I have depression.
Not just, ‘once in a while I feel depressed and down, but the next day I’m fine’ – not that type of depression.
Rather, a chronic ‘what is my life, I wish I didn’t have to exist because I am so incredibly, incredibly sad.’
Despite being surrounded by a large support group, close friends who fight for me and urge me on, I have a constant aching, a feeling of emptiness, a lack of connection with the world. While they tell me constantly that they are there for me, I feel as though I am a burden, despite my knowing that I am not.
It is the nature of chronic depression to feel this way, to feel like a burden no matter what others reassure one with. To feel disconnected, empty. Tired, unmotivated.
Previously, my depression was bearable to disregard, stifling my feelings of worthlessness by throwing myself into academics.
Last year, however, things went for the worst.
I remember the day clearly. It had been an awful week for my personal life – I was angry with a close friend and had woken up the day of a test (that I had not studied for) to an email from another close friend. “I feel you criticize a lot,” she had written. On a normal day, I could have easily admitted to this, but on this day, it triggered a reaction I am still terrified of.
Sadness. Not just feeling sad, but a curtaining of grief over my brain and heart.
Unable to do anything, think anything, feel anything else, the tears began to stream downwards.
I am an awful person.
Who did I think I was, to say negative about others, to hurt others by my words?
I was an awful person, I should not exist, not if I were to create so much pain.
That week, I continued through my academics in a zombie-like manner, going through the movements without absorbing anything. When the end of the week came, I decided to take a drive, to clear my mind.
It did quite the opposite.
Prior to that moment, suicide had always sounded terrifying. Now, there was nothing else I wanted more than to just not exist. Death was not appealing to me, due to the pain, but I genuinely wished for nothing more than to cease existing.
Maybe there was a way, I wondered, to find a way to pass and just not be.
My faith in God was shaken.
I had always been a faithful person, working on my faith to get closer to God, for whom I previously had an unwavering belief.
Then, however, I was unsure.
What type of God is merciful, but would create a human that is so flawed, so empty?
Why would God continue to test someone that is so mentally unstable?
Despite the prayers that I did, I did not feel any better. Nothing could help me.
There is a sickness within the Muslim community. A lack of understanding about mental health; a nonexistent support system.
Having not grown up completely intertwined with a Muslim community in America, being surrounded by Muslims was never familiar to me. However, when the old school thinking of mental health as a lack of faith stands strong, there is a problem.
Depression, many claim, is just a lack of faith.
You need to pray to get better.
That is what the community told me. The reason I was sick was because I had failed as a Muslim.
The depression was entirely my fault.
I cannot pray away my suicidal thoughts. I cannot ask enough to throw away my hopelessness. While I can pray that one day this feeling will cease, so far, no amount of prayer has pushed the depression away.
The Muslim community surrounding me does not understand this, and that hurts. Without any support system, how is one supposed to reconcile the faith that one has lost?
While I still struggle with my depression, I have reached a crossroads in my faith.
I would be a fool to end this on a sugar-sweet note, telling you that I am better; that I am a more improved Muslim than ever and that my faith in God is more than strong.
However, I would be lying to say that I am 100% back on track in my spirituality. I am not. At this moment, I am unsure. Questioning. The problems within the community have only forced me to have to reevaluate my belief system, making me question how I understand life as a whole.
I wish there was more of an understanding of mental health within the Muslim community, but alas, there is not. I wish I had a stronger understanding of why God would test me so, but as I have been told all my life:
God knows best.
And though for now I am finding myself and trying to make sense of this all, I can only take it one small step at a time.
Every day that I live, I am proud that I have overcome my obstacle.
Maybe one day I will be brave enough to stand up for the cause that is affecting me so strongly.
Maybe one day I will be able to erase these feelings of depression and replace them with those of happiness.
Maybe one day I will be able to understand, to accept the trials that He has set for me.
Maybe one day I will be able to speak about this with ease, unafraid of the judgments of others.
With time comes ease.