3am Thoughts: Anxiety and stuff

Assalamualaykum/hello wonderful readers 🙂

(Here’s a link to the About Me page if you’re new to the blog.. It explains a bit about who I am and why I blog)

I have this urge to write. I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing at 3am, when I usually make very bad decisions. But this blog has been an outlet for so long and I need to get all this off my chest so this is as good a place as any.I haven’t planned this post so do forgive me for the jumbled paragraphs. I’m sure it all sounds better in my head!

I’ve been taking Sertraline for a couple of months. It’s an antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug. Also works for PTSD. I’d tried two other pills before but they gave me horrible side effects. This one is working much better Alhamdulillah. For ages, I was pretty embarrassed about this, avoided starting the medication because of the associated stigma. Then I took the plunge and actually started feeling so much better after a couple of weeks.

So how has it been? I’m mostly used to it now so I don’t notice any bad effects. At first, I was terribly drowsy and my jaw felt tightly clenched. I’m glad that’s eased, it wasn’t painful but it was really uncomfortable!
There was the usual (and probably expected) input from my family when I started these pills. They’re not seen as a good thing. Mental health isn’t widely understood. But now I think they’re coming around to the fact that the medication actually helped quite a lot. The bad dreams stopped. The panic attacks lessened. I was able to go out again.

So.. I was supposed to see my doctor in December to have the dose upped. Only I thought I was perfectly fine and there was no need. I’m smart like that. Clearly, I don’t learn. Here I am again, scared to sleep because I know I’ll have the awful nightmares. The worst thing is that the nightmares seem so real. All involving places I know well. I often wake up shaking and in tears.

And the anxiety has made a grand comeback. Yay. More panic attacks, sudden bouts of tears, feeling terrified.. It’s about as fun as it sounds. Currently, it feels like my heart is being squeezed. It’s not easy to breathe. But I’ve got to keep going, right? Because that’s what courage is.

I’m going to call my doctor on Monday and see what needs to be done. They’ll probably up the meds and offer counselling.. I’m not sure I want to go for that. It sounds like it might be helpful however my anxiety is pretty bad so I’d really struggle to talk to a stranger. The thought of it makes me feel sick with dread.

I’m listening to Qur’an everyday, focusing on the words and the meaning. I’m so blessed to be able to understand Alhamdulillah. It’s helping but this test is pretty difficult. I’m still struggling. It’s kind of hard to explain.. I know that I can’t control the way I feel (boy, that took me AGES to understand and accept!) so I try not to feel guilty. However, there’s this little voice telling me that I’m a terrible person because I really ought to be feeling better by now. There must be something really wrong with me if I’m not which quite obviously means that it’s my fault.
Confused? So am I. (Thought I’d list the weirdness in my head so I’m not the only confused one. 😀 I jest…)

On that note, I’m reminded about a conversation I had the other day. When someone is going through any form of mental illness, others will give them Duas/Surahs to read, tell them to pray harder. Which is a good thing. What gets me, however, is when it’s generally assumed that the person struggling with mental health issues must be very low in Imaan (faith). This isn’t always the case so PLEASE word your advice carefully.

If a person is still calling out to the Almighty whilst they’re in the depths of sadness and despair, when they feel hope slipping away, when they know that none besides Him can save them.. That is a beautiful thing. It shows strength and courage.

Telling someone who’s already struggling with a serious mental health issue that they just need to pray harder or do more can be highly detrimental.. It may even put them off completely. The best thing to do? Listen. Be there for them. Tell them you’ll make dua (prayer) for them. Ask how they’re feeling. In general, be supportive.
I keep reminding myself: ‘This too shall pass.’ Tests aren’t forever. There’s a reason for all of this even if I can’t see it right now. I posted this on the Facebook page earlier, I think it’s a beautiful Hadith.

SubhanAllah. I pray that Allah forgives my shortcomings.

This is really quite therapeutic.. I do feel slightly better after writing everything down. If anyone reading this is going through any hardship, please know you’re not alone. It may get worse before it gets better but you can and will get through it inshaAllah ❤

One final thing.. I’ve had a brilliant few days alhamdulillah for which I’m truly grateful. I managed to be productive and get things done. Reconnected with a few friends. Felt utterly calm. Honestly, it feels great! It had been a while. Each good day feels all the more beautiful because I know I need to cherish it. InshaAllah I’m hoping that once I get some sleep, it’ll be another fantastic day.

That’s it from me. If you want to keep up with my blog posts, pop your email into the ‘subscribe’ box on the right.

Oh and please forgive the typos (of which there’ll be many), I’m absolutely shattered and if I go back to edit now I won’t post this at all! Take care everyone. Have a great weekend 🙂

Eid Antics And A Spectacular Mistake

Assalamualaykum/hello and a very belated Eid Mubarak to those who celebrated! 

If this is your first visit, please check out About Me here. 🙂 if you’ve been here before, you’ll know about my battle with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, having surgery to remove my large intestine and my most recent operation so please read on.. 
Well, the last few weeks have certainly been… Interesting. In the way that a feeling of impending doom just before exam results are released is interesting. 

Let’s start with Eid day. I’d known from the night before that I was going to struggle – anxiety was at an all-time high and I kept bursting into tears. Didn’t take a genius to work out that it was going to be a tough day. I’ve started to accept that bad days are going to be around. Let them do their thing. As long as I can enjoy the good times. 

The night before, I decided I still wanted to make Eid exciting for the little ones (cousins!) so we stayed up all night making sweet cones and goody bags. Went to bed at around 5am. 
Come Eid day, I was curled up in bed, crying, until the afternoon. I’d forced my mum to go to my grandparents house where everyone gathers on the day to eat and enjoy themselves. She’d wanted to stay home with me but that’s hardly fair. It took me from 9am to 6pm to talk myself into showering and leaving the house. Then I discovered that there was something wrong with the stitching on my Eid dress so it was unwearable lol. I hadn’t wanted to buy a new one but I got one to make my mum happy. She deserves that, and so much more. 

So I decided to go in my favourite but not very new clothes. I did wear a sparkly pin on my scarf as it was a special occasion! I was feeling awful. Completely numb with bouts of deep sadness and in a lot of pain. As well as fatigue. A tiredness that’s seeped into my bones and every movement is exhausting. 

If someone spoke to me, it went over my head. I was part of the conversation but also far away.. Nothing seemed to register. I tried to put a happy face on but I think I just looked weird. I can’t do the fake smiling thing anymore. My face feels so odd. It refuses to obey. 

I got to my Gran’s at around 6pm. Everyone had eaten and they were all waiting for me. Received a great welcome from all the kids! A huge squishy hug from four little girls – squashy but I love them! They were very happy with their goody bags and sweets! 

I stayed for about half an hour and then disaster.. A huge anxiety attack. I should be used to them but I’m not. Each one affects me deeply. 

I started crying so I quickly walked out of the house and back home. I cried for hours. No one was home yet. I changed back into my pyjamas and went to bed. 

So that’s how I spent my Eid day. Not very exciting, huh?
Oh, and they didn’t leave me any cake. This is unforgivable. 

I’m trying not to feel guilty. I know it’s important to show gratitude. And happiness. Sometimes I just.. Can’t. 
I can’t stop crying. There’s a heart-wrenching pain that’s settled inside me and won’t leave. It bursts open when I’m not expecting it and I feel as though I can’t cope. I remind myself of all the good things. I just can’t bring myself to be ‘normal.’ Everything hurts inside. And my body hurts too. Every bone and muscle. The anxiety makes the pain so much worse. I probably sound moany but this blog is an honest account of what I go through, what it’s like to live with chronic illness which in turn affects one’s mental health. I won’t feel true to myself if I leave these bits out. 

The next day, I stayed in bed all afternoon… Again. I feel cocooned in bed. It’s Safe. If I venture out, there are people. And sounds. I don’t like either at the moment. My bed feels warm and comfortable and I don’t feel scared. 
My cousin sent me a text asking me to please come to her house as they were having a little party/get together. I was very hesitant.. But I knew I wanted to make the effort. 

I really couldn’t have asked for a better cousin. She’s the only one I can talk to about IBD, mental health issues, when I have a problem, when people have been awful.. I’m blessed to know her Alhamdulillah. (If you’re reading this, thank you and I love you very much 😀 ❤ ) 

I actually had a wonderful time! There was cake (nom nom!) and pizza. It was very relaxed which helped. I even dressed up and wore makeup! Lol that’s HUGE for me. Depression/PTSD kind of.. Eats away at me. I lose the will to do any ‘extras’ or do anything nice for myself. I don’t see the point and can’t make the effort. It’s all too much. But I did make the effort this time and I’m happy about that. 

Here’s the cake we had: (we started cutting it before I’d had a chance to take a picture lol!) 

  
A few days later, I went to visit more cousins and again, had a lovely time. I’m so grateful for the good days. There so rare. I’m going to keep the precious memories safe. 

Everyone came over to ours yesterday and it was great despite me being told that IBD is caused by junk food. (Yawn). Ok not yawning.. I was furious. Ranted about there being NO EVIDENCE for such a claim, that people in POOR COUNTRIES are now also being diagnosed, it’s usually GENETIC and I couldn’t tolerate salads and fruits at ALL when I still had my large intestine – some people can only tolerate processed food! Then I stormed off because I’m mature like that 😛 
Here’s a comment from the Gutless Ninja Instagram account:
  
I’m kinda calm now. It hurts to be told that I basically brought this upon myself and it’s my own fault. I suffered a LOT and indeed many of my mental health issues stem from being told by various people that I was faking my illness. I believed them after a while and wondered if it was all in my head. I still think that at times. I ask my closest friends multiple times if I’m just imagining it all. Whether the pain, fatigue, anxiety and sadness is even real. 

I stopped writing here which is quite tragic. I’ll post this then get onto the next update. 
I had good reason to stop writing – my wonderful friend came to stay with her two gorgeous girls and we had a fantastic (if very tiring!) few days catching up and exploring the city. I loved it. I did far too much but it was worth it! 
I’ve been doing a lot of reading since they left. It helps me forget and I’m not so sad when I read. I’m trying to be normal and do the things I’m supposed to but I find it so hard. 
Today, I spent a few hours reading in the tent in the garden. It’s my Reading Tent and I love it! 

  
I suppose I should talk about the Spectacular Mistake here. I’ve been trying not to think about it. It’s.. Painful. 
I’ve been waiting weeks to see a psychiatrist and clinical psychologist. I’m not ashamed of this, or embarrassed. It is what it is. I’ve been battling a major illness and have been through two major surgeries. Of course it’s going to have an effect on my brain. I’d been looking forward to the appointment for weeks because it’s so freakin hard battling with my mind all the time, having panic attacks, feeling scared, not being happy. I wanted to start feeling ok again. It’s nothing more than going to a specialist for a physical ailment.

I jotted down the date of the appointment, Thursday the 23rd. On Wednesday, I called the clinic to ask what time I’d be seen as I couldn’t find the letter. They had no record of any appointment. After a few very worried calls, I was told that my appointment was actually the day before and I’d missed it. Missed it. I’ve been understandably upset about it. And very angry at myself. I waited around 12 weeks for this and being told that they’d now discharged me because I didn’t make the appointment was a very tough and bitter pill to swallow. I never miss appointments. I’m not sure what’s happening at the moment.. My doctor was away last week so I’m calling her tomorrow to see what’ll happen. I’m not sure how I’ll bear the waiting game again, I don’t feel I can go through it all once more. It’s sapped my strength. But I must keep fighting. 
Mercifully, my friend arrived the next day and I didn’t have too much time to think about it – but I’ve now got time on my hands and I’m brilliant at worrying myself silly. 

It will get better inshaAllah. I have to keep hoping. I can’t afford to slide again. I shall hold on tightly to the rope of the Almighty. 
  
As always, do get in touch if you have comments, feedback or constructive criticism! Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as I update those a lot more frequently than the blog! 

The Gutless Ninja was nominated for Most Inspiring Blog Award. Please see this post for more details on how to vote. Thank you! 

Taraweeh Reflections and Gratitude.. 

  
Assalamualaykum/hello readers!

I hope Ramadhan is going well if you’re taking part. If not, I hope you’ve been as well as can be 🙂 

I’ve had such a fantastic response to the article I shared in my last post. It’s made me realise just how many people feel left out because they’re unable to fast – yet they may actually be receiving MORE reward for their intentions and wanting to partake in this act of worship. We definitely need more material aimed at those who are being drawn closer to Allah through their trials. 

Last night, I attended Taraweeh prayer for the first time this Ramadhan. All I can say is SubhanAllah (Glory be to God). It was beyond incredible! One hour and 45 minutes of sweet, sweet recitation and standing in front of my Lord. Such a blessing and I’m feeling so grateful that I was given this chance. 

Unfortunately I thought I’d be a hero and not only pray half of the prayers standing up (it causes me pain at the best of times) but also to cause maximum discomfort to myself by not calling my brother who was in the men’s side and ask for a chair. We went quite late so the chairs were all taken. Ahh when will I learn?! As a result, I’m in a lot of pain today BUT it’s definitely worth it! I want to go again today but now I’m not so sure I’ll manage two days in a row! 

I made a decision to deliver a talk this Saturday. I miss the atmosphere at the Masjid, the sisterhood, the love. It’s what kept me going these few years and I feel awful that I just stopped my talks. I know I had to but even so. 

Good health is a blessing many of us don’t appreciate enough, myself included. It could always be so much worse. I think I have it bad sometimes, being partial sighted, missing half my insides and generally being sore.. But I’m (mostly!) sane Alhamdulillah. I can hear perfectly well. (Selective hearing is another issue 😉 ) I’ve managed to listen to live taraweeh from Makkah almost every day. Alhamdulillah. Quran soothes me. I have a very, very loving and supportive family. Everyone has their struggles. I’m grateful that I’m living in peace. For not having to worry about anything major. For being able to breathe without assistance. For being given knowledge. For being given a heart that works perfectly. For being so blessed. And for being given the ability to keep going, keep smiling and not give up. This is truly a blessing and I pray that it’s never taken away from me. 

Allah says:

” ….and if you [try to] count the blessings of Allah (God), never will you be able to count them.”

[Surah Ibrahim : 34]

How true is this?! 

(I stopped writing there. Continuing after two days…) 

I can’t believe it’s the 6th fast already. Soon the first 10 days will be up. Life is so fleeting.. 

I’ve been struggling with Tramadol withdrawal and heightened anxiety again. A doctor has decided I don’t need pain relief anymore. The less said about that, the better. I wish I wasn’t addicted to this drug but not being on it has made me realise how much pain it was blocking. Maybe Allah wants me to gain maximum reward this Ramadhan, hence the pain. The shakes, restless muscles and insomnia are harder to deal with. Sometimes I’m in so much pain it actually forces me to wake up when I’ve only just nodded off. Sheesh, I didn’t know I HAD so many bones and muscles in my body until they started hurting! But none of this is wasted as long as I believe in Allah and am patient inshaAllah. 

It’s reminded me again how I am nothing, absolutely nothing, without my Lord. We tend to think too big at times and that can lead to arrogance – when we have more faith in our God-given abilities than in God Himself. It’s an important lesson for me. And I’m grateful.. How can I not be, when Allah is reminding me to remove arrogance from my heart and rely only on Him? 

I attended Taraweeh two nights ago and my body still hasn’t quite recovered. I know I’m weak, and it’s hard to comes to terms with. Due to other reasons, I haven’t been able to go again but I’m still hopeful for reward.  

Rosie, my wonderful stoma, has been joining in with wishing the fasting ones well. Almost every day at Iftar when we sit down to eat, she decides to make her presence known by making rude noises. Loudly. So lovely and thoughtful of her. 

And lastly, this has been an unusual week for me in that I revealed who I was to a rather large number of people. My blog has always been anonymous apart from the very few close friends I’d told. I felt I could be more open that way but I decided to change that, be myself. If anything, it shows I’m really not ashamed of what’s happened to me. If you’re one of those people and you’re discovering a whole new side to me (I never usually go into detail about my illness) then I ask for your patience. This blog is honest. My thoughts aren’t always going to make you feel comfortable and enlightened. This is what chronic illness and pain does. There’s a stigma associated with invisible illnesses that I want to eradicate. We are human. No one can be strong 100% of the time. There are times when our faith is unshakeable. Then there are also times when we feel the earth has become constricted despite being so spacious, there is a darkness within us, the pain becomes unbearable so we cry, beg and plead with the Almighty to remove this affliction. Does it make us any less grateful? No. Because we’re turning to the One who created us, the only One who can remove this and trusting in Him completely. 

You see, chronic illness is different to having a flu or fever. With a flu, you feel absolutely rotten for a few days but you know you’ll get better. Chronic illness, however, stays around. It doesn’t go anywhere. It’s there in my bones when I wake up each morning and can’t move for the stiffness in my joints. It’s there when I’m so exhausted I can’t do a thing. It’s there when I have to turn down invitations and cancel plans because my body has a warped way of showing me who’s boss. 

I write these things so people realise how difficult it is to live with IBD. But despite it all, I’m grateful for the many, many blessings I DO have. If I could go back and change everything that’s happened in the last five years, I wouldn’t. My tests have strengthened me and made me the person I am. They have been a blessing from my Lord. 

Trusting in Allah

I do not expect your pity but I ask that you be kind and understanding. That is all. 

As always, please feel free to get in touch with me through email, Facebook and Instagram. I love hearing from you all! Details on the ‘Get In Touch’ page. If this is your first visit to my blog, do read my About page. Any questions, just ask! 

Stay happy. 

Please remember me and everyone else who’s facing difficulties in your prayers. 

Chronic Illness And Ramadhan: Coping Tips And Strategies 

  

The following article was published by Muslim Matters. I came across it last year and found it very helpful. I can’t fast with my health issues and will never be able to fast. This isn’t always easy to accept. But as I was reminded yesterday, the ultimate goal of Ramadan is to attain Taqwa (piety, nearness to God) and that can also be achieved through other means by those who are exempt from fasting. (Note: if you have a chronic illness or disability, please consult a Mufti regarding your situation) Of course I want to fast. But I also know that if I do, I’ll be in a lot of pain, have severe dehydration (I don’t have a large intestine, which absorbs water back into the body), suffer blockages and end up in hospital. So it really wouldn’t be wise. 

For those who aren’t familiar with Ramadan, I’ll briefly explain it below. 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. That’s about 18 hours in the UK. No food, drink (even water) or marital relations during those hours. It is also expected to refrain from lying, swearing, anger, backbiting etc (which should be done anyway). The ultimate aim is to attain nearness to God. We also try to give as much as we can in charity. It is a time for spirituality and reflections, thinking of those who are less fortunate, bettering ourselves and helping our fellow human beings. Oh, and no one dies of starvation or thirst lol. Muslims have been fasting for centuries. 

I’m exempted from fasting as going without food or water would be very bad for my ileostomy and general health. Islam is a religion of ease. I pay a set amount of charity for each day that I miss, enough to feed a poor person every day. This is known as Fidyah. 


Chronic Illness and Ramadan

By Merium Khan 

I still remember the moment vividly: I was 13 years old, and at a Muslim youth camp. A fellow teenage camper was talking about Ramadan when her voice started to tremble. As she described her inability to fast due to medication, the tears started to flow and her voice dissolved in grief. It was so poignant, but being a young, healthy person, I couldn’t possibly truly understand that sense of loss she felt—until recently.

A few years ago at the age of 25 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and found myself unable to fast.

During the first Ramadan that I could not fast due to the illness, I faced the stark reality: I would likely never fast again for the rest of my life. Long night prayers would be lost to me as well, as lack of sleep would exacerbate my symptoms just as surely as lack of food.

My mind flashed back to that fellow camper from years past, and I finally truly understood. Like her, I found moments when grief overwhelmed me, such as the time at a friend’s house when I hung my head, sobbing, until her 7 year old daughter patted my leg and said, “Khala, Allah understands…He understands.”

Since then, I have wished that somewhere buried in those “How to be a Super Muslim During Ramadan” articles and khutbahs, there were more useful Ramadan resources for Muslims with a chronic illness. We eventually just learn to stumble our way through the month, and after crossing off the things we can’t do, learn to figure out what we can do and how to survive the month without worsening our illness.

These are a few lessons I have learned these past few Ramadans as a young, non-fasting person:

  1. Ramadan Prep:

The weeks before Ramadan require extra rest. Don’t skip it; take it like a medicine otherwise you’ll have less energy when you need it in Ramadan.

  1. Conserve Energy:

Don’t use up all your energy in the beginning of the month. If you end up staying up too late, attending or hosting too many iftars, or otherwise overdoing the stress on your body in the first part of the month, forget about having the strength to do any ibaadah (worship) in the last ten nights (ask me how I know!).

  1. Pay Your Fidyah:

Have your fidyah arrangements planned out ahead of time and pay it promptly. Fidyah is the payment for missing the fast, and the details are beyond the scope of this article.

  1. Illness and Ramadan-Move Beyond Your Grief:

It’s okay to mourn what you have lost (ability to fast, to pray at night, etc.) but don’t let that be a trick to prevent you from doing what you actually are able to do. I realized that with a shock one year when, after playing pity party for the first week of the month, told myself, “Wait. You can’t pray qiyam, but you sure can pray your five prayers awesomely. Why aren’t you doing that at least?”

Reading and listening to extra Qur’an, making extra dhikr are also acts of ibadah that can benefit those who may not be attend taraweeh or qiyam.

  1. Consider priorities:

You may have to turn down some or all iftar invitations to preserve your health for prayers and worship. This is especially true in the summer months when iftar time is late. Don’t let cultural or social pressures cause you to compromise on your health, especially during such an important month of worship.

  1. Use Post-Iftar Time Wisely:

This is tricky but essential: when Isha is late, any taraweeh or qiyam can become a difficulty if not a near impossibility. This is particularly true for those whose illnesses will be exacerbated by lack of sleep and rest. Being able to restructure the time to get down to worship between Maghrib and Isha is going to be important during these summer months. I’ve found it difficult to apply this (especially as a wife/mother), because there’s such a rush between Maghrib and Isha and so much to get done.

  1. Watch How Much Time You Spend Eating:

One of the things I remember about fasting is how much more time there seems to be in the day when you’re not spending any on food and drink. So for those of us who cannot fast, we can reconsider how much time we choose to spend on eating during the Ramadan days. This doesn’t mean skipping meals, but perhaps minimizing meal prep times, or skipping the non-essential snacks and “comfort foods” that may take up time to prepare and eat but are not essential to our health (like a leisurely snack of tea and cake). This frees up valuable time for worship.

  1. Don’t be Shy to Get Help:

Your caregivers and friends are still there to help and support you, even when they are fasting. There is this tendency, since we are not fasting, to not ask others for help because they are fasting and we don’t want to burden them. This can lead to burnout and disease flare-ups, so we have to be open and ask for help when it’s needed even though we may feel bad about it. For those of us who have family responsibilities, it is important to be honest about our limits.

My husband will ask me in all honesty: “Can you do _________, or are you too tired?” and he trusts that I will be candid and not try to push myself to be the “Super-Wife.” This however has taken a lot of communication on my part, and understanding and compassion on his. It means that he has to eat a solitary suhoor, and sometimes even a solitary iftar on occasion if I am not feeling well. I have had to learn to put away my desire to do things perfectly, and allow him to help and support me in order to be well.

The Final Stretch:

All those beautiful and inspiring articles about how you’ve got to push your hardest, turn the last ten days into a sprint for the finish, and do what you’ve never done before? Lovely for the average folk, but it’s not going to apply to you if your illness is of the type that flares up due to lack of rest. Take the advice that will benefit and craft your own schedule. You’re not in Ramadan to aggravate your illness; rather you need to worship Allah in a way that recognizes that your body has a right over you. Always look for quality over quantity.

Ramadan conjures up so many feelings for those who deal with illness. There is the loss of the ritual worship (fasting, sometimes Qiyam), and even some of the usual habits and routines require change to accommodate life with an illness. It leaves a person with a sense of loss, and yet eventually we learn to create our own Ramadan routine that will allow us to participate in the month and yet stay healthy.

If your heart aches over the loss of fasting, remember this: the One who has ordained fasting has also ordained for you this illness as a test, so rejoice in the fact that there is mercy and wisdom behind his decrees. I take comfort in the fiqhi ruling that states that whenever fasting becomes harmful for a person, then in that case, fasting actually takes the ruling of haraam (forbidden). Therefore, by abstaining from fasting, I am preserving my health and, Allah willing, earning reward by avoiding this harm on my body. In the end, there is always some divine wisdom that we may never see:

And Allah knows, and you know not” (al-Baqarah: 216).

 Source

(End of article) 

I hope you’ve found this post beneficial. May Allah accept your Ibadah (worship) during this blessed month and may He grant you good health, happiness and blessings. Please remember me and my family in your Duas. 

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An Update…

Assalamualaykum/hello readers,

A huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who stayed with me these few weeks, that have been some of the darkest times of my life. Thank you to everyone who messaged, emailed, called, came to visit, thought of me and most importantly, prayed for me. It means such a lot to know that such wonderful people exist. Most of you have never met me but the amount of support has been astounding. Even more surprisingly, (for me, anyway) none of you told me I’m a bad person for feeling this way which is pretty much I’d been telling myself. I’m still working on that, it’ll take a while for the message to sink in completely. 
I thought I’d post an update on my situation. The last time I wrote, I was in intense pain, surrounded by darkness and couldn’t see a way out. I had absolutely no hope that I would get through this. Now, Alhamdulillah (thank God) things are slowly, very slowly, starting to look up. I won’t say that that feeling has passed as it hasn’t. But I’m learning to hope again. I’ve had a few days where I haven’t cried or had panic attacks. It’s still tough but it’s getting better Alhamdulillah. 

Truly, as Allah says in the Quran:

  
So I have a whole lotta updates for you all! I reckon I’ll go in date order and try to remember everything.  

A couple of days after my last blog, I saw a psychiatrist and went to see my doctor. Both on the same day. I was nervous, scared, apprehensive and dreading the visit to the doctor as I’d just registered with a new surgery and wasn’t sure how things would work out. 

Turns out I needn’t have worried. The doctor was absolutely lovely, she listened to everything I had to say and believed me. That’s a big thing for me. With invisible illnesses – and especially one such as IBD which is so complex, most doctors tend to use the textbook approach. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to work for me. So I was so relieved when I wasn’t dismissed outright. That should tell you something about the experiences I’ve had. 

I was prescribed Lorazepam, which is a fast-acting anti-anxiety medication. It was only for a week as it’s addictive and shouldn’t be taken for long. What a difference it made lol… Not only was I constantly drowsy, I seem to have suffered severe memory loss. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I’ve been up to that week or what I ate. I usually have pretty bad brain fog but this was something else entirely! But it definitely helped the anxiety. I’d say it cut the panic attacks down by about 98%. That’s pretty good. Before I started taking it, I was having a few panic attacks every day. Anything would set them off – shouting, a door slamming, being scared of something, the thought of leaving the house… It wasn’t a lot of fun. So Lorazepam definitely helped. I was pretty upset when the week was up as things went back to how they were.. The previous two posts should give you an indication of how bad that is. 

The meeting with the psychiatrist really shocked me. I thought I was pretty clever by not saying much but she had me sussed and knew exactly what I was thinking – and how I’ve been blaming myself for feeling like this. There’s too much guilt. That hasn’t gone away, it’s not something I can change easily but I’m hopeful I can work on that. 

I went back to the doctor yesterday and we had a chat.. It seems I have both Anxiety and Depression. And the two make each other worse. It makes sense. With the anxiety, I feel too much. It’s overwhelming. So much darkness. Sadness. Hopelessness. And with the depression, I feel nothing. So some days I’m feeling too much and want to scream in pain and other days I’m completely numb. I’m not happy, I’m not excited about anything, I don’t react to news of any sort. Just nothing. I don’t know which is worse. 

I’ve also been referred for PTSD treatment. That’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was a hard one to stomach. I’ve suspected that this is the problem for a while but I didn’t want to admit it. It’s something which soldiers returning from combat suffer from. People who have been abused. People who have suffered severe trauma. How could I have this?! Turns out it can also be caused by severe illness and/or medical trauma. 

This is the side of IBD that is rarely talked about and there isn’t nearly enough mental health support offered. Being diagnosed with a serious illness and being told that it’s for life has a severe impact. Having major surgery to remove the large bowel is a lot to deal with. Trying to decide whether to have surgery or put up with the constant pain and exhaustion is a huge decision and if things don’t go as planned, there’s a heck of a lot of guilt. IBD patients need to be offered counselling and mental health support as standard. Some places list depression as a symptom of IBD. Why then is this part of it largely ignored until things become very serious? 

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I think I know what’s happened here. I’ve been far too strong for too long. In the last five years, I’ve not only dealt with IBD and two major surgeries, I had a lot of personal and work-related problems in the midst of flares. I didn’t allow myself to be human.. I had to be strong. I forced myself to keep going, even when I was physically and mentally unable to. I was much, much stronger than I needed to be and it’s all come crashing down. I wouldn’t cry. I felt I had to be superhuman and not ‘weak’. This was my lot and I would deal with it no matter what. But it wasn’t the right way. It helps to talk, I should have done more of that. Of course there were times when I was scared, angry and frustrated. But I felt I was letting people down if I allowed the smile to slip from my face. I doing that, I caused more damage to myself. So it all built up and the breakdown was inevitable. The brain is complex. I can’t understand how it works. But this seems to be what’s happened with me. I could be completely wrong but it all makes a twisted sort of sense. I wish I’d seen that it’s okay not to be okay. That I needed to learn to say no sometimes, realise I needed to make decisions which wouldn’t harm my health , that I didn’t need to try so hard so others didn’t worry – I didn’t need that burden. But what’s done is done and now the only thing I’m focusing on is feeling better. I’ve cancelled my talks at the mosque and I’m learning to actually take care of myself and not be afraid to feel human. And I’m trying really hard not to feel like I’ve let everyone down. 

I’m probably going to stop writing here because I’m exhausted. So in conclusion, things are a bit better than before but I have a very long way to go.  For the first time in a while, I have hope that everything will work out ok. And that’s something I’m going to hold on to with everything I’ve got. 

I’ll have to continue this post later on this evening or tomorrow. Thank you for sticking with me and remembering me in your prayers/Duas. Knowing that so many of you are thinking of me, sending messages and praying for me continues to give me strength. 

I’m absolutely shattered but I had to finish writing this post. I apologise because I know it’s not my usual style. It’s not even half of what I wanted to say and I have some great news but it’ll have to wait for now! 

Take care all. 

Fight Like A Girl

I’ve written about fighting IBD so many times. That I’m not going to let it beat me. I refuse to let it get the better of me. I will continue to resist. I won’t be made to feel weak. And for almost five years. I did this rather brilliantly. My previous blog posts are full of incidents where I bounced back after feeling so ill. Every time. 

(Btw, if you’re new to my blog, please check out About Me here. Thanks.)

So what’s so different about this time?

Following on from the previous two posts, I’m not feeling any better. I’m still having panic attacks every day. I still can’t stop crying. I can’t do any of the things I used to enjoy. There’s a deep pain inside that doesn’t ease. A gut-wrenching pain (although my guts have already been wrenched so I suppose I’d better call it heart-wrenching instead) that seems almost unreal. I feel that if I was to scream, I would shatter everything around me with the pain and intensity of it. I feel empty. Emotionless. Completely numb. Nothing matters. I don’t understand how the world still carries on. I’m crumbling, and only a very tiny number of close friends believe me. Everyone else just sees how strong I’ve been and thinks I’ll be able to pick myself up again. 


Not this time. 

This is nothing like I’ve felt before. I’ve had depression for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to live with. This is so intense, so much worse. I’m locked in the dark chasms of my mind and there’s no way out.
But finally, finally, I’m starting to realise a few things. The tiniest chink of hope. Not enough to be seen. But it’s there. I’m going to hold onto it with everything I’ve got because I have nothing else. 

1) It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand why it’s happening. 

I didn’t cause this. I didn’t bring it upon myself by not praying enough or by being negative. I can’t talk myself out of it. I don’t understand why it’s happening… And that’s ok. Maybe I’m not supposed to understand. Maybe I’m meant to go through it to make me a better person. Maybe I’m meant to go thorough it to help others in the future. Whatever the reason, Allah (God) always has the best plan. I’ve finally stopped questioning why. I never questioned why I have IBD and I see now that this is also a test. I need to treat it the same. Just because it’s a mental illness doesn’t mean I have to understand why it’s happening. It isn’t any less real. 

2) Tests come in many forms. 

This is the most difficult test I’ve ever faced. It’s taken me a while to understand that simply because I can’t control the thoughts, it doesn’t make me ungrateful. Thinking back, I couldn’t control my colon. It was vicious, attacking itself until it nearly ruptured and I almost died. That didn’t make me ungrateful. This doesn’t either.  In this case, my mind is attacking. I have a name for what’s wrong but I’m not keen on sharing it yet. Yes, it’s serious. But there are ways to help and I pray and hope I get the right treatment. 

3) I really, really don’t like being told to think positive right now. 

Positive thinking is good. It helps us get through dark times. It’s been proven to make people feel better. I should know, I was always positive. Didn’t complain. But in this case, if it would have worked, that’s what I’d have been doing. When I say I can’t, I mean I actually can’t. So please don’t tell me to give myself a talking to. Or to just think positive. You may mean well. But think of how much it hurts me that this person isn’t even trying to believe me. 

4) I just want people to listen. 

That’s been the most important thing. Solutions haven’t helped me yet. I’m physically unable to do a lot of things. More tears, more pain every time I even think about trying. Panic attacks too. But I value and appreciate those who’ve believed me. I’ve been doubting myself a lot. I still do. But they’ve helped me feel.. Relief. I won’t say I feel better because that would be a lie. I think they understand that. But they believe me when I say I can’t go on anymore. That it’s all too much and I feel suffocated, drowning in my pain. On that note, don’t let this post fool you. Those feelings haven’t eased.
They don’t tell me I’ve dealt with more because it won’t help me now. When I have more hope, maybe it’ll help then. If this gets easier, maybe. It means everything to me right now to be believed because most don’t. I’m supposed to be the strong one. I’m not supposed to be feeling like this. But I am, and it’s very real. 

5) I’m still fighting. 

I realised this last night and it’s the reason I wrote this post. I’m fighting it. I’ve been posting about it a lot on Instagram. Writing out my thoughts. Some don’t agree, say I’m being negative and it doesn’t help. But every time I write, I’m trying. I’m trying so hard to fight it. I haven’t got far, but maybe it’ll start helping. I’ve been reaching out to people, hoping someone out there will offer a shred of wisdom and it’ll all make sense. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response on the blog, Facebook and Instagram. Thank you to each and every one of you who got in touch. I’m sorry I haven’t replied yet, I just haven’t felt up to it. But I will InshaAllah (God willing). 

I’m not giving in to the thoughts. Even writing and talking is fighting. This is the strongest I’ve ever been. And the weakest.

Some Personal Reflections.. 

  

It’s been far too long since I updated the blog and I do apologise. I’ve started writing a couple of times but I thought it wasn’t up to my usual standards so I got rid of it. I regret that now, maybe I could’ve used those ideas but oh well, the time has gone.

I’ve been very hesitant to write about this issue because a few of you know me personally and I haven’t really spoken about it to many people. So I apologise in advance if you find this difficult reading. I hope you don’t think any less of me. My intention isn’t to moan, I need to write about everything in my head before I spontaneously combust. Or something. 

I’ve been struggling with my health recently and also trying to cope with feelings of despair, loneliness and depression. It’s something that I know I need to deal with but there doesn’t seem to be a way out at the moment. I’ve managed to have a few really good days, but they’re becoming fewer and further in between. I can pretend to be happy, really happy, and I even manage to convince those nearest and dearest to me but then the sadness always comes back. There’ve been days when I just sat in my room and cried. 

How can I describe it? How do I describe this feeling which courses through me every single day and I have no idea how to control it? The crushing despair, the loneliness, the deep sadness which never seems to go away? It’s like a dark cloud which is constantly hanging over my head.  Sometimes a few beams of sunshine come through for a while but once again they’re obliterated by this dark cloud. They call it depression and I’ve been told I need to speak to somebody, seek counselling, get some help. But it just doesn’t make sense to me. I have nothing to be upset about. I have so much to be grateful for. I’m surrounded by wonderful family and friends. My last surgery went really well. But for some reason none of this seems to be helping. I keep reminding myself of everything I have to be happy about but it just doesn’t seem to work. I simply can’t explain it. So what good would counselling do if I don’t even know why I’m so upset? What would I tell them? I don’t even want to talk to anyone. The thought of sitting in front of a stranger and trying to talk to them openly is quite frankly, terrifying. 

So I simply try to go about my day acting as though I’m perfectly normal. My head feels anything but. I’m quite good at acting by now. I can laugh, smile and joke along with the best of them. But deep inside I just feel numb. Completely numb. 

Actually, that isn’t strictly true… I don’t go about my day quite as normally as I used to. I haven’t been to my classes at the mosque in over three weeks. I can’t bring myself to. I haven’t been to visit my grandparents either. I know that I should, but I just don’t know how. It’s not as simple as simply walking out of the door and going where I need to. It seems so much more difficult and no one seems to understand. The panic that I feel when I even think about meeting with others or socialising.. It stops me from all of those things. It’s a bit easier now in that I can go out for walks on my own using my cane. But… I just don’t know. I feel really confused. And I feel I’m ungrateful. Because if I was truly grateful for all of Allah’s blessings, I wouldn’t be feeling this upset, would I? However, A small part of my common sense (which I seem to keep locked up) seems to be telling me that this isn’t true. That depression is a mental illness and just because it can’t be seen, doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. However, I’ve come across many people who claim that the cure for depression is praying it away. I’ve tried this many, many times. I ask Allah grant me relief and ease from this and I only seem to have reached the conclusion that this is another test. The way I’m feeling, the difficulties i’m facing, all of this is a test. It’s not something which I brought upon myself because I never questioned why I have been tested the way I have. I have never – and I hope I never – questioned Allah SWT about the difficulties I’ve faced. I’ve accepted it as my lot and I’ve always hoped for reward. I know it’s been really difficult. Just when things were looking up, I had trouble with my vision and I now use a white cane. It was tough adapting but I’m doing brilliantly (even if I do say so myself!). It’s given me independence and I don’t have to rely on others as much. So that’s not the reason either. 

And it’s so hard to avoid the self-hate.. I’m a teacher and people look up to me. I shouldn’t be feeling like this. I’ve broken down more times than I can remember in the past few weeks. The smallest things set me off. How can I even think about advising others when I’m feeling so rotten? I feel hypocritical. I think I just need to keep telling myself that this is also from Allah. He has a reason for my struggle, even if I can’t see it yet. Maybe it’ll help if I keep telling myself. Maybe. 

Another thing.. Being told I’ll be fine if I just got out more hasn’t helped either. I can have a brilliant time and forget for a few hours but it always comes back. I suppose the only people who understand are the ones who’ve been through it. I’m trying not to talk about it so much to my friends because surely it’s quite unfair on them?  People want to be able to help, to listen, offer a solution. And I can’t even explain any of this. I know they’d be understanding but I hate feeling like a burden. I don’t want them to be affected and feel upset by my state of mind. 

At least I have my reading. I’ve been crazy about it recently, taking out lots of books from the library, downloading on my iPad, reading every day. It helps me forget. I’m transported to other worlds, I’m living the lives of colourful characters and experiencing different cultures. It’s a beautiful kind of magic. I picked this little lot up from the library the other day: 

  

Thanks for reading through my ramblings. Do share my blog if you find it helpful. Please feel free to get in touch, I love receiving feedback and constructive criticism. You can email me at: gutlessninja@hotmail.com or get in touch through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Peace,

Gutless Ninja