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…
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