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Experiencing Friendship Breakups as a Neurodivergent Muslim Led Me to Al-Waliyy

by in Relationships on 27th July, 2022

Most of the time, they’re an overwhelming state of self to be in and can be difficult to navigate. Falling out with a friend can make you feel like the worst person in the world, and put you in a state of questioning your  worth and value. They can make you feel like only you are in the wrong, and oftentimes it feels like you’re stuck in this loophole of dread and worry. It can be traumatic.

Growing up as an undiagnosed autistic ADHDer made it even more difficult to navigate my emotions when such an occurrence would happen. A lot of the time, I would convince myself that it was because of me. It was my fault and I was the problem.

There were many incidents where I misunderstood somebody’s fake kindness as genuine.

People would befriend me for a short period of time only to reveal their true colours shortly after, all in the name of ‘popularity’ and to fit in with the larger crowd. This was a theme I found was especially prominent in high school. Everybody wanted to fit in and be labelled as somebody ‘cool and popular’ and worthy of being talked about and praised all of the time. There was an occasion where a girl in my high school class would be awkward and borderline mean to me at school, but would speak nicely to me when we interacted online. I never understood why anyone would do that. It was pretentious, but I hated being lonely so I held onto whatever little friendship was present and went with it. This eventually led to her translating her face-to-face behaviour towards me into the online setting. Reflecting back on it now, though there wasn’t much value to the friendship, at the time I wanted to believe there was. Perhaps because I didn’t know much else, or found it difficult to separate fakeness and genuinity. It all looked the same to me, what else was I meant to make of it?

The theme of pretence was pretty consistent in my time at school. I often found myself in the middle of fake friendships that didn’t last long, and would then be re-instigated by them.

The cycle felt never-ending and left me to feel emotionally helpless. I never understood why this would happen to me, nor why people thought it was okay to treat others like this. To treat me like this, almost like I was undeserving of genuine friendship.

Experiencing so much vividity in emotions as a kid was overwhelming, something I was never prepared for.

I sometimes felt as though my emotions were invalid, and all that mattered were the emotions of the “friends” who constantly fell out with me. I gave them multiple chances, craving a bond, yet each time, they took advantage of it, and I was almost too stubborn to see that. Or perhaps, I didn’t particularly understand the social cues that would hint this.

As I got older, a genuine friendship I thought I found in the later years of high school turned sour the moment I confided in her about discovering my neurodivergent identity.

Instead of accepting and trying to understand me, she distanced herself from me, and I was made to feel guilty for my traits and experiences. It felt embarrassing and humiliating. In an incident where they tried to invalidate my feelings of overwhelm, I reached my emotional breaking point with no more energy to spare for them anymore. She labelled herself as my best friend, yet was being ableist towards me. The difference here, however, was I felt both distressed and  relieved, like I was finally starting to learn that my feelings, emotions and boundaries matter. 

After I was diagnosed autistic with ADHD, I soon learnt that much of the emotional sensitivity and anxiety I deal with as an adult, and had dealt with as a child, are characteristics of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). RSD, an extreme emotional sensitivity, comes under the umbrella of ADHD and is often comorbid. In my case, for instance, if someone were to communicate with me in a different tone or texting style/pattern, or show any sort of behavioural change, I panic instantly and struggle to deal with it. I’ve always had the bad habit of bottling up my emotions, and it’s something I unfortunately still find myself doing when I’m experiencing RSD. Perhaps it’s an aftermath of all the friendship fallouts I’ve endeavoured, and is a product of the anxiety from them. RSD is not fun, and I don’t always use the coping techniques I’ve learnt.

Sometimes I vent to my best friends or family, other times, I’ll let out my emotions using a stim toy. Sometimes I cry to Allah about it.

As an adult, I’ve learnt just how close of a friend I have within my Creator – Al-Wadud, the Most Loving.

Something I’m trying to do more often is to spend time after Salah weeping to Allah in dua. It acts as a safe way to vent, to let out what’s bothering me, to relieve myself of such mental pressure. Because who is better to call upon than As-Sami’, the All-Hearing? He is there to listen, He wants to listen, He wants you to tell Him about your problems and the emotions you’re experiencing, despite knowing already. Al-Alim (The All-Knowing) knows, but He wants you to confide in Him.

Sometimes I wonder if anything would have been different  had I practised such a habit at a younger age. But I’m thankful everything I have experienced has led me to practising this habit now. It’s my reminder that Allah was looking out for me. It’s not easy to reach such a point, and it does not happen overnight, but that’s okay. It took a lot of me learning and understanding Islam for myself in order to create my personal connection with my faith. 

When I look back on these experiences, I wish I had known the value of good friends and the strong sense of justice in Islam then as I do now.

Perhaps it would have helped me feel less hopeless. Islam places a lot of value in friendships and treating others justly. Kindness is considered a form of charity, evident in the hadith where the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever is kind, affable, and easy-going, Allah will forbid him from entering Hellfire.” (Bayhaqi) As a religion which teaches us peace, this comes as a reassurance and something I wish I understood better growing up.

What I can say from my experiences with friendship fallouts is that finding a concrete solution to deal with them will be nearly impossible, because we all process, understand and regulate emotions differently. No singular set of instructions or techniques are going to fit everybody, but we can create a space for ourselves to find coping mechanisms which work for us as individuals. Here are a few things I’ve learnt from these experiences which I would tell my younger self:

  1. Allah has a beautiful group of supportive, loving, accepting friends waiting for you, which will show themselves to you once this storm of fake friendships and constant breakups passes.
  2. It’s okay to feel angry, upset and even anxious towards the situation. It’s not an easy position to be in by any means, especially at a young age.  You are allowed to experience any and all emotions. Allah gave them to us so we can experience and try to better understand them.
  3. You’re allowed to ask questions in order to better your understanding. You’re not doubtful of the Almighty nor are you dismissive of His plan, you are a child simply longing for signs and answers to better help you navigate a world that wasn’t built to accommodate you.

It’s important to understand and recognise that a friendship’s fallout will never be something that is all your fault or ‘all because of you’.

Stop being so hard on yourself. Most of the time, it’s due to reasons on both sides, or, in a situation where you are being bullied and put into fake friendships, that is not on you. The hurtful behaviour of others is not your fault nor is it a reflection of your character. 

If you’re struggling, and need a recommendation for a starting point, there are helplines available for those experiencing loneliness.

‘Befriending’ is a helpline by AMINA: The Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, which aims to provide support to emotionally or socially isolated Muslim Women. This can serve as a great coping mechanism in the aftermath of a friendship breakup or during the loneliness which may follow suit. It’s also reassuring to know that you’re not alone in your experiences.

When we find ways to  engage with our emotions, we are a step closer to finding the right  coping mechanisms to address them. Such a discovery is individual and unique to you, and though you may not understand every emotion straight away, your emotions remain valid. Do not compare yourself to someone else who may seem to be going far on their journey. Allah has shaped us in a unique manner, hence the diversity in our experiences.

Finding a friendship with my Creator has helped me start to comprehend my RSD, when I’m experiencing it, what might have triggered it and the resources available to help me manage it. It’s taken a lot for me to remotely understand that what my RSD tells me today is not true (i.e. my brain will try to convince me that my current friends dislike me the way others did when I was growing up). I still find myself struggling with this, but knowing that I can first and foremost weep, vent and cry about this to Allah, has proved to be incredibly reassuring, and I hope that others who may be in the place I was growing up can find a sense of reassurance and relief in knowing that.

Iqra Babar

Iqra Babar

My name is Iqra Babar and I’m an Autistic Muslim Pakistani woman with ADHD. I’m a digital artist and advocate and I’m currently studying to become a Primary School teacher at university. Some of my interests include superheroes, comics, anime & manga and anything fantasy related! Twitter: @iqradraws IG: @iqradraws