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My Recovery Journey

During my childhood I witnessed the behaviours of those around me and this shaped my view of the world. This was life to me, this was MY normal, this was just how things were, this was how people function. It massively shaped my thought processes, personality traits and behaviours. To me, there was nothing wrong, this was all I knew. I witnessed dysfunctional toxic relationships all around me.

The verbal, emotional and physical abuse my mum received from my dad and the abusive behaviours my parents displayed towards my siblings and me. I observed the unhealthy communication styles of screaming and cursing. I experienced the lack of affection and constant rejection, the dismissal and invalidation of feelings and the criticising. I saw my mentally unwell dad get drunk or high from intoxicants and my mentally unwell mum try to harm herself and take her own life, or slump in a crying heap on the floor, whilst rocking backwards and forwards in an attempt to soothe her disturbed state of mind. I saw impulsive behaviours of people constantly lashing out in the heat of a moment, parents breaking up and separating and then reconnecting into a relationship shortly afterwards, with an on-off pattern for many years. I heard “stop crying or I will hit you harder” when I was scared and bruised, I felt the shove when I was pushed and told “go away and don’t bother me”,

I knew the harmful consequences of not treading carefully on eggshells. Over time I just presumed that’s how family’s function, that’s how people treat each other, that’s what you do when you’re angry, that’s how you speak to communicate your feelings and needs, that’s how you respond to certain situations and how you interact with others. I became the product of my environment.

Fast forward to my teen and adult years and I had become that person, who would curse, shout, smash things, lash out in anger, hold my tears in, shut off my feelings, not focus on my needs. I fronted and masked, I rejected and pushed people away, I self-harmed, I felt suicidal, I drank alcohol to drown my troubles, I was inconsistent or guarded in my display of affection to others, I was impulsive and temperamental. I was insecure, I feared rejection, I had anxiety, I was too scared to sleep at night and could barely function during the day due to mental and physical exhaustion.

Suddenly, I had morphed into all the things I saw as a child. It was all I knew; I was desensitised, and I thought it was normal. I had very little other life experiences to base my understanding of the world upon. Due to it being normality to me, I didn’t understand the severity of the problem, I didn’t realise I needed to change things, I didn’t seek help from professional services. I didn’t realise the full extent of the negative impact these traumatic experiences had upon me.

It was only after I reverted to Islam and I learnt about adab (manners) and akhlaq (respect, morality), maintaining ties of kinship, respecting and honouring your spouse, speaking good or remaining silent, restraining anger, having self-restraint and forbearance and witnessed positive relationships from those in my community – that I started to truly understand I needed to make changes.

I tried my hardest, by building my link to Allah, using Ruqyah and Qur’an to soothe my distressed mind and heart, trying to implement the sunnah and follow the best of examples and act upon knowledge I was gaining. It helped a lot; I saw progress and positive changes slowly happening. However, something was missing. I needed to understand my thought processes and behaviours, I needed to truly handle memories of trauma and process them instead of bottling it up. I finally took the plunge to seek support from trained professionals. I began a course of anti-depressants, alongside attending therapy and trying to eat better for my mental health.

I learnt about the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model and aimed to take a holistic approach which addressed my issues from multiple angles. I started to learn from modern evidence-based information, about behavioural psychology, child development and the impact childhood experiences can have, mental illness and various treatment options. I focused more on studying the deen (religion) and understanding how Islam encourages us to manage our feelings, thoughts, behaviours and relationships.

Slowly, very, very slowly I started to make improvements, Alhamdulilah. Knowledge is very important, it helps us to understand the root of our situation and address things at the core, instead of just merely putting a temporary plaster over the surface wounds. Allah sent down a cure for all ailments besides death and we just need to seek it, which means we must seek knowledge, we must learn what causes mental illness, possible preventative measures and effective treatments, this includes learning about the Islamic perspective alongside mainstream education. As long as the medicine we take, or the therapy programmes we engage in does not lead us to haram, there is no problem in utilising these, alongside spiritual remedies.

I would be lying to myself and to you, if I say I am fully cured and I do not still battle with mental illness, because I do. However, I know I’ve improved and if I continue to strive and grow, In Shaa Allah, I will continue to see positive progress. Therefore, I will urge others, who have been in similar situations, to learn and to seek support from knowledgeable people with experience of treating and managing mental illnesses. It makes me very happy to see projects, such as The Trauma Healing Collective, providing beneficial services to our community and raising awareness of sensitive topics which have for far too long been brushed under a silencing rug. We must ask ourselves honestly, how invested in our wellbeing are we? If we truly want to find ease and manage our conditions better, we will try our best to engage with these supportive services and invest in our recovery, even if that means spending our money or time. It’s a worthy investment in ourselves and not only will we personally benefit, but all our loved ones who we impact will also benefit, In Shaa Allah.

I know sometimes it can feel very draining and daunting and sometimes in the initial stages of your recovery journey you can feel even worse, because you may have to bring forth painful memories which were shut away from focus for many years. However, it will be worth it. Allow the process to take the time it needs, at your own pace with no rushing to the next stage until you’re ready.

For some, who experience severe depression or anxiety, the idea of making a phone call to a service, or filling out a form can seem very overwhelming, so a suggestion may be to simply follow beneficial accounts on social media platforms, to become familiar with that service, to prep yourself for what to expect from them, to ease yourself into one day finally reaching out to them. Whatever you need to do, to make things work for you, do that, but do something.

However small it may first seem, it’s always better than staying stagnant in a difficult situation without attempting to get out of it. Your recovery journey will be unique to you, and mine will be unique to me, we all handle things differently. Its likely the recovery journey will be up, down and round the bend at times. However, keep seeking that ease, keep focused on investing in yourself and keep going.

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