Hani emerges proud through sectioning and stigma in order to support her peers to gain a better understanding for her community and beyond

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 

Hani’s realisation that it was the stigma attached to her experience rather than the experience itself that sent her into a downwards spiral of fear and despair is such a common ordeal. As Hani wisely suggests, with less judgement and more communication, kindness and acceptance that nobody has the ‘answers’, a unification of all nations could result. Thankfully Hani was able to find purpose through her painful journey, as she recounts here…

On June the 7th 2008, I was sectioned and shortly after was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. I remember my first manic episode like it was yesterday, the symptoms were described as grandiose beliefs, paranoia and delusions which led to a perfect storm of feeling like I could save the world. With my high energy and constant creative thinking I believed I could come up with the best ideas in the world, to me I was the sane one and everyone else was “crazy”.

I was sectioned in June but my symptoms started around early May where I saw a shift in my perception of the world, constantly having racing thoughts that would not give me peace even to sleep which became a daily occurrence.

My family along with my flatmates were the first to see changes in my behaviour, the rapid speed in my speech and the insomnia were the first things they noticed. With every day passing my ‘delusions’ became more heightened and frightening with paranoia rearing its ugly head. Looking back now retrospectively I realise how petrified I must have been going through the manic stage but whilst in the eye of the storm I felt I had resilience and inner strength and almost a super power where saving the world was something I could achieve.

Spending money was something that gave me a “buzz” where I had this constant urge to spend, spend, spend! It honestly felt like a high that I had never experienced before resulting in me spending money on clothes and things I did not need, leaving me broke without a penny to my name.

As a British Muslim of Somali heritage my diagnosis of bipolar was something that was viewed by immediate and extended family, (who were the only ones who knew about my diagnosis), as a spiritual and divine experience and a combination of myself being a bad Muslim and that Allah was wiping away my sins.

Honestly the day I was diagnosed it felt as if part of my heart and soul were ripped away from me, my main concern was not so much how this ‘illness’ would affect me day to day, but more about the stigma I would now face from my family and the wider Somali community.

Constantly I was self-critical and thought I was mad and bad all at the same time questioning whether I’d ever reach my goals; career, marriage, kids? This caused me to spiral into a deep depression. It felt like I was in a cave and the oxygen in that cave was self-loathing. A sadness I had never felt before that felt like it was running through my veins.

In the depths of my depression I hated myself and blamed myself for my diagnosis, maybe my family were right, if I prayed more, read the Quran more, wore the correct clothing; maybe Allah was punishing me?! I constantly felt like the biggest failure in the world whose only identity now was a failure who had this thing called ‘bi polar’.

Although I whole heartily am a Muslim and believe in Allah, there have been times during my journey that my faith has become strained and I questioned what I had done to deserve this and if this was a punishment from Allah. I started becoming bitter towards Islam I felt like no matter how often or hard I prayed my life was not changing or going in the direction I wanted.

Looking back now I know Allah did not fail me but that I was not practising because I wanted to out of love for the faith but felt pressured by family, this didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to get the faith back and the love in my heart for Islam so with the help of my younger non-judgmental brother I started to rediscover my love of Islam without my parents breathing down my neck. Black magic and Jinn were bought up many times by my family thinking this was the cause of my ‘Bi polar’, after weeks of pressuring me I finally agreed to the family bringing someone to read Quran on me which was meant to get rid of any black magic or Jinn. The man who was called to come was a fraud only interested in taking money from desperate, vulnerable people. As he was about to leave, he came in to my room and said I’m looking for another wife; I told him to do one and leave.

Being a Somali Muslim is a daily challenge because although being a Muslim is something that gives me peace, being a Somali gives me anxiety and resentment because of the gossip and judgment I have faced from my own community because of my diagnosis.

Many communities are divided and some are united but I can speak only from my experience that we as a community need to support each other more without judging others and start lifting one another. Many people confuse culture and religion and sometimes they overlap so much that people put culture above religion which is not the correct way in my opinion.

Although it may not appear so, I love and am proud of being a Somali Muslim, I love the language, food, music and humour. However we, like all nations around the world, can be more united through better communication and kindness, not always rushing to judge.

It can be a very lonely experience going through mental and emotional distress and I know that showing empathy and often just listening can be of great benefit to those struggling. That’s why I love my job as a peer support worker, sharing my personal journey at work with those experiencing difficulties in their mental health has given me purpose. At work using my lived experience means that the times I got sectioned, the times I got forcibly sedated, the times I was so depressed that I tried to commit suicide, it means that those life-changing, challenging times were not in vain or for nothing.

I pray that the Muslim Somalis and all of humanity who stigmatise mental distress can be educated more about mental health and allow conversations that are long overdue to take place.

“ Do not let their words sadden you” ( Quran 10:65- Surat Yunus)

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 

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5 Responses to Hani emerges proud through sectioning and stigma in order to support her peers to gain a better understanding for her community and beyond

  1. judeitakali says:

    This is so touching. I’m not Muslim but I’ll definitely share this with Muslim friends I have

    Like

  2. Abena Amoateng says:

    Such a great article Hani, I am so proud of you and happy to see that you are giving back to your community by sharing your life experiences. You inspire me! ❤

    Like

  3. Leia says:

    This was so beautiful to read Hani. It feels like you were meant to have these experiences so that you could go on to effectively and sensitively support others, going through similar experiences, from a place of true knowing and true empathy. That is very special. I am sure those you work with are thankful they have someone as strong, resilient, courageous and kind as you in their life by their side 🙂

    Like

  4. Monika Woodcock-Deane says:

    This really helps me as a service provider amd manager to understand better the experience of people with lived expereince and the additional challenges for the BAME community. When I first met Hani I knew that she had something special and would go far. Hani has been brave and a real inspiration and many of the Somlian community are going to benefit from her sharing her experiences

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a wonderful response Monika, thank you for taking the time to reply. Hani is an inspiration and we hope that this book will go on to positively influence communities everywhere.

      Like

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