Shannon now embraces what was labelled as psychosis as a divine healing process leading her to her authentic calling

Not understanding her profound experiences as clairvoyant gifts, Shannon was diagnosed with psychosis and put on medication which left her feeling ‘dead inside’.  The shame at receiving this treatment meant Shannon kept herself hidden away until she was validated and supported by mentors who understood what was happening to her.

Like Shannon discovered, when our authentic gifts are allowed to flourish, we can support others to embrace their own; is this part of the shift happening in humanity today? Can stories like Shannon’s finally help to change the narrative around what is perceived in the Western world as ‘mental illness’? …

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In 2008 at the age of 28 my clairvoyance, the ability to access and see beyond the field of ordinary perception, opened in a very intense, fast and fierce way. What seemed like overnight, I was hearing voices that were not coming from anyone here in the physical world, seeing spirits, receiving a flood of messages and accessing other dimensions. Although at the time I had no idea THAT is what I was experiencing. At the time I was living a very normal, typical physical world life with no understanding that clairvoyant abilities truly existed, that they ran in my family, OR that I had those abilities within me.

At the time that this was happening I was trying SO hard to figure it all out, to make sense of it in the physical world sense. Where were the voices coming from? What did the messages mean that I was receiving? They had to be coming from somewhere… from my radio, my phone, my GPS. Surely the voices had to be coming from someone that was hiding somewhere. AND THE more I tried to “figure it out” the more my mind ran non-stop, the more chaotic it became and the more I felt truly tormented by what I was experiencing.

For four days straight, 24/7 I was hearing many voices and seeing things that were not of the physical world. I did not sleep at all during this time. I was also seeing people who had passed, were in spirit form and they were communicating with me telling me that I “did not belong here”. I now realize they were telling me I did not belong in their dimension.

This process was initially diagnosed as Psychosis and from a Western medical system standpoint that IS what was happening. Deep within myself I knew there was something much more going on. What the doctors were telling me was just not adding up to what I had experienced. People have asked me if I was taking any drugs during this time. The answer is NO. Although leading up to this time was a period of extreme stress in my life that may have been a trigger for the emergence. I can also look back after knowing what I know now and see several months before the emergence my kundalini energy was rising so strongly. At the time all I knew was that I could run for miles, could sleep very little and had SO much energy. Many times I felt like I needed to bring myself down a notch in order to not be TOO much for others around me and did that by drinking alcohol. I also know now that when I took the alcohol away and started to clean out my system after a few months of experiencing the kundalini energy rising, that is when my clairvoyance opened so intensely.

I was admitted to the hospital after being taken to the ER after 4 days of trying to navigate this intense experience. I was hospitalized for 10 days and medicated for 6 months after this experience. That time was one of the darkest times of my life as I truly could not FEEL anything due to the medication that numbed me completely. I was in zombie-like state some of the time and just getting up to go to work a few days a week as well as eating and sleeping. I was truly just trying to survive and make it through. I also gained a lot of weight quickly from the medications which just added to feeling more lethargic and drained of life force. I was also experiencing a time of deep depression and feeling like I needed to hide away. To those around me it seemed like I was pulling through just fine. But within me was a completely different story. I felt dead inside.

Six months into being medicated an earth angel appeared in my life. My chiropractor who I had been seeing before, during and after this pulled me aside one day and told me he could see I was losing all my life force because of the medications. He said if I was ready to get off of the medications he was going to be the one to help me. I was SO READY and got off all my medications within 3 weeks. I am also very clear I had huge help from my angels, my guides and the spiritual realm during this time. They were so clearly protecting me, guiding me and assisting me in getting off the medications.

My life took a drastic turn once the medications starting leaving my system. My clairvoyance reopened and this time it was in the form of strong overall knowing and clear intuition rather than seeing spirits and hearing all the voices. It was much more manageable when it reopened. The first prominent message I received was to leave my career as a dental hygienist and to go to massage school. I could not deny that guidance and took the appropriate action to do so. I left my career and was in massage school a few months later. This turning point was my entrance into the healing arts and eventually into the profound truth that I am a healer here.

I can’t explain exactly why this happened at the age of 28 but I do know that I was born into this world as a highly sensitive person and have had these clairvoyant abilities buried within me my whole life. Although these abilities had never been expressed, acknowledged or accessed before this time, I can now look back and see the messages and signs that were coming in before the emergence guiding me to leave my career. And I do know now, looking back, that this process was God, the Divine, calling me to take a different path and do the work I came here to do as a healer.

The emergence happened I believe as a catalyst to send me on a powerful spiritual journey, to find another way and to begin to discover my truth as a healer here. The last 11 years have been navigating that journey. For the first several years after the emergence, I still claimed the truth of “mental illness” and kept myself hidden from the world, denying this story as well as all my abilities of clairvoyance. Through a series of divine orchestration, I found my spiritual teachers and other healers years later who could help guide me and allow me to understand that truly I was one of them. I began exploring and strengthening my abilities even more. This has led me to doing powerful emotional healing work with others as well as developing and leading workshops, online programs and training other healers. I am now beginning to speak around the country sharing this story and the wisdom I have gained in order to help others find their power and truth as well. I am also very passionate about supporting the other healers here in coming out of the spiritual closet and assisting them in their RISE.

Shannon Sondrol, Arizona

Find out more about Shannon and her work here: Shannonsondrol.com

Shannon Sondrol is a Healer, Messenger/Channel and Spiritual Teacher – 11 years ago Shannon has the intense experience of her clairvoyant abilities blowing open in a process known as spiritual emergence. Shortly after, she began a powerful spiritual journey into her own healing and understanding her powerful connection to the spiritual realm. She now uses her abilities to speak and teach workshops around the country (USA). She is passionate about guiding others to remember who they truly are on a soul level as well as through their inner healing and spiritual awakening processes.

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Sara knows that the divine path she is walking as a Muslim Psychologist is no coincidence

We are currently seeking stories for our 6th KindaProud Pocket Book of Hope;

Muslims #Emerging Proud through Mental Distress

If you would like further information on how to go about writing your story please CONTACT US HERE 

Dr Sara is no stranger to mental health; she grew up in the grounds of a Psychiatric hospital and ‘returned home’ to learn that this may not be providing the safest of spaces to her fellow Muslims, or in fact, anyone struggling with mental distress. Here Sara bravely shares her journey within the NHS system; it’s downfalls and wisdom about how we might better serve our fellow humans to honour suffering and beliefs as they need to be honoured…

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I remember being 11 years old and vowing that I would never work in a hospital.

Having now spent nearly 20 years working in and out of hospitals I look back and chuckle at the steely determination of that 11-year-old and wonder about fate and destiny and God’s plan.

My parents both migrated to this country and spent their entire working lives as nurses in NHS Mental Health Services. When I was born in the early 1980’s, we were living in nurses’ accommodation, on the grounds of a big old Victorian ‘Psychiatric Institution’. These institutions were often purposefully built in the countryside away from main society (as they felt the people in them should be kept away) but for us it meant living in nice houses in affluent leafy areas.  My parents’ whole lives revolved around this place; their work, their social networks, friends, support, community, everyone was in some-way connected to the hospital. I remember Christmas parties and ward events in which as children we were occasionally allowed in, I was greatly intrigued by this weird and wonderful workplace. It didn’t scare me the way it probably would most children, I always felt honoured to be there, with a strange mix of sadness and excitement and an overwhelming sense that these people, for some reason, really needed to be cared for.

After a brief stint as a chambermaid and then at Sainsbury’s, by the age of 17 I was working as a Care Assistant in a nursing home that my dad helped to manage for adults with severe mental health issues, and have remained in the field ever since. I remember in one of the very first places I worked, I cared for an elderly man who recognised my surname, it transpired that he had been the manager of a ‘psychiatric ward’ that my dad had worked in the late 1970’s.  It was an odd moment for us both, it felt like he had come full circle in the strange way that often happens in life and for me it felt like a validation that I was supposed to be there. I have that same sense now when I think about my career, that in some strange way, I have come back home.

In the years following, I got my degree in Psychology (still not wanting to work in hospitals) and continued working part time in Learning Disability and Mental Health facilities to earn money. I began to understand this world of mental distress a little better, not only by the people I was working with, but by becoming increasingly aware of close family members experiencing mental distress. I became aware of the cultural stigma’s around mental health and when my relative became so unwell that he needed support from outside services, I was faced with a barrier of silence and inaction from the family. I was the only one willing to acknowledge this situation, make difficult decisions, have difficult conversations, and face difficult truths. Looking back at this event I can hardly believe it happened. I attended a conference last year about being a ‘Stranger in a City’ in which it explored the research findings that if you migrate to an area in which you become a minority it is significantly more likely that you will experience serious mental distress. This was indeed what had happened to my relative, along with drug use (to manage the difficult feelings he was experiencing), complicated and difficult family relationships and history, lack of work/study, and social isolation, all created a traumatic concoction which resulted in him experiencing visions and voices of a scary nature. These ‘symptoms’ led to him being sectioned under the mental health act and having a long hospital stay, after which, he went back home to his country of origin. I am grateful to say that he has since reconnected with God and found his spirituality, given up the drug use and found some purpose and meaning to his life and is in a much better place now.

My journey with God started from a very young age. I always felt aware that the world we see in front of us isn’t all that is there. Despite not coming from a religious family, I went to Christian schools and so God was always a positive quiet presence in the background of my home and school life. I taught myself how to pray the Muslim prayers mainly in an attempt to pass my GCSE’s and hoped that if I prayed to Him properly, He would grant me that. My best friend and I were also always slightly intrigued (albeit very scared) of ‘other worldly’ things and would spend many hours wondering what else was out there. Looking back now I would say that I have always been ‘sensitive’ to other things that may be around, and from my Muslim faith I would interpret those things now as being Angels and Jinn, but back then I just had a sense that we weren’t alone. These early feelings solidified my belief in God, but the full connection lay slightly dormant until my late 20’s when it awoke with the jolt of a few difficult years of getting divorced, being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and applying for Psychology Doctoral training.

Having come from a very white middle class area in the leafy suburbs of Surrey to working in some of the poorest parts of East London, I’d had a massive culture shock. As a young naïve Assistant Psychologist, I met a Clinical Psychologist who wore the full length very loose black dress (abaya) and black head scarf (hijab). I had never met anyone like her before. She was my senior; confident, stern, held her own in very intimidating ‘psychology meetings’ and I didn’t know what to make of her. Although I was slightly scared of her I sensed that she saw more in me and made it her job to help me along my journey. I owe it to that sister (may Allah reward her) for gently pushing me onto the ‘formal start’ of my Islamic journey, she bought me my first hijab and I have not looked back since. All this happened at the time of the July 7thbombings in London. Although this had nothing to do with my finding God, everyone one around me thought that the two things were connected. That was the start of a huge identity crisis for me, which is maybe for another book! Not long after this I got accepted onto the Psychology Doctorate course, and so my journey with Islam and God has always run alongside my journey of becoming a Psychologist, the two are very much interwoven.

As I was finishing my Doctorate, I decided to take a post as a Muslim Chaplain in the Mental Health Trust I was working in to begin to bring together my skills as a Psychologist with my faith. This is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done, but it was also one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had (and I’ve worked in some very challenging places!) Although I was employed by the NHS, services generally were not really interested in meeting the religious and spiritual needs of patients in the most important sense. I would see Muslim patient after Muslim patient all in great distress emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. I was there for 5 years and during that time I received large numbers of referrals regarding issues around Jinn, Evil Eye and Black Magic. By this time, I had been working in Mental Health Services for nearly 15 years and what was becoming very apparent to me was that the system we have does not work for the majority of people who use it. In fact, most people with severe difficulties stay in the system for most of their lives, often becoming more unwell from the side effects of the strong medication. I was shocked to find out that there are a lot of research papers and national reports that spell this out in black and white and say that the system is unsustainable and needs to change, it devastates me that even years after many of these reports where published I can see no real change in the culture of how we treat people in distress, and in some situations it is now worse. I was even more devastated to find out that there is also a lot of research to back up another distressing thing I was witnessing daily; that the system is even less likely to work for you (and in many cases abuse and neglect you disproportionately more) if you are from a black or ethnic background. I had become traumatised by years of watching patients in mental distress be treated worse than animals. People were treated like they were a problem, like what was happening to them was their fault, like they were not human anymore, they were neglected in their hours of need, or worse they would be medicated to silence their distress. The knowledge that this was intensified if you happened to look like me or my family, is heart-breaking. Whilst the medication can sometimes help with some of the symptoms, it certainly is not the cure. Every part of my being told me that this was not purely some physical disease, but that these people had gone through – or were still going through- something terrible in their lives and for whatever reason had not recovered. I knew in my heart that the healing would come through listening to and understanding their distress. I also learned that not only was the way that we treat (all) people with mental distress traumatising to me, but that after 20 years I was traumatised by the institutional racism that affects both the patients and me as a member of staff.

As my faith in the mental health system began to rapidly decrease, and my knowledge of more psychological and spiritual aspects of mental health increased, and at a time when I thought I was not going to be able to continue working in the NHS mental health system as it is, I was guided to a model called Open Dialogue. In the 1980’s Finland had some of the highest rates of people who were experiencing severe mental distress; seeing and hearing things that others couldn’t and having unusual thoughts and beliefs, that they decided to try something different to the predominant western model and eventually ‘Open Dialogue’ evolved over the following years.  Whilst I cannot fully explain the model here, I hope to express some of its essence; this model is based on the notion that whatever someone is expressing when they are in severe mental distress – even if we can’t understand them – is meaningful. That the things they see and hear, the strange and unusual ideas and beliefs they have, are connected in some way to a distress or trauma in their lives that they haven’t been able to process and move on from  – essentially they have remained stuck in their distress. This model works with the person and their whole family/network, it’s a model based on equality as humans (removing the clinician as expert dynamic) it seeks to provide help as soon as possible and for as long as the patient and their family need it. The principles are best described in non-technical terms as compassion, mercy, love and kindness – hearing and holding everyone’s different views and distress and pain and providing a space for families to process life’s difficulties, to understand them and begin to heal. My heart knew instantly that this is the way we should be working with anyone in mental distress, it reminds me of the verse;

‘Bismillah ir Rahmaan ir Raheem’, God is the Most Merciful, the Most Kind, the Most Compassionate

…a phrase we Muslims use many times throughout the day but unfortunately rarely practice. Sure enough, over the last 30 years the hospital in Finland has gone from 4 wards down to 1, it has some of the best results worldwide for working with the diagnosis psychiatry calls ‘psychosis’ and have proved that with a model that treats the person (even the most severe) as being in a meaningful state of distress, people who have been unwell for many years have made a full recovery, without the need for life long medication.

Whilst working with Muslim communities I slowly began to make connections with all the things I had learnt in the last 20 years. As a Muslim I believe that every human is made up of a physical body, a life force (Ruh), a spiritual heart (the ‘Qalb’ our control centre that houses our thoughts, emotions, intentions, intelligence, reasoning and direct connection to God- Fitrah) and a soul (nafs – the part that drives the other parts). I believe that part of the test of this life is to learn to control our soul and work on developing it to be the best version of itself as it has equal potential for good and bad. I also believe that we have an enemy called Satan who waits for us at every turn ready to trip us up. As a psychologist I believe that every human (and all its parts mentioned above) are impacted greatly by the events that happen to it, how it experiences life, relationships, love, trauma, God, and that all experiences form lasting effects on the heart, body and soul. If those life experiences combine in a negative way, for example a child is born with a very nervous nature, they are then abused by a person in a position of authority- perhaps a family member – and as they grow older this causes them to disconnect from God and become angry at why God let this happen, Satan continues to whisper negative thoughts about them lowering their sense of self-worth, and then one day they lose their job after many of life’s struggles, or get divorced, or fail exams, or face a close bereavement, what do you think would happen? I think life would become very hard, thoughts would become very dark, and that connection to God becomes clouded – even for people who are praying 5 times a day.

There are themes to the tests in life that God tells us about in the Quran, He will test us with fear, and loss, and death, and poverty, and Satan tells us how he will make it all far worse. A slow build spanning years, an unfortunate combination, and a final straw can make a person who appears on the outside as a ‘good decent Muslim from a good family’ suddenly crack and dismantle from the inside until they are unrecognisable and incomprehensible. If you add to that our beliefs in black magic and evil eye, jealousy and envy, you have the perfect recipe for extreme mental distress.

By now you must be thinking why on earth would God put us through all of this? What is the point? The point is that it is the purpose of this life, to go through pain and distress in order to purify our hearts and souls and connect to God in the purest way fully subservient and humble. This is known as the ‘greater jihaad’ or the ‘great inner struggle of the self’. To pull ourselves back to God despite the things that happen to us. Every pain is to bring us closer to Him, many of my clients have told me that in their darkest days of hearing voices and seeing things was also when they were the most aware of God’s existence, they could feel the other world and often became very religious in those moments.

But I believe there is also another reason for all this distress, that these tests are for us as an Ummah too, and they are here to help us elevate as an Ummah. If our Ummah could learn to treat our brothers and sisters who have severe mental distress with compassion, mercy, love and kindness, we will surely rise to take our status of being the greatest Ummah of all.

Last year, my aunt (in another country) who had lived most of her 50 years in a psychiatric hospital, died. The pain I felt upon her death pierces my heart every time I think of her. I won’t list her traumas here, but you must believe me that there were many. There were difficult family relationships, there was a lack of understanding and an unwillingness from the family to see that they would need to change their ways to heal this, maybe even some black magic thrown in, and suddenly there she was – a teenager seeing things, hearing things, screaming, crying, hysterical and  angry. But also, funny and bright and beautiful, she could speak 3 languages despite having to leave school because of the ‘illness’. She became the ‘ill one’ for decades until finally at age 50 she gave up on life and slowly just stopped living, and God took her soul. The pain for me is on many levels, I have spent my career caring for people like her but could do nothing for her, I learnt a model of treatment that had the potential to heal her but I couldn’t offer her that. I can see all the family issues but am too distant to help. Her once beautiful face taken away by the years of torment and strong drugs will always haunt me, but it also pushes me to keep going.

It is no coincidence that both my parents were mental health nurses and that I was born on the grounds of an old psychiatric hospital, it is no coincidence I have many significant family experiences of severe mental distress, it is no coincidence that I found Open Dialogue in this big wide world, and it is no coincidence that I am sitting here writing this story. I feel connected to my fate and put my trust in God, He has brought me here to this point and will continue to guide me if I ask and listen.

I now march side by side with a growing group of people from all walks of life, all faiths, all colours, all races, standing together fighting to change the western model of mental health care. To remove it from the medical world of diagnosis and drugs and individualistic treatments, to a more holistic compassionate approach which values psychological, spiritual, social, relational, natural approaches to healing alongside medication and 1-1 treatments when needed. An approach which offers space, time, community, and healing. An approach that understands that it’s not just chemical imbalances, or only thoughts and feelings that have been affected but that it is also a person’s connection to God. I believe as a Muslim Psychologist and Compassionate Mental Health Activist that people can lose their way in life’s trauma’s big and small, and they need help from us to find their way back, and that it takes a community and many different approaches to do that. As an Ummah we have to be prepared to hear the horror stories and change our ways, to not judge and condemn, to not ignore or deny, to not mock and ridicule, because none of us (or our families) are immune to experiencing mental distress in any way, but to listen and support, to be just and caring, to give time and understanding, and because;

“Whosoever relieves from a believer some grief pertaining to this world, Allah will relieve from him some grief pertaining to the Hereafter”. Sahih Muslim.

Find out more about Sara’s work here;

www.dr-sara.com (website currently under construction) 

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If you would like further information on how to go about writing your story for the blog please

 CONTACT US HERE 

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Her quest for deeper meaning sadly gained Rachel a diagnosis of schizophrenia

Disempowered by the imposition of ‘care’ from services, Rachel has continued her quest for deeper meaning, and has found her spiritual practices have helped her to more deeply listen to her own suffering and that of others with more patience and compassion.

Rachel’s story is unfortunately not uncommon; services operating from fear and not stopping to give space to the individual’s perspective about their situation before enforcing an intervention. It’s understandable that Rachel’s dietary situation was a cause for concern, but if action could have been taken in a way that Rachel describes below; through a meeting of souls, infused by love and acceptance on both sides, then perhaps medication and diagnosis could have been avoided… 

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In 2014 I found myself feeling lost and desperate for a way out. I discovered that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to live, but I didn’t want to live in the way I was living, thinking, and perceiving.

Then, one day, in order to facilitate my focus on meditation and spiritual study, and also partly to heal my digestive problems, the idea came to me to embark on an extended fast. This idea was validated by accounts I read online of how people had become physically and spiritually stronger and brighter through fasting. And so, for between 30 and 40 days, my diet subsisted of just water and the occasional glass of beetroot juice. I meditated extensively, read spiritual texts, particularly the Vedas and the Dhammapada, and while I began to realise just how much of a challenge it is to tame and train the mind, I also felt as if I had gained a spiritual purpose. Reading the scriptures, I felt a resounding affinity with those from throughout history to today who had embarked on this journey to realise the Self.

Meanwhile, after having had the results back from some blood tests, I agreed to eat again. For the doctor, this wasn’t soon enough, and my family, being concerned about my wellbeing, drove me to hospital. Upon declining medical intervention and then, after feeling I didn’t want to engage with the questions being asked, and consequently failing a capacity assessment, I was then sectioned under the Mental Health Act and detained in a psychiatric unit. From here, I was moved to an eating disorder unit and a feeding tube was inserted into my body. For the first night, I sat upright in meditation as two nurses held down my hands on either side, in case I tried to pull out the tube. This was something I never tried to do. The second day, the psychiatrist approached me about putting me on some anti-psychotic medication. I was shocked. Nonetheless, I explained to him in what I felt was a calm and rational manner why it was neither a helpful nor an appropriate idea. He said nothing and so begun a course of medication which I have been forced to take, on and off, from then and continuing into today. The medication had no discernible impact upon my state of mind, however, particularly in the early days, it did make me incredibly tired. This need to sleep most of the day was, I think, enhanced by what I felt was an excessive eating regime at the eating disorder unit – 6 meals (3 main meals and 3 sugary snacks a day) and if you weren’t completing your meals, then back on the feeding tube it was. The suspicion from the doctors that I had Anorexia was eventually replaced by a diagnosis of Dissociative Disorder. 

Since this first admission to the eating disorder unit, I have been in and out of hospital, both the eating disorder unit, and then, after my husband and I moved somewhere else, to a medium-secure psychiatric unit. The explanation from the doctors is that when I am on the medication I am well and when I come off the medication I fall ill again. For me, this explanation relies on a very narrow and prescriptive definition of what it means to be ‘well’ and does not take account of the validity of experiencing reality in a deeper, albeit sometimes more overwhelming, richer way. One example that I feel is symptomatic of this attitude which confines normality to a particular set of social and cultural standards, is that in the psychiatric unit where I have been a patient a number of times over the last few years, one marker of whether I was ‘getting better’ was whether I wanted or had chosen to (when I was given more freedom of movement) go to the nearby Tesco supermarket. 

In contrast to the strict routine at the eating disorder unit, the psychiatric unit lacked any structure. Nonetheless, by this time, I had developed my own routine of meditation, yoga, mindful slow walking and reading, particularly in the mornings and evenings, which I found helpful. According to the consultant, however, the fact that I was more unresponsive at these times (when I was meditating) was a sign that I was particularly afflicted by my ‘illness’ (which had by this point been re-diagnosed as Schizophrenia). 

Despite the oppressiveness of the situations I have found myself in within the mental health system, light and grace have managed to find ways into my life. In the eating disorder unit, for example, there were a handful of nurses and health care assistants with whom I had some wonderful interactions. They too were embarking on a journey of their own spiritual discovery and so we would share insights together, swap books and interact as equals, as spiritual comrades, in spite of the risk (and one occasion actuality) of them being reprimanded by the consultant for ‘encouraging’ me. Another gift at this time came in the form of being asked by staff at the unit if I would, on occasions, lead a weekly, hour long relaxation group. Leading patients and some staff through improvised guided mediations/relaxation exercises provided an opening for me to channel my wish to be of some support to others. This experience was a real privilege and something that I was able to continue at the psychiatric unit on an individual basis when asked by patients if I would teach them meditation. Perhaps partly because I didn’t want to perpetuate the judgmental tendencies that had been inflicted upon me by certain people, and perhaps also because of meditation having helped me to see my own suffering with more clarity and compassion, I found that more than at other times in my life I had a greater capacity to listen to the experiences of others. This led to several encounters with patients, some of whom had spent decades in psychiatric units, that really felt like a meeting of souls, infused by love and acceptance on both sides.

Although not always so easy, I have found it essential not to become angry or blame those who have led to my repeated detentions. The chances are that those involved are also suffering, and that is something I remind myself I would not want to add to by any ill-will on my part. Of course, I too make mistakes but the more I am able to practice kindness, tolerance, acceptance etc., virtues which arise from daring to look at and experience life deeply, the more I am able to find peace in difficult situations. In this way, I wish to offer encouragement to those who have or are facing similarly challenging situations not to give up on what they know in their heart to be good and true.

In the beautiful words of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh: “Regardless of where you are, let us breathe in and out together, and let the Sun of Awareness enter.”

Have you #Emerged Proud through a diagnosis of ‘psychosis’ or ‘schizophrenia’ and want to join Rachel in having your voice heard about your own perspective of your experience?

To find out how to share your story for our amazing 5th Pocket Book of Hope; 

#Emerging Proud through Psychosis and Schizophrenia 

CONTACT US HERE 

 

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Once a walking contradiction, now Suhur lives with a passion and purpose to help others

It took a brush with the possibility of losing her life for Suhur to realise that she needed to stop hiding her truth behind a facade of perfection and become the mother to her own hurting inner child. Now Suhur reflects back on this painful time in her life as a blessing, as it was the push she needed to change the way she was seeing herself. Whether you choose to share Suhur’s belief that this was God’s work or not doesn’t really matter, what matters is that when we dare to let down our guard and face our deepest, darkest parts of ourselves, as Suhur was brave enough to do, that is where the magic happens…

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It took me a long time to come to a conclusion that Islam as a religion is pure but us as Muslims have faults and are imperfect, especially when we mix religion with culture.

As a 23-year-old Somali Muslim woman I have always known there is a lot of stigma and discrimination towards people with mental and emotional distress.

I think that we live in a culture that values strength and perseverance and has this very naive belief that everyone is born in the same circumstances with the same bodies and the same brains that work the way they’re supposed to work.

The challenges British Muslims with mental distress face within the community is stigma and labelling, disrespect and being ignored and the accusations of not being a good practising Muslim. Also the barriers people from Muslim and Somali – African backgrounds face is the lack of mental health literacy, culture of silence particularly amongst men, and also fear and negative speculation about mental health services and systems

The stigma is the biggest challenge.

Though labelling and stigma attached to people with emotional distress is rather common among other societies also, it is more intense and more evident in communities that hold the kinship network in high regard. In a nutshell, people with mental distress are stigmatised and accused of being incurable. Distress is seen as being precipitated by individuals not being good practising Muslims. Their families are also stigmatised and accused of not raising their children properly and in Islamic ways. People with emotional issues are ignored by the mainstream community members and they are not talked to, assuming that they are worthless, and their talk is nonsense and a waste of time.

I myself suffered from depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety. I constantly felt like a walking contradiction. I had dreams and goals that I wanted to achieve and lots of amazing ideas and plans bursting to come out of me, but I felt stuck and blocked. I couldn’t consistently act on the things I knew would benefit me and the pressure around it all gave me crippling anxiety which slowed me down further. These patterns developed into a guilt so heavy, it made me dislike myself. Disliking yourself is like hell on earth and the worst way to go through life.

There would be days I would close the blinds get a duvet, snuggle up on the sofa or my bed and just look up at the ceiling and wouldn’t move for days. Other days I would be super productive, and nothing could hold me down.

Nobody knew and still till this day some people don’t know that that girl who had a full face of make-up on and with a smile on her face the size of a watermelon was broken deep down inside.

I found myself constantly questioning my purpose and what it was that I was brought into this world to do because I’ve always known it was nothing average.

I attempted to take my own life in 2017; I remember being in the ambulance with the sirens on, racing to the hospital and it raining so heavily. Through the raindrops on the roof of the ambulance I could hear the paramedic saying to my friend as I came in and out of consciousness “Her heart rate is very high” and “she could die” but I didn’t. I am alive for a reason. A purpose. I arrived at the hospital and had my stomach flushed of all the pills I had tried overdosing on. I remember the nurses coming in and saying, “you beautiful girl, why on earth would you do this” and “It will all be okay” all whilst stroking my hair as I looked blankly up at the ceiling avoiding eye contact at all costs.

In the Quran rain is one of the most important factors for life on the earth. Rain carries great importance for all living things including human beings and is a Barakah (a Blessing).

This was my sign. This experience was a blessing. Only lessons and a stronger version of myself was to come from this.

I find such beauty now in being completely broken and rebuilding yourself and that is what kept me going. It was so hard, but I’ve learned it’s all about mastering the balance, you are bound to wobble but it’s how you regain that position that matters.

I truly believe Allah (God) has a plan, is the best of planners and only tests the ones he loves the most.

I’ve never wanted to boast about my suffering of life because there is always somebody who has it worse, I’ve never wanted sympathy. Just for people to try to understand what I am signifying and learn from it. Mental pain can appear less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and can also be harder to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden.

It is time we change the mindset around mental health.

I hope to continue pushing for mental health to be a part of schools’ curriculums and educate young people.

I hope to bring together communities for discussions on this topic and organise events around mental health.

I always knew I would be great from a young age, but I just didn’t know how, now I know it is through helping others by sharing my own experience and breaking this stigma.

Here is a little message to you…

The same month of my suicide attempt, exactly a year later, I had a beautiful daughter and life has been just phenomenal.

Being willing to meet the darkest and deepest part of yourself without any judgement or harshness but being the maternal mother for your inner broken child that the world stepped on is the only way to heal. Giving yourself all the love and light you are desperately seeking outwardly is the only way to heal. The willingness to change the way you see yourself, self-love and putting yourself first is the only way to heal, crying over the old you and welcoming the new you is the only way to heal.

Never give power to the things that broke you or WHO broke you.

Don’t be afraid to step forward and be a better you.

Are you a Muslim who has #Emerged Proud through your own personal struggles and want to join Suhur in speaking out to end stigma and start new conversations within your kinship and beyond?

To find out how to share your story for this amazing Pocket Book of Hope,

CONTACT US HERE 

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Global collaborative opportunity for #Emerging Proud

Dear #Emerging Proud Supporters,
An exciting opportunity has presented itself to us as a collective for this years #EP day celebrations and, more importantly, beyond…

As we are all aware, the world is in crisis… we’re in a process of transformation and it’s up to us to come together to ensure that transformation is a positive one.

We appear to be amidst a shift in human evolution, a shift to a different state of consciousness; from fragmentation to integration where we’ll see society developing into a more collaborative / co- creative organism … It’s time to integrate the #Emerging Proud movement with the wider movement for social change. 

Together

CLICK HERE to read a short document which outlines this opportunity to take #Emerging Proud forwards together into a more collaborative space – we need as many of you in as many geographical locations as possible to help to realise this vision.  Join us! 

Thank you again, so very much for all of your incredible efforts to make #Emerging Proud such a success – I can’t express in words my gratitude.

In solidarity for the shift,

Katie ❤️

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Global Spiritual Emergency Research – Invitation to Participate

*Please note that #EmergingProud does not support differential diagnosis; (ie we do not believe that there is a definitive line between spiritual emergence and ‘illness’, but see spiritual experiences and mental distress more as a complex continuum in relation to trauma), however, we do support research in this field. Please take part in this study if you feel drawn / share with your networks;

*Global Spiritual Emergency Research – Invitation to Participate

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A new research project at The University of Adelaide, Australia, is seeking people who have experienced extreme psychological states/spiritual emergency/transformational experiences for an investigation into extra sensory phenomena.

In our current paradigm we have no road map for extreme psychological states and many struggling to understand their experience may be misdiagnosed as having some form of mental illness. Research into spiritual emergency aims to clarify the differences between spiritual emergency and mental illness.

To participate in this current project you will need a computer or laptop with internet connection and a quiet space where you can work uninterrupted for approximately 35 minutes. Participation will include responding to a few questionnaires about spirituality, unusual experiences and paranormal beliefs. This will be followed by a 10 minute creative visualisation audio track (you will need to wear headphones for this), a simple number generator task and a picture recognition task.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Monika Goretzki PhD at the University of Adelaide for an access code. Monika.goretzki@adelaide.edu.au

Kind Regards
Monika Goretzki PhD
Visiting Research Fellow
The University of Adelaide
monika.goretzki@adelaide.edu.au

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Sophia had to learn to love the person in the mirror in order to heal

Experiencing what we perceive to be a ‘miracle’ can happen to any of us, irrelevant of our religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs. But what it leads us to ultimately is the same thing; self- discovery and self- acceptance; that can be our saving grace as Sophia describes through her own story below. Silently screaming for help through self- starvation at a young age, Sophia discovered that the person she most needed to seek support from was the person in the mirror…

Sophia -2

I have always believed that I was meant for something more, something deeper, something purer, than what I was subjected to.

Although I never quite figured out what that something was.

I have now, and I’m living it every day.

I do not know when it actually all began. What I do know, for as long as I can remember, is that I felt as though there was no place for me in this world. I now no longer feel that way.

I was unhappy for a long time; I remember thinking and feeling one day at only the tender age of 12 years old that I could not carry on any longer.

I started to starve myself, only living on water and crackers. I used to use a newspaper underneath my plate to hide and tuck away my food, whilst I would watch my family eating, talking and laughing. I only started with dinner, eating only breakfast, then one day I just stopped eating. I did not keep count of how many days or months this went on. I remember occasionally looking in the mirror and not recognising myself and feeling incredibly faint all the time. Then one day I caught a reflection of myself as I lifted my top up, I remember all I could see was bones and then I realised my clothes no longer could fit me.

In my world it was the only thing I could control in the midst of all the changes, the loss I suffered and the pain I felt, no one was asking questions. Then one day at the dinner table an aunt of mine demanded that I showed her what was underneath my newspaper and finally my time was up. It was a series of many things that followed, a way that I could only express that I was hurting, and I needed someone to listen to my pain, my trauma, the trauma that I had suffered at such a young age.

The first time that I thought about suicide was at the age of 16. I had a discussion with myself and I convinced myself that this was the only way forward and nothing else was going to get better. I looked at all the pills that I was beginning to take then suddenly I started crying, I started to think about my dad and how he was cruelly taken away from me out of this world, forever gone and never coming back. How much I missed him, how much I wanted him to be part of my life.

Then I started to call on Allah (God) to give me strength for I felt so weak and at only 16 so much had happened to me and looking at another 16 years of my life felt impossible to endure. I cannot explain in words the events that followed next. I was not really spiritual, but I believed in Allah and I certainly believed in miracles. I felt a wave of comfort envelope me and I sat up, for I do not know how many hours. I just sat, and cried until I slept. I believe that Allah saved me that night and I know that He wanted me for better things.

After a few years in therapy, working thorough my trauma from my childhood, more than sixteen years later, I now feel a lot happier. I have two beautiful children whom I absolutely adore and love myself for allowing them to have me as their mum.

Mental distress is not like someone will come with a magic wand and wipe away all the past and the pain it leaves behind with unbearable memories. My mental distress was something that I needed to accept and work through with a professional and recognise that despite the desperation of a quick fix, I needed to value me and be patient with the healing process because I promise you, just like a broken bone heals, your heart will heal to. I needed to love myself. I needed to understand that I was broken, I was hurt at a young age and it was not my fault. Allah had given me a chance to tell others that there is nothing to be ashamed of, your brokenness is what makes you who you are. It was and it is a part of me and although at times things will be difficult as life has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, it does and will get better and the only way when you are down is up.

There were times when I felt ashamed of carrying these wounds as a Muslim, as a practicing Muslim. Praying all my prayers attending sermons but still feeling hurt, angry and wounded. But I learnt after some time, that Allah loves everyone broken, wounded, hurt, abused. He (Al Wudud) which is one of Allah’s 99 names which means (the most loving) loves us all in whatever size, form or emotionally distressed we are. It was the person in the mirror that struggled to love me and accept what we had been through but without those experiences, the pain, I would not be who I am today. 

I was quickly reminded of how fast you can fall back down and not want to get up again, if you do not keep up with the healing process. But I did get up and I did it in style by choosing myself and loving me again, and taking better care of me, and Islam is all about self-care and loving yourself!

Do you identify as a Muslim having been through emotional distress which has made you stronger? Would you like to join Sophia and the other brave voices aiming to end this silent stigma and #Emerge Proud for your own community and humanity united?

CONTACT US HERE to find out how to share your story for our 6th Pocket Book of Hope;

Muslims #Emerging Proud through Mental Distress 

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