By Farah Farzana
Trying to explain your experience of being suicidal is difficult, triggering and retraumatising. No-one wants to write or read about these things, because of the level of discomfort one must recognise and acknowledge. I write this piece to provide an insight into being suicidal and unpacking the frame of mind to try and stay alive.
TRIGGER WARNING – I am about to share snippets from a diary I kept whilst going through one of the worst phases of my life, because I couldn’t share with anyone else at the time or explain how I was feeling. If these thoughts resonate with you, just know that you are not the problem, but your mind has become unhealthy. Just as we go to the doctor or ask for help to recover from physical illness, we need to do the same for our mental health too.
Feeling suicidal doesn’t necessarily mean to give up on life. These thoughts develop over time, and eventually we believe that we can no longer cope with being alive. It is also necessary to realise that when a person is going through such a struggle, they don’t have the capacity to understand that they need help.
“I have regressed into hating my body and my mind. I feel like a shell. Live is strange, humans are stranger. What do you do when you feel like ripping your own skin away from your body because of agitation? What do you do when you feel like something is inside your skin itching to come out? I have had to self-harm again to give myself pain to remind myself I am only human; not a robot. I hate having these feeling that just rot away inside. I honestly cannot remember the longest period of peace in my life. I have accepted that perhaps this is not in my fate. Maybe this is a way for Allah to test me. I just hope I can win”.
What this extract shows is the rawness of the self-affliction and the physical manifestations of depression and anger. In this state of mind, we are separated from reality, and our ability to reason is blocked. The build-up of negative self-talk, belief that we are a stigma and dishonour to ourselves and families, the importance imposed on us about community attitudes and the need to maintain the cultural status quo eats away at our identities. Self-harming is a coping mechanism, and it is not the correct way. Islam teaches us to take that step back from our problems every so often so we can understand our place in the world, in our communities, and not be locked away to an extent that we feel trapped in our own skin. Understand what is healthy and an unhealthy way to cope is extremely important – I went through specialised trauma therapy for survivors of domestic abuse which helped to reconstruct my coping methods.
I was told I was ungrateful and needed to work on my Imaan, therefore I felt I wasn’t worthy of being a Muslim.
My most vivid moment, was when I realised that I couldn’t carry on any longer. I believed over a period that I was not a good enough wife, daughter, or mother. I was made to believe that I was selfish and incapable of making my own decisions. I felt as though my life wasn’t mine – it was his or the kids. I was criticised for not showing endurance and patience towards my (ex) husbands’ abusive behaviour, which made me feel like I had no value to give to anyone. I was told I was ungrateful and needed to work on my Imaan, therefore I felt I wasn’t worthy of being a Muslim. Believing I was a burden, a liability, and a waste of space… it’s natural to question one’s existence. That’s where I would pray to just get through one more day. I thought this was normal for me, unable to see that I was vulnerable and in need of serious help.
The day I had made up my mind, I said goodbye to my eldest at the school drop off in the morning (he was in primary one) and I took my youngest with me, thinking where to leave him. My sister called and told me to come to her immediately. I didn’t have the brain space to think anything else, because I didn’t want to die, I felt like I needed to, so that I could stop giving pain and grief to everyone around me. So, I just thought to postpone the deed and leave the little one with her while I got some ‘sleep’. I went to find our Imam waiting to see me. Somehow, my sister knew what was going on in my mind, without my need to speak a word. She was able to recognise the signs of despair and that I was broken. She spoke on my behalf and the Imam helped me see reason. He questioned my rationale in giving up on life and taught me that I have a value in the eyes of Allah, and the others. He helped me see a way out, that was in line with my faith which gave me reason to challenge my perceived failures.
I found my life again in my religion because that’s the only way I feel my conscience is at peace. I learned about my rights as a human, as a woman and as a Muslim.
I found my life again in my religion because that’s the only way I feel my conscience is at peace. I learned about my rights as a human, as a woman and as a Muslim. I challenged the words of those who talked down to me with those of Islam. I took steps prioritising my own health, so that I can be of value to my children who are dependent on me. I take medication to help balance my serotonin levels – this is no more a weakness than asking a diabetic to take insulin. Medication, change in lifestyle habits and spirituality have been my focus on improving my own quality of life. Talking to a knowledgeable person, who understands the situation and influences has become my way of dealing with unhelpful thoughts. Whether that be my sister, my colleague, friend or even Allah s.w.t.
What I ask of my sister reading this is, to never be afraid to ask for help.
HisbinAllahi Wa Ni’mal Wa Keel – “Allah (alone) is sufficient for us,
and He is the best disposer of affairs (for us)”
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