In 2010, I was in my late teens and had been sectioned under the mental health act. I had spent 3 months “under observation”, and now here I was, sat in front of a panel of doctors, medically qualified experts in; psychology, psychiatry, and mental health. Finally, they were ready to tell me what was ‘wrong’ with me. Bipolar Disorder.
Despite having experienced the state of depression; which in my experience felt like days and days where I couldn’t leave my university accommodation and make it to my lectures, serious struggles with my salah, and just an endless sense of not feeling any emotions at all.
Hypomania; which I experienced as, not being able to sleep yet not feeling tired at all, feeling incredibly sensitive to all stimuli- (light, sound, and touch), my thoughts racing and struggling to keep up with all the ideas I had, and all the projects that I needed to start there and then. I still found the final diagnosis very hard to believe. One of the things that stuck with me during this experience, was a conversation with a psychiatric nurse who told me that as bright as I was, I lacked insight.
The words stung, I took them as a challenge, and since that time I have come a really long way in gaining insight, alhamdulillah rabbil ala amin, all praise, and thanks are due to the Lord of the worlds. I have gained a much deeper understanding of my mental health, and the ways to work on bettering it, and a better understanding of myself, who I am, and who I want to be. What I learned from this experience is that it is incredibly important to know yourself, this bi’ithni’llah, is the best beginning to taking control of your mental well being. That said, I’d like to share 5 things you can do to gain more self-awareness.
Knowing your intentions, and always going back to them is a sure way of understanding yourself and your actions. If you have a clear understanding of your intentions, and what you are aiming for in this life and the next it keeps you focused and motivated. For me writing things down helps, so I try to write my intentions down and place them in places where I can see them.
Diagnosis or not, if you want to maintain good mental health (I mean who doesn’t?!) then learn about the mind. Subhanallah, it is such a beautiful, intricate and complex blessing, there’s so much that’s fascinating about. If reading isn’t your thing, there are podcasts, videos, a whole lot of different mediums to use for learning.For me with the more I learnt, the more I felt empowered. I understood what was going on, even if it didn’t make complete sense, I had an idea of what was happening. I could say to myself on my most depressing day, “Zee you don’t feel anything at all, you feel completely numb. That’s okay, it’s just a symptom. You’ll get better in’sha’allah, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, just keep going.”
First, take a long hard look at where you’ve been in your life. Think about what you’ve gone through, what Allah has empowered you to overcome. Realise that there is so much that you have lived through, so much you have survived, and so many ways that you have grown stronger. This is how you can gain a new appreciation of the strength and beauty you’ve been blessed with. Next, take a look at where you are. This can be hard. Be objective. Be honest too. There may be things you’re struggling with, but also acknowledge the things you are doing well. We don’t achieve good mental health by sweeping our issues under the metaphorical rug, we do it by acknowledging our issues and tackling them head-on. Lastly take a look at where you are going. Really think about the direction you are headed in. Will it benefit you in the long run? (Which leads me to my next tip)
Depending on where you are mentally, this can be really challenging. Still, start with one goal. Break it down into the steps you need to take to achieve it. Work on things, step by step. The important thing isn’t even necessarily the goal, rather it’s the hard work that every step took, the perseverance and determination to keep going.
Last, but most importantly, trust Allah. He is the all-Knowing, the All-Aware. He Knows everything about you. And whoever you are, wherever you are with your mental health journey, He has placed you there for a reason. I know how difficult it can be somedays to believe that things will get better, to believe that there will be an end to your difficulty. So if you take only one thing from this article, take this.
Trust Him. Is there any better place to put your trust? Even if you fully can’t see a way out, know that ease always follows hardship, your ease is coming. Your efforts are not going unwitnessed.
Azeezat A B Aboderin is in love with the sky and The One who built it. She chooses to believe that all of her life’s experiences are opportunities to turn her eyes skywards and remember her Lord. She spends a lot of time playing with her children who she describes as forces for change in the world. But adores time to recharge by herself outside, or inside, but always with a good book. Azeezat is the knitter behind “soulknitsew.com . You can connect with her on Instagram @soul.knit.sew and @finewordsweave