Research opportunity into non-ordinary states of consciousness – have your voice help to create necessary change


RESEARCH STUDY

I am working on my PhD dissertation research study in clinical psychology with working title- 

The Misdiagnosis of Transpersonal States of Consciousness

I plan to carry out research over the next few months looking at people’s lived experiences of being labelled and given a psychiatric diagnosis for their transpersonal experiences. I would like people’s voices to be heard as they describe and label their own experiences. 

If you are interested please see the attached flyer and contact me. If you know of anyone who may be interested, can you please pass this along? All interviews will take place online and will be anonymous.

Thank you for your contribution,

Denise Maratos

Ph.D.(c), Pacifica Graduate Institute

Ed.M., Harvard University

To take part please email: denisecmaratos@gmail.com

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Our inspirational Muslim Rep Ayan re- emerges with part 2 of her story after a very challenging year

Since we started discussions as the publishing team for our next publication:

Muslims Emerging Proud through Mental Distress before COVID-19 hit, all of us have experienced big life transitions and it therefore made sense to share some of these shifts at the end of the book.

We love the woman Ayan is becoming, full of wisdom, empathy, compassion, hopes and dreams, but more importantly, so does she…

I continue to suffer, learn, and change. Healing is an ongoing journey.

This is part 2 of my story. It is striking to see how much your life can change in a year or two.

Life itself is a journey that must be travelled despite how unpleasant the road might be. I am learning to trust the journey even though I may not understand it sometimes. The reality is that not everyone will understand your journey, especially if they have never walked a similar path.

My path to spiritual awakening mainly began in my mid 20’s, with my traumatic experience of spiritual abuse by a fake ‘spiritual healer’ in 2012, as mentioned in part 1 of my story. Allow me to explain further how this person abused his position. Not only did he electrocute my hands whilst reciting some verses from the Quran, but he also made me drink something, smell a particular scent. He asked for my full name, my mother’s name. He was verbally abusive, claiming that he was talking to the evil spirit that was inside me. I recall a moment when he would ask me to call upon someone other than Allah, which I remember refusing because it is Shirk. I recollect how I kept repeating the Shahada, which is the Muslim declaration of faith that expresses the belief that “there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”. 

Although not diagnosed, I experienced CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms many years after this spiritual abuse. Until today, I often experience flashbacks, dreams, even suddenly smelling the scent he made me smell. A decade later, my knowledge and understanding of mental health and life, in general, is entirely different. During this time, I fell in and out of experiencing depression, anxiety and symptoms that could not have been medically explained.

Looking back, I can now say this significant event in my life was like a re-birth event to my authentic self. I started waking up to connect with my authentic self reasonably late in life, but I guess it is better late than never. My journey to self-growth began when I started to look for reasons for my mental health distress.

I have been on a healing journey, and I was fascinated to find answers to my pain and address it at many different levels. It almost felt like I was on a mission to “cure” myself, or at least live a more fulfilling life full of inner peace and contentment. I went through the internal conflict of understanding the cause of my suffering and how I could be ‘cured’? Which now, looking back on this itself, caused me anxiety. As a Muslim, my family was adamant that the cause of my suffering was black magic or the evil eye, and I understood that it was both mental health distress and some elements of the afflictions of spiritual issues. I always make dua (supplication) to Allah (God) to help me understand his qadr (decree), not just to ‘unterstand’, but for guidance, manifestation and Allah to bless me with Hikmah (wisdom).

As part of my healing journey, I found somewhat of an answer.

I was fortunate to participate in a 12-week course in 2019 run by Dr Sara Betteridge from the BME Access service in East London Foundation Trust, held in the Maryam centre East London mosque. The main course content included the Qalb (Spiritual Heart), the Aql (Ability to reason) & the Nafs (Soul), how they function, how to nurture them and how to protect them. Understanding mental health, the impact it has on the heart, mind, and soul. Psychological approaches to dealing with mental health complement Islamic approaches.

As a person who experienced childhood and adulthood complex trauma, I have not come across any Islamic institute or organisation that brings these two approaches together, providing a holistic approach for Muslims. Throughout the 12 weeks, I felt connected and confident that my life was not just empty rituals.

Even though I had a brief understanding at the time, what struck me on the course was the concept of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), understanding thoughts and emotions and thus our behaviours. How we view ourselves dictates how we see and interpret the world. I recognised that negative self-perception might also dictate a negative cognition perception of Allah.

I recall feeling empty, lonely and hostile about who I was. Looking back now, I believe this was due to the lack of a sense of Self. When I know myself and live aligned to my values and beliefs, I have strong connections to myself and others, and I have passion, drive, purpose, and life feels full and worth living. However, in 2011-2016, I lacked a sense of Self which led to the opposite. When I did not know who I was as an individual, my mood, purpose and goals drastically varied with my changing circumstances.

The course helped me increase my self-confidence, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, knowing my purpose and motivation. It was a profound introductory course that increased a deeper level to my relationship with Allah (God) and my relationship with myself.

It has brought a formula for me to check in with myself consistently and reflect on what is happening with my Qalb (heart), Aql (reasoning), and understanding Shaytaan and how he works and my nafs (soul). Using Allah’s beautiful names and attributes in my duas (supplications), especially when I feel like my qalb (heart) is feeling low or the overwhelming feeling of my emotions, feelings and thoughts.

I gained many insights, and one of them is knowing that Islam as a faith is very much a heart-centred one. As a Muslim, I found the holistic approach in understanding and bringing together western psychology and the Islamic perspective of the ‘Self’ to be a life-changing experience.

Trauma

This section is so dear to my heart, and at times challenging to process. It took me months to write it up. You see, trauma is not about the sinister events that happen to us but rather what happens inside us due to the traumatic events. I would love to go into details of my difficult childhood and adulthood trauma, but I believe the time is not suitable as I am still processing the pain it has caused me and perhaps it is for another book soon.

Trauma lies on a continuum, and it looks different for people because we all have different lived experiences. When it comes to mental, emotional, spiritual and physical distress, we often think, what is wrong with people instead of what has happened to them? What is their story?

Carrying childhood trauma might trigger other adulthood trauma, and throughout my life, this has caused me to disconnect from my true authentic Self. Trauma tends to disconnect us from our feelings, body, and sometimes to the world around us, to the point I went through dissociative experiences. 

When I experienced pain in my childhood, the pain was there, and I had no one to share it with. This was due to many reasons, simply because I was just a child and not knowing what was done to me had been wrong. Also, from the trauma being normalised to be something that is done culturally or even to the point that religion is used to justify it, when now in my adult life having done my research, it is far from what Islam promotes. Another childhood traumatic incident I experienced again involved not understanding what was done to me was abuse. It came with ‘shame’ that I carried throughout my life, thinking it happened because I allowed it to happen. Shame (Ceeb in the Somali language) is a killer for childhood traumas. I carried this experience with me subconsciously and recently kept saying to myself, “if only I’d put up a fight, if only I had run away, if only I have done this/that”.

Reflecting on this, I do not think I got traumatised because I was wronged, but I got traumatised because I was alone with my hurt.

Taking my pain to therapy has been extremely difficult but yet rewarding at the same time. I recognised that there was a strong link between my spiritual abuse and my childhood trauma experiences. It was clear and made total sense why I tended to experience postpartum depression every time I gave birth. When I made these trauma connections, it opened another door to healing. Through self-work and therapy, I realised the importance of re-parenting my inner child alongside parenting my two princesses, having self-kindness and self-compassion.

The awareness of my traumas was essential because once I understood it, especially the complex childhood trauma, it made me more compassionate to myself as I was just a child and did not have the right help or support. When we start the journey of being compassionate with ourselves, not only does it change us, our children, our families, it changes communities and the broader society at large.  

It is not the question of just getting rid of these childhood trauma memories, as my experiences have been invalidated, and many loved ones have told me, “it is in the past; forget about it and move on”. I wish it were that easy. Do you think people choose to keep their traumatic memories and want to suffer in life?

We need to see people beyond their trauma and pain. Yes, sure, our life experiences shape us for who we are today. However, just because I choose to voice myself and help anyone that experiences mental or emotional distress, it certainly does not mean that my trauma and lived experience define who I am.   

I am now fortunate to have gained self-awareness, tools to aid me in being connected to the real me by re-learning my values and beliefs, shaping my identity and the ideal person I want to become.

I do not see myself as a ‘victim’ to my past traumatic experiences anymore.

People who have experienced trauma often represent their life as being single-storied. I was living a life as if I was trapped in a single dimension of my life, one that promoted a sense of shame, despair, depression, emptiness and hopelessness. Through my studies and lived experience, I learned that we do not respond to what happens to us in life, but we react to our perception of what happens. It is with our minds that we create the world.

Yes, I still feel anxious or have low moods here and there, but healing comes with something inside of me that is constantly changing for the good. Part of that could be the ‘shame’ I carried due to my childhood trauma, spiritual abuse, or mental distress itself is slowly dissipating. When we connect to the fact that the source of change is within us, we gain agency and learn that we have self-autonomy and the power to make positive changes in our lives.  

The beauty of healing is that once I started to reframe things, re-author or re-story my life, through this book, through therapy, through meaningful conversations with different people that supported me to reclaim my life from the effects of my trauma experiences. I began to live my preferred way of life.

I have always had this urge to find the courage and be brave enough to step into my past to find some answers. The thing is, stepping into my past without it consuming my present moment helps me in shaping my future. During the days I experience anxiety or low moods, it has an impact on my overall health. Those are the days that I need to step into the neglected parts of my life, stories of hope, skills, significant relationships, and the things I value and hold precious to despite my lived experience of distress.  

I learned and Changed….

Covid-19 – Grief and Loss

2020 has been a year of testing for everyone, as the world shared the experience of the global trauma of the Pandemic. It highlighted for me a verse in the Quran, Surah Baqarah (chapter 2), verse 155, where Allah (God) says, “And certainly, we shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Saabiroon (the patient).” I remember I kept thinking what this verse meant for me, and it made me realise that as much as we as human beings do not like the suffering of pain or loss of any kind, it is inevitable. 

Like any life event, the pandemic came with its positives, such as bringing communities and the world together. However, it also came with its not so pleasant experiences, such as the death of loved ones, grief, loss of jobs, domestic violence and the rise of mental and emotional distress.

During these uncertain times, I was fortunate to get a promotion in the NHS as a Senior Peer Support worker. I managed to start a postgraduate/ master’s course in Integrative Counselling and Coaching with the University of East London. Studying during the pandemic had its challenging moments. Still, it has granted me hope and patience as it reminded me to treasure life, loved ones, and my ultimate passion for helping others.

I faced many personal challenges during this period. I was stuck at home, where I wore many hats, such as working part-time from home whilst homeschooling and studying. I was not just experiencing anxiety through distorted cognition, but I also experienced it as bodily sensations daily, which I could not seem to switch off from. What helped me was going for a walk, usually with a friend or alone, whilst listening to personal, self-work or spiritual development podcasts.

Many of the psychological theories I have learnt assisted me in persevering in my studies and becoming a better person. Being on an integrative therapy course has allowed me to explore many different modalities that are unique and useful in their way. I would often reflect on my own lived experience. It was an experiential course for me. The counselling approach looks at the underlying issues a person may present. They may want to explore their experiences, make sense of it by addressing their internal processes, and reflect on the causes of their issues, therefore addressing them. Additionally, people may also want to make tangible behavioural changes. The coaching approach, alongside counselling approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy and solution-focused brief therapy, will enable someone to create and sustain the desired change. I am interested in working with modalities such as person-centred, Existential, Psychodynamic, CBT, and solution-focused therapy. Gestalt therapy also stands out due to my interest in how the body and mind are sometimes linked to trauma. I also have a great interest in Islamic Counselling, so my working model is a work in progress, and my healing, strengths and limitations will undoubtedly evolve with time.

I acknowledged how resilient I was as a person, despite going through anxiety, grief, the loss of close relationships, dealing with feelings of not being good enough as a trainee therapist, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, inadequacies and incompetence.

I used to associate grief with losing someone through death, but I have come to learn that it is more than that. Grief is a natural process that our body goes through after the experience of any loss. Reflecting on the spiritual abuse I encountered, it was a loss of self-identity that I experienced. Unfortunately, I never knew how to grieve, and it just built up. This could be due to the way I have been conditioned growing up. In my culture, I have always been taught to act strong and move on.

I found the grief of the relationship breakdown of some family members and friends at different times during the pandemic very difficult to deal with. I realised that time is too precious to play around with negative people. So, I mustered up the courage to part ways with a few of them. Cutting people out of my life is never easy, but I found I was much better off for having done it. I learned that taking time out from friends, some families, setting boundaries for relationships, and stepping away from drama does not make you a bad person. It is great to be a support system for your friends, but it is equally important that I took care of my mental health and my own needs in the process.

However, it hit me that I was cutting people off left, right, and centre… I started to look within and realised all the people I had to cut off in my life had many things in common. It was an awakening for me to look deeper and go inward by looking at where I contributed and where I was going wrong in repeating similar relationship patterns.

One of the key learnings for me was again my relationship with setting boundaries. Until today I often find it difficult and uncomfortable in setting boundaries. I explored further and recognised that I was suffering from people-pleasing and codependency. Codependency is usually rooted in childhood, and codependent relationships are a response to unaddressed past traumas. I was raised in a home, a culture where emotions were ignored or even punished. When certain older family members felt a feeling, we all shared it. This phenomenon of codependency still blows my mind. With all the things I have been through and conquered, I still have to manage this default behaviour pattern I learned in my childhood. Recovering from codependency is one of the trickiest parts of healing. I constantly find myself adapting to others’ moods, trying to please or not upset anyone, fearing being disliked or abandoned if I set a boundary.  

Moods can be a form of mindset that can impact our thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. Besides, moods are problematic since they last longer. I have been experiencing moods of confusion and disappointment due to the fallout with some family and friends. I felt hurt and taken back by what they did and their use of words. A metaphor to best describe this mood is the image of a cage or the pain of a shooting arrow, which could be due to my fixation with the situation. The more I pushed away from these uncomfortable moods, the more intense it became. Therefore, accepting it for what it is was my first step. The interventions that supported me to shift my mood and made me feel at peace were mindfulness and daily prayers. Making use of daily prayers, which is a form of meditation, helped me look within and accept myself for who I am. After my meditation and making duas (supplications), by talking to Allah (God) about the deep pain of my heart, using his beautiful name Al-Wadud (the most loving), I often felt a sense of peace and contentment. When I am at ease, I tend to have unconditional positive regard for myself, self-compassion, and others whenever I fall short. A metaphor for this mood amended to a more pleasant mental image of a peaceful river. I feel like I am more conscious now in my life than I have ever been. I am a lot less anxious, and I enjoy taking things slowly, taking care of myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually, having self-compassion. Furthermore, I always look forward to doing some deep breathing and mindfulness.

These practices have helped me improve my relationship with Allah and myself. My family and friends’ relationships have allowed me to view this life and the hereafter in a more meaningful and positive way.

Based on losing my close friends, I used self-reflection to reflect on what kind of ‘thinking’ got in my way of reasoning during our arguments. I think it was a bit of both inert and biased thinking. I may have jumped to conclusions by assuming the reasons for their actions. This could be due to similar past experiences. Moreover, biased thinking was based more on my intuition and feeling rather than logical thinking. Biased thinking made me feel like I was right, and therefore they were incorrect, which led me to react in a way I usually do not. Research indicates that reasoning with our intuition can lead to fast and spontaneous reactions, whereas slow, controlled, reflective reasoning is more helpful. With distance and self-reflection, I felt a lot calmer and ready to apologise sincerely on my behalf. I learnt to take time out to take some deep breaths and become conscious of how I was thinking. Distancing helped provide space and give me time to self-reflect and gain a complete picture of a situation. 

You see, new grief experiences trigger older unaddressed, unprocessed grief experiences. I learnt that there is a difference between experiencing grief and processing grief. I think grief hits us inside and is an energy that we may not know what to do with. The part of processing grief I found helpful was allowing the feelings (which were extreme at the moment) to pass through me. When I allowed these feelings, I reflected on what emotions came up for me, and it helped when I named it and accepted it for what it was. My experience of grief made me realise that grief does not come with just a single emotion, but rather it comes with many strong feelings and emotions all at the same time, such as sadness, hurt, despair and rejection.   

Self-awareness allows me to keep an eye on my inner as well as my external world. Although it requires effort and time, it can be powerful and valuable in many ways. I usually find it helpful in having meaningful conversations and expressing myself. Self-disclosure and showing vulnerability have helped enhance self-awareness and genuinely finding my authentic Self. Knowing myself and having self-awareness helps with connecting with my feelings and emotions. Understanding the difference between feelings and emotions gives me more choices and more control of my behaviour.

Emotions are reactions to our feelings. Being aware of my emotions and dealing with them by properly channelling them aids me to be an emotionally healthy person.

I do not think emotions and feelings are negative or positive. Society and cultures make us put them in boxes. I believe this because it is part of human nature to experience these emotions depending on where we are at in our lives and what happens to us. Emotions and feelings are signals. I think of them as messengers that are helping me move through the world in a responsive and integrated manner. I allowed my emotions to flow freely, which became easier to view from an observer’s perspective, which helped me manage my emotions and bounce back to reality.

When we are young or when we go through trauma, we can often get cut off from these messengers and not understand what they are there for, so we can misinterpret sensation or different emotions or thoughts. I have learnt how to relate with everything that comes through my perceptions as messengers trying to give me messages on how to respond in the immediacy of the moment in any given moment.

Moreover, again as we go through life and personal experiences, sometimes family or the culture we grow up in can distort how we receive those messages, so we are not seeing them. We can learn how to relate to our emotions like anger, sadness, grief or pain as things we are trying to get rid of. My approach is first to learn how to welcome and listen to them rather than get rid of them. I found that welcoming means being willing to be with what is until it has delivered its whole message, and I can take action in my life that leads to that deep sense of healing that I am looking for.

I often unconsciously suppress my emotions and wish for them to go away. Still, I have learned that they usually come back more prominent, so I have chosen to approach it differently, welcome it, and be mindful of what is going on for me, mind, body and soul.

The Quran very clearly shows us that feeling our emotions is a foundational step to vulnerability. I believe that in the Muslim community, we need to stop incorrectly correlating complicated feelings with ingratitude. Someone can be feeling intense pain and still be grateful. We see this with the examples of all Prophets. A great example of this is in the story of Yusuf, Chapter 12 in the Quran. Prophet Yusuf’s father, Prophet Yaqub, when he suffered the loss of his son, Yusuf, and his eyesight, Prophet Yacub says, “I complain of my anguish and grief to Allah” (Quran 12:86). The prophets did not hide from their emotional states, so why should you and I?

As mentioned before, I have been focusing on personal development for the past decade, but my therapy training has pushed me to go deeper and do more profound inner work. I have also experienced the benefit of having personal therapy, which has made me reflect on how difficult it has been for me in doing self-work on my own. It helps when you have someone alongside you on your journey who listens, validates and makes you feel heard. This is the work I hope to attain with my future clients by providing a safe space full of non-judgmental, unconditional positive regard, warmth, generally holding space for a person.

I enjoyed learning Gestalt theory and Somatic experiencing, particularly body awareness, staying with feelings, emphasising staying in the present moment (here and now), accepting ‘what is’, and addressing unfinished business.

Other counselling theories such as Transactional Analysis (TA) have helped me improve my personal and professional relationships. I feel like my relationship with my children has improved, and this is due to learning about the PAC model in TA. I seem to be more self-aware of my thoughts when interacting with others. I can now bracket any unrelated thoughts a lot better than I ever did when listening to someone. I used to rush into solution focus, but I have learned that ‘being’ is ‘doing’. Sometimes people want someone to listen to them and for them to feel heard. It is that simple; people yearn for a safe space, where they feel listened to, heard, validated, not judged for their lived experiences. They have their answers and solutions within them.

I learned from studying CBT to identify and modify negative automatic thoughts, core beliefs, and cognitive distortions. For example, going back to my experience of grief, I reflected on my thought patterns, and I noticed that whenever I felt strong emotions or feelings, I had black and white thinking and catastrophising. There are times when I acknowledged that certain feelings were based on assumptions and communicating to others by speaking from an ‘I feel’ perspective being vulnerable and transparent helped me to figure this out. This could be due to my past experiences and being triggered by unprocessed, unconscious feelings and emotions.

I see the benefit of journaling and using a thought record to identify my thoughts in a really logical and planned out way, analyse them and then move through to reframing or thinking differently about them. Journaling helped me to focus on an underlying emotional response rather than my experience. It also serves me to figure out emotions that I likely suppress or forget. There is no sense in just being aware of my inner world and not doing anything about it or knowing the reasons for my actions and behaviours. I found this intervention to be as powerful as self-disclosure in a trusting environment because I was writing from an open, unbiased observation of my feelings and awareness, which led me to figure out the actions I needed to take.

The names and attributes of Allah I have chosen to share in this book that has kept me alive even when I felt like I had no one that understood, heard, listened or validated me are As-Samee ‘The All-Hearing”, Al-Baseer “The All-Seeing” and Al-Aleem “The All-Knowing”.

Allah (God) tells us throughout the Quran that He is As-Samee, Al-Baseer! He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. I opened my heart and let myself be sufficed by Him seeing me and hearing me.

Humans can fail me. But there is such great power in being seen and heard by my creator, who knows me better than I know myself. Regardless of what I am going through, where I am at or how I feel, just knowing that I am always under Allah’s love and His watchful eye gives me Hope. My grief and tears in this world are heard and seen. My story, my past, my struggles from the day I was born until now, my hopes and dreams, the words I do not share with anyone, the heartbreak that feels heavy to carry, my efforts have all been heard and seen by Him.

He is Al-Aleem, “The All-Knowing’. 

I want to share my story hoping that I might return that small place of refuge to someone else. Right now, some people suffer in silence with their mental and emotional distress, trying to figure out how to receive love, and we as a society tell them they are “too much.”

I was fortunate to be one of the nominees for the Women’s Inclusive Team, International Women’s day 2021 wall of fame.

Despite the grief, I was experiencing it at the time of this picture. I am still astonished at how I have managed to show up, represent women, inspire and create HOPE.

My grief experience, mental health distress does not define me.

My resilience to continue serving myself and others even though my struggles exist is what defines me.

I have had the opportunity to get to know myself on a deeper level, and I am forever grateful to Allah for all experiences, for indeed, there is always good in Allah’s Qadr. It may be challenging, bitter and complex while in hardship but there is always ease that comes with it.

I long for a place where we could be more open about the dysfunctional history most of us share and believe we should have an open dialogue that is not drenched in shame of our lived experiences of mental and emotional distress.

My hope for the future is to create safe spaces where mental health distress is normalised, breaking the silence and stigma around mental health issues. My lifelong goal is to set up an organisation to work with the community by counselling individuals and provide coaching sessions.

My journey has taken years, tears, and hours of reflection and mindfulness, and I hope my story can bring freedom to others and the knowledge that they are not alone. I have been granted some of the most gracious companions that life has to offer, who had treated me with the delicacy and love I needed when I was suffering the most.

This is dedicated to them.

About our Rep Ayan 

Being the only child and raised in a single-parent household as a Muslim, Black African British female in London, Ayan faced many challenges growing up. Like any teenager, Ayan spent this part of life experimenting with the world and what it had to offer her. In search of her identity, she often struggled with the question “Who am I, what is the purpose of life?”.

Ayan’s attempt to live a lifestyle more typically associated with western culture was met with rejection and disapproval from her Somali Community. It was not until her lived experience of mental and emotional distress that she embarked on a spiritual journey of self-discovery and personal development, bringing her closer to living her authentic self and rebuilding her faith in Islam. 

Ayan has a fascination with wisdom, insight, being genuine, connecting with others without judgement and having deep thoughts. Ayan has chosen to progress her career and personal development by studying her Postgraduate/Masters in Integrative Counselling and coaching. Today, Ayan is fully confident in being a Muslim, British, Black African, Somali female, and she loves the woman she is becoming, full of empathy, compassion, hopes and dreams.   

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Sophia is back out of a dark tunnel and journeying onwards to share part 2 of her story for the Muslim’s Emerging Proud Pocket Book of Hope

You may remember our Muslim Pocket Book team member Sophia who shared her inspiring story of emergence last year. So much has happened since we started this publication process and both Sophia and our Rep Ayan decided that they’d like to share an update to show how transformation is not a linear process, but full of life’s challenges to overcome. You can read part one of Sophia’s journey via this link:

https://emergingproud.com/2020/02/10/sophia-had-to-learn-to-love-the-person-in-the-mirror-in-order-to-heal/

Here she shares the next stage of her painful journey of being forced to STOP, surrender and continue learning …

The journey of life is like a fast train, going in and out of tunnels: we and everyone around us has our own individual stop. For some of us we don’t get off the fast train until something forces us to stop. This heeding comes in different forms, whether it’s trauma, a physical illness, hiccups in life or an overwhelming sense of anxiety about life itself. I am sure there are many more reasons that others have experienced this, which I have not been able to mention. My personal force came in the form of the Pandemic: the dreaded lockdown, the anxiety of the uncertainty contained it in all, and the world coming to a halt.

COVID-19 trickled down its avalanche into the world causing so much devastation and loss. It hit hard, it almost brought me to my knees, and I had to redefine the ideas I had created in my head about life and my recovery. I lost all of my coping mechanisms and I felt stripped from everything I had worked so hard for during my therapy years. Even the self-help books that I had collected and invested in throughout the years were not helping me. My anxiety reached a record high level, a level that I’d never experienced before. I became scared of death. I feared losing my loved ones and I found myself crying almost every day and desperately watching the news and reading stories, hoping to have a sense of an end to the pandemic. Conversations around family became increasingly difficult, and I felt somewhat disconnected from everything, everyone and even myself.

During these days I would find myself crying about the loss of thousands of people dying from Covid-19. Then suddenly, I felt like I was grieving the death of my father all over again. This time my grief focused on how he’d died, the way he was killed. The murder itself, the individuals that were involved.

My heart was aching, I wanted and demanded answers. But there was no one I felt I could turn to, to answer all of the questions that were running through my head. Why did they kill him? I tried to bury everything I was feeling, and I became mute once again. Thoughts were racing through my head, but I did not dare to whisper a word to anyone.  I felt ashamed to still be grieving my father’s death as it was so many years ago, but the pause in our lives had forced me to face the pain that was simmering deep inside me. One of my addictions was to keep busy, working all of the time: if I was not working then I was studying something deep and intense. All this I now realise was to escape my feelings and the reality of my pain…

Father’s Day Poem

To him who I never got to know, or hug, or tell him how much he is missed every day!

This one day dedicated in your name cannot justify a daughter’s love for her absent father.

All the missed first days have become dried tears, my graduation, when mum said you would be proud, what about my wedding day where you never got to give me away?…

For all the daughters and sons, waking up with a heavy heart, for the fathers whose children do not value their worth, to my mother and all of the women who played my father’s role, you are so loved!

May Allah mend all, the broken hearts of absent love that never got to blossom…

I started re-visiting old habits of suffering in silence, but I had another battle to fight. I started experiencing severe symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). My hands felt like they were burning and hammered down. Electric shocks started from my shoulder and travelled all the way down to my fingertips. The symptoms began only at night, but then they started every minute of every day during the lockdown. One afternoon the pain was so unbearable that I started to think the worst. Doctors were not seeing patients, and everything was shut down. I felt trapped and suffered a range of emotions. Even after explaining to family and friends, no one around me knew what CTS was. For them my hands looked normal, no injury, no broken bones so they could not understand why I was in so much pain. It reminded me a lot of when we suffer mental distress and because it cannot be seen and sometimes not heard, our loved ones’ struggle to understand the impact it has on us.

Emotional Pain

Emotional Pain

Cannot be seen…

Cannot be heard…

Sometimes it is ignored

But it paralyses you

Comes to your silent hours

When the world sleeps, yours is awake…

Emotional pain

Lies deeper than the scars,

Deep beneath the seeping wounds,

Emotional Pain

Takes longer to heal

But it is worth beginning the process

Do not let your pain overwhelm your soul

When you are ready someone is waiting to take your hand and walk beside you through this emotional journey.

Once again, I started to hear the same advice I have heard before; “go to a spiritual healer, you are doomed if you do not, this must be the evil eye”. I felt suffocated, almost like I could not breath. I started to open up to my best friend and my sister, I started to express how I was feeling. The physical pain felt easier to describe. Still, I could not express my grief and how I was feeling about my father’s death.

 We started to read up about CTS and I was able to match all of the symptoms that I was reading about to the ones I was experiencing.

Then one day, my friend found me on the floor crying, I felt so overwhelmed. I started opening up about my father and the anger I was feeling. I started reading stories of other families whose loved ones had been killed. I started turning to Allah (God) and seeking guidance through my prayers. My sister suggested I try to go to a private treatment about my CTS, so I came across a consultant who was a specialist in CTS. This is how my journey of physical and emotional healing began.

I started therapy again and I knew that I could take my pain safely to my therapist. After every session I had a good cry and felt like something in me was starting to let go of all the negative emotions. I started talking about my father and I started to understand that I never really gave myself time to grieve and that grief itself came in so many different emotions. For me it was denial, I was still waiting for him to appear one day and that the news about his death had been mistaken identity. Not attending his funeral did not give me a chance to say goodbye and those feelings of never being able to meet him again paralyzed me. For me accepting the loss, my loss that Dad was gone, and in this life, I was never going to see him again. I started to accept this, and I started to let go, and I placed my hope in meeting him, one day, on the other side.

After months of being on the waiting list, I had surgery for my CTS. The first night I came back home from hospital I slept like a baby. The first sound sleep that I had in almost a year. It is amazing what sleep can do for the mind and body. I also recognised this because my CTS caused nerve pain: all those negative emotions that I was carrying around, buried deep inside, must have escalated the physical pain I had, and it was unbearable.

I found my stop on this fast train that I was on, and although the halt for me was the lockdown, it forced me to work on the underlining issues. The source of my pain, not just on the surface but on the inside too.

Alhamdulilah (thanks be to God) I sought His guidance and His help, and I was open to whatever form it came in. I was desperate to continue my healing and I know that I have some way to go, but I am back on the journey.

Reflection…

When I am in pain, I often think about…

What does Allah want me to learn from this?

When the pain is too deep… I supplicate…

Al-Jabbar -The Compleller, The Restorer

(Ya Jabbar mend my broken heart)

 oh Allah, Al Aleem (The All-Knowing) teach me…

We know that in everything good or bad, there is a lesson.

Read more about Muslims Emerging Proud through Mental Distress HERE

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Waheedah has transformed the pain of her loss into a philosophical reflection on the journey of life

Sometimes it can be the most devastating circumstances that create the deepest bonds. Waheedah’s experience of losing one of her most loved family members twice almost broke her, but she’s back on the train of life and enjoying witnessing the growing bonds between her own daughter and father. Here Waheedah shares her story of love and loss for our next publication ‘Muslims Emerging Proud through Mental Distress‘ …

My Sister​​

My sister was my best friend and although we were four boys and two girls, the eldest three were like a triangle support for the siblings. We played, fought, argued, and loved each other tremendously. My father and mother brought us up to love, value and respect one another. We knew the importance of family and did everything together.

On December 2007 my sister got married and moved to England from Germany where we all lived. I was 12 years old and I did not realise what was happening. Not only because everything happened so fast, but also because I had an important soccer game on that day. I remember it like it was yesterday. The wedding was in my aunt’s beautiful garden, everyone was saying goodbye. We hugged, my sister entered the car and shut the door. As soon as we started waving, she began to cry. We also started crying. I still remember her driving away. At night I realised that she had gone for good when I noticed her side of the bedroom we shared was empty. Her cupboard was also empty, I felt her absence. She was already missing.

The first years after she left, we talked every day for hours. I told her about my school, I shared with her my fears, my hopes and my dreams; most importantly, I always asked her opinion about everything. She told me a little less about married life but seldom allowed me to do the talking.

When I heard my sister was pregnant it was so exciting, our first nephew or niece, my parents first grandchild. I kept imagining how much I would spoil them. As she got closer to her labour, my mum, brother and I booked a ticket from Germany to be with her in England. We packed baby clothes and everything we thought she was going to need; it was the first time I was going to see her since she had left. We got to the airport but were blocked from travelling because my mum did not have a visa. My dream had burst. I started crying. We came home, unpacked and told her the bad news. It was a difficult and sad conversation. She was upset. She felt lonely. She continued to miss our company.

Then in summer 2012 my elder brother and I were finally able to visit her. This was the first time I realised and accepted that she was married now with a new life, her own family. Although everything seemed to be going well when we visited my sister, I noticed that something was not right. She had lost a lot of weight. She’d started telling me about the diets she was trying and the slimming tablets she was taking. My heart sank and it hit me that she was going through an eating disorder. Flying back home, I felt so helpless even though I’d spent the days I had left with her telling her that she was perfect, that she did not need to lose any weight, she was convinced that she was overweight.

Two summers later, we were back in England to visit my sister as she had given birth to my beautiful niece. My niece was about 6 days old, my sister came home from the hospital and I noticed she had an obvious lump on her back. My sister was holding a letter in her hand and tears were rolling down her face. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me the lump on her back was cancer. The word cancer rang in my ears, I couldn’t believe it. When I called my mum and dad to tell them the news it was surreal, as if I were watching someone else’s life. I told my sister that it was okay, she would be fine, that so many people had healed from cancer and I honestly believed this. I kept telling myself it was not as if her cancer had spread, we could see the lump and all the surgeons had to do was to remove it. Everything sounded easy and manageable. It sounded like a story with a happy ending.

The following months were like a storm had hit my family and pulled us apart with pain and sorrow. We kept going backwards and forwards with misinformation on my sister’s condition. Then, when she came to stay with us again, I had my sister back for a few days. When she was back in England, after her first operation, she became incredibly sick, and we stopped hearing from her.

Whilst in Germany, one of my mum’s sisters called one day as she recalled a chilling dream, and because of my sister’s condition we did not want to take any chances. We packed our bags and headed back to England where my sister lived. We did not even know where my sister lived. We received some information from a relative and we frantically started knocking on doors and I listened for familiar sounds. I heard a voice moaning and I knew it was my sister. It sounded like she wanted to cry but at the same time was trying to be strong. It sounded like she wanted to scream but couldn’t, it sounded like she was suffering.

When we entered the room, it was exactly how my aunty had described in her dream. It was obvious she had been through difficult chemotherapy treatment. My sister looked at us and thought she was dreaming. She thought that it was the morphine that had made her hallucinate seeing us there. My mum squeezed her hand gently and told her she was not dreaming. We were speechless and shocked.

I did not recognize my sister, I felt like my family had failed and I had failed as a sister. My father suffered a lumbago, and he was diagnosed with internal bleeding. Finding my sister in that state broke my heart and for the first time since her cancer diagnosis, I realised she was going to die. I started questioning Allah. Why are we being tested like this? Why us? Why everything in one go? Why do you want to take my only sister away from me?

‘Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident those who are false.’ [Qur’an 29: 2-3]

After questioning everything I started seeing the whole situation from a different perspective. Allah tests us to purify us and wash away our sins. These tests are given to us to strengthen our Iman (faith). And most importantly: Allah tests a person He loves. I stopped thinking “why us?” and instead thought “Ya Rahman. The one who is most kind, loving and merciful. Allhamdullah, another test.”

The nurse who came to administer the morphine told us they were just giving her palliative care. Her wounds were seeping and refusing to heal from a recent surgery. Her only wish that day was to shop for Eid clothes for her children. My brother carried her in a wheel- chair and we took her shopping. Even when we were choosing clothes, she would fall asleep for a few minutes due to the morphine then wake up begging us to carry on. I admired the strength she carried, and I was ashamed for feeling so broken for her.

I wish I had told her how strong I thought she was, and how I admired her bravery that even when she cried, I knew she was in pain, but she would not want me to see her hurting. Cancer changes the body but not the soul. The soul is still the person you know and love.

On the journey back home, I could not take the image of my sister from my mind. Her last words to me were how much she loved me. I told my mum I could not go back and that she should stay with my sister and I would take care of my younger brothers and our family home.

The following days were so clear, each day weighed heavily on my shoulders, I was receiving one bad news after the other. My world had stopped, my family was in pieces. I found eating difficult, it was as if all the joys and all the laughter we shared had been sucked out of us. Her heart was still beating but it felt like she was gone; she could not really talk anymore; she couldn’t eat anymore. Her eyes were closed. We were all in this dark tunnel just waiting for the inevitable. As I took care of my younger brothers whilst my mum, dad, and eldest brother stayed in England with my sister, we felt that our world was shattering.

On Saturday the 16th of August 2014 I could not eat, my heart and mind were with my sister. The following day I remember receiving the text message a few minutes before 9 am, that my beautiful sister had departed from this world.

I miss you

Nothing hurts like not seeing you

And no one understands what we went through

It was short. It was sweet. You died.

It feels like it was just recently,

Staying up all night telling each other stories secretly.

I Cannot describe how much I miss your company.

The biggest shock in my life was hearing that you have cancer,

A sickness that kills and tortures,

A sickness that not everyone defeats.

Seeing you suffering, crying, and fighting,

Seeing you trying, praying, and hoping,

Seeing the sickness killing you slowly,

Not seeing the real Aneesah – was killing me inside.

Sitting helplessly next to you,

Telling stories that we made,

Knowing that any breath could be your last one,

Hoping that the moment would never end.

It was time to leave,

Telling each other goodbye,

It didn’t feel like I would see you again,

Looking at you, while your eyes were closing and tears falling off my eyes. “I love you Waheedah.”, were your last words to me.

I miss you

Nothing hurts like not seeing you

And no one understands what we went through

It was short. It was sweet. You died.

May You Rest In Peace my sister. 17.08.2014-

I named my daughter Aneesah Liya….

Liya meaning – Most beautiful form of patience (Arabic) – lioness (Latin) as strong as Aneesah also meaning the highest level of sabr (patience).

I told our neighbors the news and so many guests came to visit. At first, I could not cry. Then the imam (spiritual leader) who had conducted my sister’s wedding came into the house limping due to a recent surgery, he was crying silently. That is when it dawned on me that my sister had passed on. I began to cry and everyone in the house was weeping, it was truly a sorrowful day. I did not leave my room for three or four hours. I stayed in the dark. I was broken and I desperately missed her so much.

My parents came back the following morning after my sister’s burial, the whole neighborhood gathered to give their condolences. I could not take my eyes off my father, my father was a tall strong man, but that day I could see that both my parents were enveloped by grief. For my parents, their eldest daughter dying from cancer at the tender age of only 27 years old was devasting. They say grief comes in stages, but I believe it is different for everyone. For me, it was when I was at the supermarket and saw sisters together. When my friends talked about their sisters my loss was heightened in volumes. I’d lost my best friend, my elder sister, and the light of our life. She was sweet, gentle, and had a heart of gold. It’s the little things I think we take for granted like that extra hug or just staying a little longer on the phone. My grief hit me harder when I got married and I was pregnant with my first daughter. Grief grips you by surprise, it can be something that she found funny, or her favorite food, or just childhood memories that overwhelm our family festive days.

My dad bought a Bonsai tree – which would be the same age as Aneesah, he said it was a symbol of her. He takes care of the tree, with the right balance, not too much water or too little, he keeps this tree in his room with a picture of Aneesah, even when he is sick, he must look after the Bonsai tree, my father would sit for hours just staring at the tree.

When I named my daughter Aneesah, I also wanted a name that could describe how Aneesah was, for me I wanted to hear my sister and then my daughter. My father held my daughter and he saw her, and he suddenly began to cry then he said, “I remember this is how I held Aneesah years ago and now she is just gone.” I can see that my father loves Aneesah so much, he is always telling her about her aunty Aneesah and showing her pictures which is so lovely. Even though my daughter has not replaced my sister, she has helped me put back a piece of the missing puzzle, not completely, but she is a beautiful addition to my family.

Even though we miss her, I see this as a journey.

This life is just a journey, we are all just passing through. It is like being on the train, whenever anyone is at the train station, we do not know who is leaving. It happens when it is your time. I guess my sister left because she was already at the door… some people leave who are younger, older, sick or healthy …

This painful experience has brought us together as a family.

The publication of Muslims Emerging Proud through Mental Distress will catalyse the birth of a new Peer not- for- profit service for Muslims who are ready to openly share about their personal challenges. The team are very excited and proud about this development – watch this space for more information over the coming months… ❤

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Ayan expresses her spiritual journey through powerful poetry for our next publication; Muslims Emerging Proud through Mental Distress

We may not all be familiar with the Islamic scriptures and devotion to Allah, and yet the resonance of awakening experience with Ayan’s words bridges an uncivilised man- made cultural chasm with an unbreakable bond of love.

When we have …

No name.

No skin colour.

No gender stereotypes.

No man-made culture suppressing us


… if we can surrender enough to listen to our Soul, then humanity can begin to heal the collective traumas that separate us. 

Ayan Said Poems: Spiritual Journey

Warfare Warrior Spiritual

Yeah it’s a warfare that I am fighting

I am fighting my body to keep standing

Begging my shoulders to stop slouching

You have nothing to be ashamed of

It’s insane how trauma dictates

Our behavioural patterns and how we see ourselves

Today I allow my body to own the feet it walks on

To feel the ground that upholds my dreams

To relax my shoulders and allow my pain to straighten my skeletal

even if the world is unaccepting, I am fine with it

I don’t engage with false connections or partake in participating in meaningless interactions

I am tired of getting sucked into dark holes that pull on the strings of my empathy

My emotions aren’t open to manipulation from empty souls that fail to see the essence of humanity

I hold no resentment for the spaces that can no longer be in my tomorrow

To be honest it doesn’t really matter anymore

I am a spiritual traveller in this human experience, I’ve been given a vision to pursue whilst I navigate the challenges

It’s so intense to hold pieces together as you face armies that seek to scatter pieces of you. 

To be honest I understand all your perspectives but can’t respect the way you attack and try to simplify things when it comes to religion and the human condition

You can define all identities by how you want

but how about the fact that on some days I have

No name.

No skin colour.

No gender stereotypes.

No man-made culture suppressing me.

I cannot be affected when my soul only seeks to align with the path 

Ar-Raheem

I am confident as I elevate to a higher calling

As-Salam

Al-Mumin I am seeking what I failed to find in humans

Al-Muhaymin has seen the journey and now I feel seen as Al-Jabbar restores my faith

I am patient because Ar-Razzaaq saved me from a rat race that had no spiritual purpose

Please leave me in peace as I share dreams with Al-Lateef ,

My happiness cannot be thieved when he reminds me every day he is Al-Atheem

How can I get caught up in the whispers when He is Supreme?

Speechless

You got me so speechless

Racing to your love

and I swear lately I’ve been feeling like an addict

as I rush to the mat to feel that hit that soothes my soul

and unburdens my problems

Yeah I’m so speechless,

your love has me going senseless

like for real I don’t even see things like I use to

and everything I hear now I don’t decipher without acknowledging

your presence.

Lord, I am in awe

I’m smelling your nature,

Hypnotised by the geometry of your flowers

and thinking how can the reality of your truth not be taken seriously.

Then I remember me from before,

and how I thought I was the champ, reading and handling life like I had all the answers in a worldly book

I was fuelled by feeding myself worldly qualifications

that I always struggled to swallow because my throat chakra was blocked.

I wasn’t aligned

and I kept disconnecting from the connection that had saved me

from every single trauma I experienced.

Yeah you got me speechless

360.

I’m yours and I’m owning it.

Self-expressing freely

because I’m at peace in the space of you and I. 

Used to live like I was laying on the edges of eggshells

anxious of the pain of my steps.

A stranger to my surroundings

Never really understanding the status of our souls and what we were sacrificing it all for.

Prayer

My love for God is childlike

Like 

I don’t want to associate it with anything worldly

But my Lords love is

TOO DIVINE & WISE

For me not to

Translate it into words and language that’s c-o-m-p-r-e-h-e-n-s-I-b-l-e

To the human-mind

Because sometimes

some of us struggle to understand.

Just like the way we question the scriptures

Fracturing our spirituality

To gain a fraction of the pleasure we can attain

Right now, I am just focussed on what will remain

After I leave

What will I feel when I am standing before the scale?

How was my character and deeds?

Did I do enough for the deen?

I mean

I am just trying to purify my heart now

Educate myself enough to make sure my unborn children are being raised right

And it hasn’t been easy silencing these negative patterns and ways of thinking

But Al-Rahim saved me from the trenches, lifted me from the sorrow I was six feet deep in

Deep this

I was sacrificing my life for people that didn’t put a thought into whether I was dead or alive.

How did I expect happiness from a world that didn’t even appreciate the blessings before their eyes as they blind themselves to the signs?

But Ar-Rahman I am grateful for the mercy

Even though at times I question if I am worthy.

Feeling so undeserving

Constantly practicing protection from the hearsay and whispers Al-Shaytaan uses as a tool to dismantle my emaan into pieces

I owe my becoming to the love you bestowed upon me

I used to swim in pain that use to drown me,

Till now, I am still fighting

The difference is I am now floating

In clouds that are so soft to lay in

To break in as my forehead touches the ground in submission

Thank you

For the way you wipe my tears as I plead to you for guidance to build this home, so it transcends beyond the sky’s and waits for me in heaven

My prayer is the reason I can even function as a human

My scriptures taught me things that set my scientific brain on a trajectory that allowed me to analyse everything beyond our visual reality

Indulging in a greatness that’s deadening old skin cells and creating new neurons that place me at the centre of my soul

Still struggling with self-forgiveness but my thirst for knowledge and your love has me falling in love with parts of me I didn’t even know existed.

I know I may fall off, but I also know aouthu billahi minal shaytaanal rajeem

Grateful for the way you redeemed my hope and guided my hands to your rope.

I have faith you’ll remind me of the strength that’ll keep me on the path.

Our 6th Pocket Book of Hope ‘Muslims Emerging Proud through Mental Distress’ will be published later this year, see more information HERE

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Imran’s emotional struggles date back a thousand years, and yet his voice is a current leading light for the Muslim male community

Our first brave Muslim man to emerge proud for the next pocket book of hope and transformation, Imran, particularly knows how Muslim men are expected to provide and ‘be strong’ for their families and culture. And yet he also knows from the bottom of his heart and soul that “It is actually the strong who admit defeat, who admit when they are in pain

Imran is a leading voice for his ancestors and his community, and we are so proud of him for speaking out about his struggles. Here is HIStory…

My Story

The lockdown was a challenging time for me and my family. I had been working in a job that I was happy with, I had a supportive team, and even some of them had become my friends. But I was not in the job I studied for, and it was not my field. This lay heavy on my shoulders, and so I kept applying for other jobs – I almost got used to receiving the endless rejection letters.

After two years of constant applications and failed interviews, one day I received an email informing me that I was successful. I went through 3 stages: an online test, a practical exercise, and a zoom Q&A interview. I had successfully passed all 3 stages and was offered the job. It was my dream come true, the duaa (prayer) that I had been making for two years, had finally been accepted by Allah (God). This was the best news I had received since leaving university. I gave my notice in at work, my family, friends and everyone were incredibly happy for me. The job offer was with a big company, it came with a big pay package and staff benefits that could help me and my family get far in life. My previous workplace threw me a massive farewell party and the messages of congratulations were overwhelmingly supportive.

The first few days of my new workplace were challenging. I was given my first task with a deadline. I spent hours on the task, but I did not understand what I was supposed to do. My position was a junior member of staff in the company and during my interview I was reassured that I would be eased into my position. This task did not feel junior at all. After spending hours on end trying to complete the task, I contacted a friend who was in a similar role. He took his time out from his job to help me and even he was surprised at the lack of support I was given and the task that I was instructed to complete. Unfortunately, he could not always give me a hand as he had his own job to get on with.

I finally, plucked up the courage and I asked my manager and the person who appointed me to support me. I contacted my manager as the role was online, but he informed me that he was too busy. When I finally got a chance, he gave me about 15 minutes of his time then he would need to go again. His explanations about the task were brief, rushed and caused me further confusion.

Within a week, I started to experience what is known as ‘imposter syndrome’. This is when a person who is fully qualified for a position feels like they are unqualified and do not deserve to be there. This started affecting my mental health and I became frustrated with myself and stress started to impact on my sleep and eating. I spent early mornings, late evenings and weekends just trying to work out my task. I began to feel that I could not continue with this role; the pressure was mounting but I promised myself I would not give up and I would keep going until I succeeded.

After two and a half weeks my manager organised a meeting with me. It was named a progress meeting. I was preparing myself to inform the company of the struggles I was having. My meeting lasted what felt like a few minutes. I was told that I was not up to the expectations they needed, it was not working out for them, so they had to release me and let me go. I was so shocked that the only thing that I could say was “okay”, “okay” and that was it. I had lost my dream job in a few minutes. I felt a sigh of relief, then feelings of shame and anger started pouring in. I had no strength to fight the decision, I was frozen, confused, hurt. I sat numbly at my work desk at home and everything around me was blurred. How was I going to tell my family? I still had “congratulations on your new job” messages from my previous workplace, which every time I read felt like a bullet of failure hitting me; a voice inside of me said “Imran, you’re an embarrassment” I felt so worthless, and I kept calling myself “stupid”.

For three weeks, I woke up and sat at my work desk. I could not bring myself to tell anyone what had happened, not even my close friends. No one knew that I woke up every morning and got ready for a job that I had lost. The hours I spent pretending to still have a job were painful: feelings of unworthiness, not being good enough and I just felt like I had lost everything. I started to question Allah (God), why would he give me something and just take it away?” Maybe this was what I deserved, maybe this was it. One of the main struggles I felt was that my prayers were not going anywhere.

Then one day, I lost the will to pretend anymore. I just did not get up for work that day. My family were concerned and questioned me, and I finally told them the bad news that “I had lost my job”. I felt like I’d let myself, my family, and my friends down. I started becoming anxious when I saw job adverts in my field, and I felt that I would never ever be able to apply again.

My depression hit a very low point during those months. I was jobless and struggling to find work as it was during the peak of Covid-19. I hit rock bottom. I could not provide for myself, nor my family. “I have failed in my role as a man”, is what I kept telling myself.

I always painted a picture of happiness and smiles to everyone around me but inside I was filled with sadness and pain. I did not want to show or share how I felt because I felt that as a man, I should be ‘tough’ and be able to get through this. I often found writing was a means to relieve myself of any of my problems. This was one of the many poems that I had written during those times:

Take a look and see life through my eyes,

Maybe you will understand the way that I feel inside,

Maybe you will realise that deep down I’m broken,

and the blood flowing through me is now frozen,

became accustomed to the pain and disappointment,

happiness is now a language that’s not spoken,

with every joy comes a rain full of problems,

now I realise why my smile is just a wash away…

Looking back now with hindsight I feel like my manager set me up to fail. After finally speaking to a few of my friends they highlighted the fact that I had received no induction, I did not shadow anyone, and the one person appointed to support me was always unavailable. I had been expected to hit the ground running. That feeling of relief that I had first felt when I lost my job had been my intuition, telling me that probably it was not the right place for me to work. Sometimes I question myself why I did not call the meeting myself and be confident enough to say, “you are not supporting me” that actually, although it was my dream job “it was not working out for me either”.

Sometimes we put so much emphasis on where we should be. Where we should be going. We forget to live in the present…

I did learn some lessons, although some were painful, I also learnt a lot about myself. It is so difficult for men to always look strong and have everything under control. It is actually the strong who admit defeat, who admit when they are in pain. Defeat is not failure; it is to surrender and accept that the situation is not suited to you. It is allowing ourselves to pause and reflect. No job, no amount of money, is ever worth your mental health.

One of Allah’s names is Ar Razzaq- which means: The Provider, The Sustainer, The Bestower of Sustenance. Indeed, He Ar-Razaaq did grant me another job where I was able to provide for my family. Though not my dream job yet, I believe when the time is right that job will come with the right support.

Who am I?

Three powerful words that unlock a story, filled with a thousand chapters, dated back to a time when man still lit fire with sticks.

A question that forces the past to merge with the present. That drags the roots from every tree welded deep within the ground.

That traces my D.N.A, in the soil, well beyond a million miles: who am I?

I… couldn’t answer that alone, not without the voices of my ancestors echoing over me.

I am a master puzzle piece, pieced together from every nation and tribe, herb and spice.

But what you see is only a form of clay, like when a caterpillar breaks open to become a butterfly.

So, believe me when I tell you, there is more to me on the inside.

Who am I? … I need to look beyond the reflection of every eyeball that stares at me.

Beyond the racial slurs and hatred words that try to portray me, that try to tell me who I am, without even asking me.

Well, it’s a good thing they don’t.

Because when they finally do.

I’ll have to reply with a thousand chapters, dated back to a time when man still lit fire with sticks.

Imran

Our 6th Pocket Book of Hope ‘Muslims Emerging Proud through Mental Distress’ will be published later this year, see more information HERE

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Ruphsana emerges proudly for the revival of our Muslim Pocket Book of Hope with her ‘Sisters Story’ about how she turned her life around through reframing her experiences

“Never underestimate the power of a woman, the love of a mother for her baby or the ability of a woman who has suffered to support other women”

Diane Flores

My Lived Experience with OCD, bulimia, anxiety and postnatal depression, before, during and after my perinatal period:

Today I stand in myself reconnected and whole and yet I am fully aware that my recovery is not a final destination, it will remain an ongoing journey. I would never have imagined that married life was going to take me on a profound journey of losing myself, re-discovering myself and developing a deeper level of self-awareness and spiritual connection to Allah through the whole process. Because of those enriching experiences I now use them to offer other women my hand of hope to help them in their moments of crisis through the perinatal mental health services and by working closely with Approachable Parenting; a community-based organisation that works locally and nationally with families.

I have always been an introspective person as far back as I can remember, very connected to myself; my hopes, my dreams, my values and what is my purpose in life. I grew up with a lot of questions and was never happy to just accept answers that made no sense. These questions were driven by a sense of not belonging. I am the past, present and the future of my existence and I carry the experiences of my parents who escaped from a war-torn country back in the late 60’s, early 70’s. I did not “belong” to my own community because I did not “look” like them and behave like them. I could not fit into the large south Asian community of largely Pakistani people because I was looked down upon because of my Bangladeshi heritage. I have always been a neat, orderly, fastidious person but not someone who had OCD. I was drawn to harmony, balance and the aesthetic details that stood out from the ordinary.

Condensing down 13 years of struggling undiagnosed with OCD, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, postnatal depression and now recently I have started to talk about my challenging battles with my past addictions around shopping and bulimia around and after my perinatal period. Struggling with mental health crowded my heart, it ate away all my energy and my ability to think and imagine a different life whilst it chronically imposed upon my peace. There are many reasons why I struggled; guilt, not feeling good enough, fear and judgment from others, my child being taken off me and the lack of information of support services available.  And with no diagnosis and no help I continued to silently struggle for many years. For me, the most significant thing was becoming alienated from myself and my own feelings.

After 13 years of silently struggling I suddenly lost my Mother due to ill health. Grief and loss were imposing and demanded to be felt. And for the first time something as drastic as loss rendered me choice-less, I HAD to face my life no matter how painful it was to look.  The dark place that I was caught up in opened up to me as a cul-de-sac to my life; that perhaps I could turn around and face a different direction. I started to look at the possibility of “what if I reframe and learn to tell a different story?” and “is it possible to live rather than to just exist?” These possibilities opened my mind and I started to listen to podcasts and learnt new ideas and concepts that gave me hope. Despite my grief, I kept persevering to unlearn the “faulty thinking” that got me to the place I was in. My recovery was like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces lost along the way and the more I searched, the more I kept finding the pieces, the bigger picture started to form. Mindfulness or ‘khushoo’ as I prefer, helped me connect to myself again. The process of change meant radically accepting who I am, my truth, my voice and to face my life and be comfortably still in myself without wanting to run away and hide from the pain. Practicing mindfulness gave me permission to just start again. Finding my ‘way’ in recovery led to my freedom. Running gave me time to get out and create distance between me and my anxieties. From it I learnt to think about the possibilities of volunteering and helping others. I made a lasting network of new friends who are family to me.

My experiences have taught me to step away from anything extreme and anything that disturbs my peace. I watch and observe potential triggers like, I will not weigh, measure or count calories because that will activate those past familiar obsessions. Where once I was trying to find balance and aesthetics in what I consumed and how I looked, I try and live a lifestyle that FEELS GOOD, balanced, permanent and concrete instead of quick fixes that encourage haste and impatience. I have learnt who I am today and I embrace the good and the not so good aspects of all my life. Turning 40 means getting old enough to look back and join the dots and realise that it was not about finding the jigsaw pieces “out there”, it was about taking a difficult journey inward and connecting it all up together to form My Story today. This is why for me it is non-negotiable when it comes to my peace of mind and my sound heart and not letting anything or anyone disturb it.

Our 6th Pocket Book of Hope ‘Muslims Emerging Proud through Mental Distress’ will be published later this year, see more information HERE

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Opportunity to take part in Doctoral research into anomalous states and personal development

My name is David Barton and I am a doctoral research student at the University of Central Lancashire. In my view more people need to listen and learn from those individuals who have had unusual experiences and still created a life for themselves that they describe as successful. I am looking for people who would like to do some interviews through the secure Microsoft Teams app. My research title is: “Subjective experiences in adults’ successful inner development beyond distressing anomalous states” (but the word anomalous just refers to strange and unusual experiences.).

This research is for those who would like a different place in which to express what matters to them about their journey and to help develop the understanding of a wider audience.
 

I have had strange and unusual experiences myself and have written about these in the Winter 2019 and Spring 2020 editions of Asylum magazine.

If becoming a participant for this research looks interesting, I would be pleased to send you more detail and the formal application papers. My email address is: djbarton1@uclan.ac.uk

Cheers

Dave

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HCPC Registered Clinical Psychologists invited to take part in Qualitative Research Project on C-PTSD

Statement from Researcher:

My name is Fay Brinicombe-Hughes, I am a student on the MSc Psychology Conversion course at the University of Central Lancashire. I am looking for research participants for my dissertation, which involves a qualitative research project.

If you are a Clinical Psychologist with experience working with individuals with a diagnosis of C-PTSD, I would like to invite you to participate in the study, which aims to explore Clinical Psychologist’s perceptions of the concept of ‘recovery’ for individuals with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress experiences, and opinions as to effective treatment models used, and decision making associated with these choices.

Participation will involve an interview over Microsoft Teams lasting approximately 45 minutes, or however long you are able to offer.

If you are interested, please contact the Fay [Lead Researcher; FSBrinicombe-Hughes@uclan.ac.uk] or Dr. Hannah Butler-Coyne [Research Supervisor; HButler-Coyne@uclan.ac.uk] to request more information.

Thank you

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