Living with Depression and Islam
Every morning I wake up and wish I hadn’t.
The months, weeks and days pass with me wishing it’ll be the last, and yet there’s no end.
At nighttime I cry faintly into my pillow with tears streaming down my cheeks. I whimper in pain, attempting to suppress the sounds that leave my room; I don’t want my family to hear.
I whisper, “Oh Allah, I don’t want to live anymore. Oh Allah, please, I don’t want to live anymore.”
I feel broken. I feel alone. I feel empty inside. I am in pain and numb at the same time. Perhaps my pain is so much now that I can no longer distinguish it. It is a physical pain—a weight on my chest crushing my existence, crushing my hopes and dreams.
I pray five times a day, I make du`a’ (supplications), I say astaghfirullah (I ask forgiveness from Allah) throughout the day and read as much Qur’an as I can. But it’s hard. I have no motivation to keep going. I don’t know what I’m moving towards. My goals and hopes have all slowly faded away.
I am a façade of who I once was. I constantly lie about how I feel. I must keep up appearances. I smile and laugh when I must. I have to maintain relationships, or else the loneliness will only get worse. I would rather be in this dungeon that I’m in, alone; but my mind knows that the loneliness will only make it worse. I don’t want to unload the hurt I feel onto others. So, I fake a smile and try to converse with family and friends. It is tiring, but I do it. It is a part of living and for now I must live.
I don’t want to be a burden and I don’t want others to pity me.
I don’t pity myself. I am not ungrateful. I am thankful. I am thankful for all the blessings Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) has bestowed upon me. I do not complain to others. I try to complain only to Allah (swt). Yaqub `alayhi assalam (peace be upon him) endured the pain of being separated from his beloved Yusuf (as) for many years. Maryam (as) lay beneath a palm tree while in the throes of labor, wishing Allah (swt) had taken her life and spared her from those moments of despair. Musa (as), a fugitive from the land of Pharaoh, found himself without family, wealth, or possessions—he had nothing. Poor and desperate, all he was able to cry was “My Lord, I am in need of any good that you send me.”
So I complain to Allah (swt) of the pain and sadness I cannot explain. I keep asking, most times not knowing what to say. Just hoping and praying and wishing for salvation from this suffering.
I don’t know how to explain depression. How do I explain it to family and friends? I heard someone once describe depression as an ever-lingering constant sadness, even when everything in your life is going well.
It is a total loss of pleasure.
Nothing gives me pleasure anymore.
I’m so tired, yet no amount of sleep nourishes me. Eating has become work. Brushing my teeth, answering phone calls, replying to emails; simply existing has become tiresome. I know my pain is not physical to others, but my pain is real. I feel it in every moment. When I sleep, when I eat, when I laugh, when I cry, when I speak. My pain is hidden beneath it all.
No one wishes to be around someone filled with such overwhelming sadness and gloom. No one wants to hear how my mind aches every day, that I have given up my hopes and dreams or that I wish Allah (swt) would take my life quickly and subtly. My heart hurts every day. I wish I could take a hold of the heart within me, and sever it from my being. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel like this. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel dead inside.
I think of death all the time. It plays in the background now. I have never understood suicide. But now I do. I wonder about taking my life. Maybe overdose on my medications. But there’s never enough to overdose on. Psychiatrists know suicide is always an option for the depressed, so they are careful when they medicate. When I am driving, I imagine what would happen if I made a slight abrupt turn into a tree. But maybe I wouldn’t die. Maybe I would find myself paralyzed and that would be a worse existence, for then I’d still be alive, but now a physical burden to my family. But the truth is, I am still too scared of Allah (swt) and the Hellfire to ever commit such a sin. I know suicide is not an option. Faith has limited me to only entertaining such an end, but never to commit to it.
I would never wish what I feel upon another human being. I have no energy or zest for life, and no one cares. The two or three people that know cannot empathize. They only offer support when I reach out to them, but I don’t want to be a burden. Can’t they reach out to me? Can’t they ask how I’m doing? Can’t they tell when I say, “Alhamdulillah (all praise be to Allah), I’m okay,” that I’m not okay? Can’t they put themselves in my shoes? I so desperately want someone to save me, yet I know only I can save myself. I can use the help of medication, of faith, of family, of friends, but only I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and hope to reach it one day.
But I could use some help.
People say: “Don’t worry, trust Allah.” “This is just a phase. You’ll get over this.” “Be thankful for your life. You’re not dying.”
But I feel like I am, why can’t they understand?
They may think depression is a first-world problem. Maybe it is; maybe not. I thought depression was something the weak-spirited suffered. I thought Allah (swt) was enough. I thought medications were simply a bandage. But I’ve realized, unfortunately too personally, that depression is not black and white. It is not something that one can wish away. It is a battle that only the strongest of will win. I know it will take me every fiber of my being to kill this silent lurking monster.
Even though no one sees the emotional pain and mental agony of depression; I am here to tell you, it is real. Whether it’s due to the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a bad test score or absolutely nothing you can put your finger on—it is real. And you cannot let it get worse. Whether you are the one suffering or someone around you is. We must notice the person who isn’t as cheery as they once were. We must notice the drastic behavior changes in the person we once knew. Notice physical changes: weight loss, weight gain, dark circles, lethargy, unexplained headaches, missed school days and work days.
Please, help someone around you who is suffering. Maybe they are suffering for unknown reasons; maybe it doesn’t make sense to you. Maybe they have been depressed for a couple of days or maybe they have been depressed for months. Whatever the case, if you can help- help.
We need to be there for our sister, our brother, our friend, our coworker, our daughter, our son, our student, our neighbor who is suffering. We need to help them. We must not let it get worse. We must not let them fall into an abyss of complete despair.
We must be forgiving for the missed phone calls and the broken promises and the little changes that make us question our relationship. Be forgiving. Be empathetic. Understand that in the fog of depression, human beings make bad decisions, say things they wish they hadn’t and do things they never would. The regret kills them from within. They are miserable, and they don’t know how to tell anyone. The smile they force hides a world of pain and despair. Notice the fake smile and the blank stares and ask, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m just tired.” “Oh, I think I’m getting sick.” “Just a little stressed.” Don’t let these answers distract you. Say: “I’m here for you. If you’re going through anything at all, you can talk to me. Don’t forget that.”
Know that depression lies to the sufferer. It tells them: “You are worthless. The world would be better without you. You are a burden to your family. You are not smart enough. You are not religious enough. You are not beautiful/ handsome enough. You will never reach your goals. You are nothing and you are all alone.” This loneliness consumes the individual, completely paralyzing them.
Tell them they are not alone. Keep texting, keep calling, keep emailing. Just be there. Don’t let their indifference, or their excuses dissuade you. So many are suffering silently because they believe no one cares. But keep trying. It will make a difference. It will make all the difference. Everyone notices a broken leg but no one notices a broken spirit. Don’t be the person that lets months go by while a friend or an acquaintance falls deeper and deeper into his/ her depression.
And once they’ve revealed their “secret”, don’t leave them. Don’t forget them. Don’t let weeks pass by without checking up on them. And when you do reach out, don’t simply say: “It’s going to be okay. Just perk up. Be thankful. Don’t just sit around all day. Get out of bed. Call me whenever you need.” Though well-intentioned, this is not enough. Being there for a person who is depressed is mentally and emotionally draining. They will not call you. They will not be the first to reach out. They do not want to be a burden to you.
I do not want to be a burden to my family and friends. So I will not call and I may not reply until the third text. I know it’s selfish, but that’s what I need now. And I do not want someone to tell me to be thankful. I am already thankful. I pray to Allah (swt) every day, and spend hours thanking Him for what He has given me, in tears. And I ask Him to forgive me for feeling how I feel. I tell Him how hurt I am and how ungrateful I feel. I ask Him why I feel like this. I ask Him to help me. I know I can’t ask Him to take my life, so I ask Him what I’m allowed to: “Grant me life as long as it is good for me, and grant me death when it is better for me.” Always hoping the latter is what is better.
If we want to be pillars of support for those who are suffering, it will require effort. Over and over and over again.
I am writing this having suffered this overwhelming illness for about more than a year. I am okay today, so I am able to write this. Yesterday I was a mess, inconsolably crying filled with anxiety and despair. I am writing this because I want to tell you how I feel. And I want anyone suffering like me to know that there are others that are observant, struggling Muslims and that they feel the way you are feeling. And that you should see a psychiatrist, that you can take medication if that’s what you need right now, and that it is okay to tell the people who you love. And finally, always remember- even when people disappoint you, Allah (swt) will never. He is always there and He will always be there for you. If He has kept you breathing, He has a purpose for you, insha`Allah (by the will of God).
“…And whoever is mindful of Allah, He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from an unexpected source. And when someone puts all his trust in Allah, He will be enough for him.” [Qur’an, 65:2-3]
May Allah (swt) cure you all of your illnesses, your distresses, your pains and grant you the best of healing. Ameen.
An excellent video to better understand depression:
Posted on November 23, 2014, in ARTICLES and tagged article, article about, burden, depression, depression and islam, depression in islam, depression islam, knowledge, learn, life, living, living with depression, living with depression and islam, loneliness, read, read about, source, suhaibwebb. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.