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Fully Experiencing Ramadan While Struggling With PMDD

by in Ramadan on 11th April, 2023

Ramadan is here. Your period tracking app notifies you that your period should begin in approximately two weeks, and your fluttering excitement for the holy month dies. All you feel is dread—a heavy weight on your chest, lead at the bottom of your stomach. Guilt, for the two weeks of worship you’re about to waste while battling the many symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, feeling of despair and much more – and then another six days or so of your period finally gracing you with its presence. You wonder if this Ramadan will be just like the last and if there’s any point in setting goals or making any preparations. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

PMDD: All You Need to Know

PMDD, a severe form of PMS, is a cyclical hormone-based mood disorder. It generally occurs in the luteal phase—between ovulation and when period starts. The symptoms (several of which include mood swings, anxiety, depression, headache, changes in appetite, feeling of hopelessness, suicide ideation) may occur daily or for a few days during the luteal phase. The cause of PMDD is not fully understood by health experts, but it is classified as a mental health problem due to the symptoms which occur. PMDD affects up to 10% of women with periods and can have detrimental effects on one’s well being if not diagnosed and treated. 

What’s Faith Got to Do with It?

If you struggle with doing daily tasks and completing your acts of worship on a normal day, you might be ridden with guilt and anxiety throughout Ramadan, over the time lost. However, you have to remember that in Islam, acts of worship fall under a broad umbrella. A smile, a good word, taking care of family, giving charity, taking care of yourself, sleeping, choosing to be better when you could have been petty, can all be acts of worship with the right intention. 

The Prophet ﷺ taught us the method of cognitive reframing during difficult times as it reduces the stigma towards suffering. So instead of putting so much pressure on yourself for your inability to go the extra mile due to your health, transform every action you take into an act of worship. An intention doesn’t have to be said out loud, it can be a whisper in your heart. And the beauty of Islam is Allah rewards us for good deeds that we intend to do even if we don’t end up doing them. If you have lofty goals, set them with the right intention, and ask Allah for strength.

If you still find yourself struggling, unable to cope, remind yourself of this beautiful hadith:

The Prophet ﷺ said, “How wonderful the affair of the believer is! Indeed, all of his affairs are good for him. This is for no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is grateful to Allah, which is good for him. And if something bad happens to him, he has patience, which is good for him.” [Muslim]

This is not to downplay your difficulty, but to remind you that you are not alone. Your struggles are valid, and your pain is not in vain. The Prophet ﷺ suffered moments of prolonged grief. Prophet Yaqub spent several years grieving the loss of his son and nearly lost his eyesight. But what they had in common was seeking strength and help through Allah. Your Lord is bigger than your problems. 

Remembering Who Allah Is

Some of the attributes of the One whom we worship include: Al-Alim (The All-Knowing), Al-Basir (The All-Seeing) and Al-Wadud (The All-Loving).

Al-Alim  (The All-Knowing)

Of this name, Al-Ghazali says, “its perfection lies in comprehending everything by knowledge—manifest and hidden, small and large, first and last, inception and outcome.” Surely the One who knows all things knows what you are going through, and He doesn’t forget. He never lets a deed or even an effort or intention go to waste. So, the moment you think there’s no point in putting in effort for Ramadan when you won’t have the energy, never forget it’s about the process not the outcome. The step you take is what matters to Him.

Al-Basir (The All-Seeing)

Allah tells us repeatedly in the Qur’an that He is All-Seeing. He sees us as we are trying, failing and trying again. Al-Ghazali tells us Al-Basir, is the “one who witnesses in such a way that nothing is remote from Him, even what is under the earth.” You don’t need words to communicate with Him.  

Al-Wadud (The All-Loving)

Sometimes the pain, anxiety, depression can become so unbearable, you begin to wonder if it’s a punishment. Shaytan may whisper negative thoughts trying to lead you to despair, to push you to the point of hopelessness. But you have a Lord who is All-Loving, who loves you more than your mother ever could, and only wants the absolute best for you. 

In the moment of difficulty, it might not seem like it but hear me out. The Prophet ﷺ is the most beloved human to Allah, yet he went through the most difficult trials including mental health issues. He ﷺ also tells us in a hadith that, “If Allah wills good for someone, He afflicts him with trials.” [Bukhari]. So, never see your difficulty as a sign of displeasure from your Lord or as a lacking in your faith or religiosity. Know that the One who sent the trial your way will help you out of it every single time. His Love for us is such that He never tires from listening to us or hearing our cries. 

Allow yourself to fully internalise what it means to have an All-Loving, Merciful and Kind God who sees all you’re going through, knows your struggles and loves you regardless. And whenever you find yourself struggling, lift your hands to Him in surrender and tell Him how you feel. How you’d rather be engaged in worship or working or showing up for others, but you are struggling and can’t seem to find the energy or get into the mental space to do so. Accept and acknowledge that this might be your test from Allah, and He will help you get through it. 

How Can You Approach Ramadan Differently?

The most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are most consistent, even if it is small.” [Bukhari]

  1. When you feel too low with no energy to do anything, have the Qur’an playing in the background and/or on repeat. It’s rewarding and can bring calm to the heart. 
  2. Hard as it may be, do not miss your five daily prayers. They force you to move, engage and remind you to call upon your Lord for help. 
  3. Do all you can to take care of yourself, from being mindful of what you eat, taking some time to exercise regularly, to resting when you feel overwhelmed.
  4. Do not bear the brunt by suffering in silence. The Prophet ﷺ encourages us to seek help for whatever we’re going through because “Allah has placed for every illness a cure except old age.” [Bukhari
  5. During your days of good moments, have a transparent conversation with your loved ones about your struggle
  6. Make this dua part of your routine: Allahumma inni a’udhu bika minal-hammi wal-Ḥuzni wal-‘ajzi wal-kasali wal-bukhli wal-jubni wa ḍala’id-dayni wa ghalabatir-rijal. (O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men.) [Hisn al-Muslim 121]

May Allah grant you ease and take care of all that concerns you. Ameen

Suad Kamardeen

Suad Kamardeen

Suad Kamardeen is a British-Nigerian Muslim writer, editor, engineering graduate and a Creative Writing Masters student at the University of Oxford. She is also a founding editor at WAYF journal. She recently launched Qalb Writers Collective, a platform and community dedicated to helping Black and/or Muslim women finish their novel manuscripts and get ahead in the publishing world. She is committed to documenting histories and cultures, as well as impacting people’s lives positively through storytelling. Her young adult novel, Never Enough, won the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2022, and her adult novel was shortlisted for the Stylist Prize for Feminist Fiction 2021. Her writing has also appeared in Bad Form Review, Sapelo Square and The Unheard Stories anthology. You can find her on Twitter/IG: @suadkamardeen