Health Care, Mind, Love, Life Stories

I thought Hajj would magically fix my depression. I was wrong.

I barely remember anything from Hajj. It’s all just a daze.

For the past few years, I’ve gone through periods of sadness which would last for days. I would end up in tears over the smallest thing. Somewhere along the line, my sadness transitioned to depression and I never recognized it. I’d known something was wrong with my mental health but I didn’t realize I had depression.

There were days where I would cancel plans, sit on my bathroom floor, and cry. I would sit in front of my laptop, trying to decipher words on the screen while tears slid down my face, or be in the kitchen, chopping up cucumbers, hurriedly wiping away tears, hoping nobody would walk in and see me.

A part of depression is losing control of your emotions. And I could feel my mind spiraling out of control.

But I kept delaying seeing a psychologist. At one point, I simply couldn’t afford one. The problem at hand was much bigger. My friend kept pushing me to see someone but I didn’t consider it a big issue and all this kept going on for months.

During that time, my husband and I got our approval for Hajj. It had been in the works for four years. From the very day that we got married, we both wanted to complete our pilgrimage as soon as we possibly could. But there were so many factors that never worked out in our favor. Not only is Hajj incredibly expensive, ever since the blockade between Qatar and Saudi Arabia (KSA), we couldn’t go directly which delayed our pilgrimage.

In 2018, everything fell into place and it finally happened.

And I remember thinking to myself, I am going to the best place on Earth. I will come back fully cured.

I was prepared for Hajj to magically fix everything. Looking back at it, it was the worst and best time of my life. I was in the most amazing place on earth, for a Muslim. Yet I was in so much agony that even talking to someone was hard work. All I wanted to do was curl up and disappear. But I had to work hard, mingle and appear to be normal.

On our eighth day there, while I was doing Tawaaf (circling around the Kabaah as part of the pilgrimage) somehow I went my own way and got separated from my husband. I kept walking, trying to hold every emotion in, all while dealing with a splitting headache.

There was a moment where I wanted to cause someone, anyone, excruciating pain. I was ready to do anything for this weird, out of control feeling to stop. My mind, my most precious commodity, the thing that keeps everything in check was not in my control. And I just broke down.

In those two hours, I lost it.

I started sobbing and kept thinking, I want this to stop. I want this constant hammering in my head to just stop.

I prayed to God to please make it end. I couldn’t take it anymore. I kept praying, “Make it stop. Please make it stop. If divorce is what gives me sanity, I will take it. I’ve had enough. I can’t take it anymore. Let me walk away if that’s what’s best for me. I don’t want this. I don’t want to torture myself. Either make it stop or let me walk away from the life I have painstakingly built with my husband over four years.”

In that time, I wanted to end my marriage. Imagine, I asked God for a divorce. I was ready to do anything, to go to any length for my mind to get better.

That’s when I knew that something was seriously wrong with me. What I was feeling wasn’t just sadness or stress. I was ready to give up my marriage at a time when I should have been extremely happy. I was at Hajj after working towards it for years, my husband and I were in a great place. I was with a man who had stood beside me at every single point. Yet there I was, thinking that leaving that man was the solution to my ordeal.

I barely remember anything from Hajj. It’s all just a daze. The memories are hazy, clouded by the constant pain I was in and the amount of effort it took to mask all that. I was either with family, sharing a room with a total of four people or in a tent full of women.

On our way back to Doha, sitting at the airport, I told myself that I had to see someone. I realized if I didn’t see a psychiatrist, things would get even worse. So I did.

A month later, I finally saw a psychologist. I was extremely hesitant and nervous.

The first thing she said to me was, “It’s not your fault. Sumaica, it’s not your fault.” I started crying again because she was right. It wasn’t my fault. And it had taken me years to accept that.

After that meeting, life started getting better. Circumstances remained the same but my resilience and reactions changed. I learned to accept that a lot of things in my life are not my fault.

Things will never be perfect and I am not responsible for that.

In simple words, I stopped giving a shit. I learned that my happiness, my contentment, matters.  Sometimes you cannot change certain situations, so accept them as is and stop dwelling on it.

Hajj was an enlightening experience. One that gave me my sanity back, that taught me to seek help when things are out of control. For the longest time, I felt guilty about not giving Hajj my very best. But thinking back, I realize how lucky I was that Allah showed me that I seriously needed help. If I hadn’t gone for Hajj, I have no idea where I would be.

There are still times when I get depressed but I don’t end up in tears over a situation. That feeling of shutting myself in a tiny coffin and disappearing is gone. Now I can detect when my mental health is starting to deteriorate and I have the coping mechanisms to deal with it. I learned to differentiate between sadness and depression.

Mental health is something we don’t pay much attention to but now I have come to take care of it like a baby. And we should all do the same.