I got very sad. And then, there are other times where you have to push past whatever bad thing is happening to you at the time, and keep things in perspective.  And sometimes that’s harder, particularly for me, when I’ve had conversations with certain family members, like I did tonight. Conversations where I’m told I’m responsible for everything bad that’s happened to the family, and that if I’d been married already everything would be fine. And not only that, but if I made more money to support them, everything would be even better. So, apparently, I’m not even useful as an unmarried girl, either.

Ignore negative people

There are people who may read this and think, “Well, clearly she’s damaged goods. It’s why she’s not married, why she’s alone. She shouldn’t get married.”  Well, to those people, I say, “Fuck you.” I deserve happiness as much as the next person, as much as you do. I deserve to have someone care about me, and love me, and take care of me, and help me. And I deserve to have my own family, too.

And I am poor. I live paycheck to paycheck, despite having three jobs. Being poor sucks. It stinks. It’s the worst. Clawing and scraping to get by. To make a life for yourself. For supporting others with no one else to help you. And I’ll keep clawing and scraping and praying for better things. I will not be poor forever, no matter how many people may try to keep me down.

I can't believe I work this hard to be poor

People with depression (myself included) hold so much fear in their hearts. Fear of others finding out they are or have been depressed, for one. I have been at the bottom, and I will not go back there, no matter how many people keep me down; that’s a promise I made to myself that I have kept and will keep. I also promised myself I would not let fear run my life, that I wouldn’t let fear keep me from trying new things or trying to become better and more financially stable, and that’s another promise I have kept (and continue to strive for).

Confucius Quote

To my friends who will read this post: Please know that I am okay. Some days I am great, some days not so much. And being okay is perfectly acceptable. But I do need help. I do need love. I do need support. And I do need any prayers you can send my way. And, if you have any business referrals or potential suitors you can send my way, I would appreciate that, too. 🙂

To those of you suffering from depression: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are resources out there who can help you, including the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255, or click the website link; you can chat with people through their website as well). You deserve happiness, and love. You deserve happiness and love. YOU DESERVE HAPPINESS AND LOVE.

Let someone love you

 

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8 responses to “Depression

  1. Sobia says:

    Bless your heart, this is beautiful.

  2. muslimah says:

    well written glad you were able to find your way through depression , I am still trying to figure out how to deal with it some days are better than others

  3. Jasmine says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Thank you so much for your honesty. As someone who is very prone to depressed thoughts, this post really inspired me to always look on the bright side and I really appreciate you taking the time to write this. I was wondering if I could ask for some advice for someone who I know is battling depression. It’s my mother. Even though she hasn’t been formally diagnosed, she says she feels that way sometimes and has even thought about killing herself to rid herself of the pain from this world. I try to help her by telling her how everything is not as bad as it seems and how lucky she is but I’m still scared for her. What should I do to help her?

    • Hi, Jasmine,

      I’m so glad the post helped you. It may be a challenge to stay positive (it is, even for me), but you can do it. Believe it.

      As far as your mom goes, I just don’t know what to say. It’s very hard going through depression yourself, and also very challenging when a parent is depressed, too (I do understand some of what you’re going through). I recommend contacting the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (are you in the US?): 1-800-273-8255 (Available 24/7). It may be hard to speak to someone about it, but they are trained professionals who can help, and it’s confidential and free. If you’re not in the US, try their online chatting function (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/).

      I’ll keep you in my duas. May Allah bless your family. Ameen.

  4. Pia says:

    I came across your blog randomly, but I am really glad I did. Possibly a sign! haha It does take a lot of strength and courage to share this. I applaud you. That right there was a the first step to not caring what other thinks and that is one of the biggest hurdles not just for depressed people but anyone and everyone. I battle depression and am finally coming around to getting help and just like you never want to go back to rock bottom. Reading your story felt I was listening to myself. Working, struggling, battling financially and mentally and emotionally, but I keep going. I would love to discuss thoughts and ideas with you or dealing with our lives and even blogging as I am thinking of starting own of my own. 🙂

    • Hi, Pia,

      Thanks so much for your kind words, and I’m happy to hear that you are turning your depression into something positive. Go you! From my experience, depression is something you live with everyday, but that doesn’t mean that every day has to be gloomy. I’m always here if you need to chat and, FYI, starting a blog was very therapeutic for me 🙂

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