Islamic Mental Health Spotlight

Spotlight: What to Expect If You’re Entering Ramadan With A Mental Health Illness by Farah El-Jarad

I hope that the message that is captured from this article is how one can expect to experience and prepare for Ramadan this year if you’re undergoing a mental illness.

This summer, Ramadan will be heavy on most of us. The long hours, the thirst, full time employment, studies and the push to make oneself reach a new level of Iman in the midst of all of this.

If you are a Muslim undergoing a mental health condition(s) the struggle for you is double. Your struggle often grossly underestimated and misunderstood with inadequate social support. Invisible, and kept to oneself because of the stigma and misunderstandings attached. No, the struggle is tripled. Thankfully we are witnessing an awakening of mental health awareness in the Muslim community by mental health professionals as well as Muslim student activists.

This may be your first, second or third (plus) Ramadan which you are entering with a mental health illness. And though one cannot physically take the pain away from you, I hope that these notes can help you on what to prepare and expect on how you may experience Ramadan this year, and hopefully bolster any hope that you have regarding your participation in this holy month. A collection of personal experiences and advice from professionals. And random ramblings.

Yes you can still benefit immensely this blessed month. However these are some of the experiences you may encounter. All of which I want to give you a heads up on so that if you do encounter them, you are equipped with the knowledge below to cope through it.

1- Difficulty in feeling the Barakah (blessing) of Ramadan: It’s great to see many of us whom are in high spirits for Ramadan. Though the case is different for those undergoing mental health difficulties. Ramadan just feels like another day. For many mental health conditions, a common symptom is emotional blunting/flatlining. This is where one has difficulty feeling any sort of emotion and the colour from one’s life is lost a little bit. One could be listening to an emotionally heart-wrenching khutbah or Quran recitation and feel very little. This will definitely effect how much barakah you ‘feel’ during this Ramadan- this symptom wasn’t going to change the minute the clock hits maghreb. But be assured, just because you do not feel it doesn’t mean the barakah is not there. And don’t let this discourage you- because it is just a symptom you’re feeling. Indeed, Barakah is present though not felt. Your participation is planting trees for you who’s fruits you will benefit from one day. Though you feel it not.

2- Lack of motivation in engaging in spiritual acts: Ramadan being a massive opportunity to transform oneself, swathes of people are setting themselves goals for their personal and spiritual development. Whilst we have people whom are able to complete a juz’ of Quran a day and pray 12 rakaat Taraweeh at the mosque. One may struggle with completing the 5 prayers with conviction or even getting yourself to the mosque to pray Taraweeh. Another common symptom (especially with depression) is having a lack of will or motivation to do anything. “Whats the point” “There is no point” “I’m not deserving of good”. It can be hard comparing ourselves to other Muslims who are excelling in Ramadan when we’re scraping by with the bare minimum. Again, this is your condition and it is not because you have a deficiency in your Iman. Do not entertain this thought even for a moment. Rather, the reward of the struggling is double. Sufferers can still benefit from this month by being good to themselves and setting small, achievable and consistent goals whilst adjusting their intentions. An action is but by its intention. And perhaps its struggle. Persevere in the little things in the hope your deeds will be seen as more honourable because of so. You’re making a statement to God that you do not have much in you but yet you’re still persevering with that little bit you have in you. And that you pray that his mercy will envelope you. He is most appreciative.

3- Medication: Before making any changes to your medication pattern, consult with your doctor first. There are countless fatawa that puts your mental well being as a priority and your fasts can be made up on other days. The religion is very clear that the ill person is exempt from fasting if fasting will make their condition worse. If you are on a routine of medication that requires you to break your fast, please consult with a medical professional. Save yourself from future complications.

4- Diet: A healthy mind is a healthy body and vice versa. Fill up your suhoor and iftaR with healthy foods as it is one of the ways to mitigate the effects of your condition whilst fasting. Fasting will be heavy on a person who is in good health let alone the one undergoing a mental health condition. Read Sunnah Foods and Mental Health: http://inspiritedminds.org.uk/2017/…

5- Seek social support: You do not have to go it alone. Confide in an empathetic friend or family member. Seek therapy. Journal how you feel. Allow others to feel share your struggles by learning how to trust others with your burdens.

Though you may not feel it and though it may be little, your participation is an investment of which you are planting benefit for yourself that may come back to surprise you.

Written by Farah El-Jarad

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