Sidra is now happy to be herself, and so she should be! Her hardships – grief and pain due to a debilitating sight condition – have made her very wise, and she lives life with the healthy concept that, if things don’t go the way we think we want them to, then that’s because life has a better plan for us. Here Sidra shares the journey that brought her to this belief…
Who am I? Is the question I asked myself at different points within my life and today I can say I have found somewhat of an answer, in order for me to tell you that answer I have to take you on a short journey.
1988 born in East London, Muslim, British, Asian, female. I was brought up as an only child, with wonderful loving parents with unique stories of their own. Teachings from my mother and father shaped me as a person. From a young age I remember sitting with my father listening to stories about Islamic history and stories of the prophets from the Quran.
Sabr (Patience), Hikmah (Wisdom), Tawakkul (Trust in Allah) and Qadr (Decree of Allah) were all part of my life from a very young age and understanding these virtues came about through my upbringing.
I remember the day I stood in the corner of the room listening to my father speak after he was told he had cancer “Alhamdulillah it’s all with Allah” (thanks be to God) he said. At such a young age I didn’t know at the time how these words would shape my life. As the years passed by I witnessed my father’s battle against cancer, surgeries, radio therapy and hospital appointments. I watched as my mother took care of my father; ups and downs of cancer taking its toll at times, yet the one thing that never left my father was his faith and values. Occasionally I felt scared and worried nevertheless my mother and father always kept me smiling and happy.
We were told half my father’s brain had died yet my father lived on but paralyzed from one side. Every day I would sit beside his hospital bed, he would write sweet notes to me and my mother. No matter how he changed he was still with us and we were hopeful no matter the hardship.
“Oh what type of life is this? Just like a vegetable” someone once said. I shook with horror and disbelief, this comment affected me deeply. I wanted to scream yet all I could do was keep quiet and cry.
The day it all changed 20.06.2010, on a hot summers day I kneeled beside my father’s hospital bed, his eyes were closed, all tubes had been removed. I gave him a kiss on his forehead, held his hand tight and inside my heart wished I never had to let go but I knew he was no longer in the land of the living.
Coming home from the mosque after my father was buried grief hit me like a stormy ocean wave, drowning me, unable to breathe all I could do was cry. My hero was gone. I was lost and felt so alone.
“He’s gone, just accept it” someone said “get a grip, he’s watching, you’re making his soul sad” another told us. At the time of my grief I was unable to eat and lost 9kg in two weeks, I felt I was unable to move forward. Comments people made added to my pain and I was unable to push them aside as it took me time to understand the needs of my mind and body.
Grief comes in many different forms and lack of understanding and labels can cause dire mental health issues.
2017- Accepting an illness
Keratoconus is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the normally dome shape of the eye (the cornea) changes shape, causing vision to decrease and in severe cases causing blindness.
The time I was told I had the illness, I remembered my father’s words “Alhamdulillah for everything” I said. You see my mother also suffers from Keratoconus growing up I watched her struggle. When she arrived in England in the 1970’s she became a patient at Moorfield eye Hospital. Due to the lack of early care my mother became partially sighted, unable to see without hard contact lenses.
August 2017 I had cross linking surgery on both eyes; this was extremely painful and traumatising. The healing process was lengthy, I had to stay in a dark room for four months, unable to see clearly for one year, having to deal with the pain and scarring within my eyes.
Accepting I have this illness was a major challenge in my life. The fear of not being able to see overtook my thoughts at times. I felt sadness and slowly accepted that my vision will decrease over the years. Here again I faced labels, labels that people put on me. Comments made in passing, without the thought of how it would affect me.
The Journey of learning
Who am I? Fear or challenge, uncertainty or opportunity, anxiety or excitement, Sabr, Hikmah, Tawakkul and Qadr. Labels and words have always affected me, the lack of kindness or understanding in words can affect us all unknowingly. Addressing this can be a challenge within itself, however in not doing so we only affect our own mental health. I found having an open respectful conversation with Hikmah of speaking we can address and challenge the labels that others place on us. I have found positivity in having awareness of myself, placing healthy boundaries and growing as a person. When thinking something negative I now try to counteract it with something positive. The days I feel overwhelmed by my emotions and thoughts, I now embrace them rather than suppressing them. It is okay to not be okay and own it. Our ‘imperfections’ make us who we are, and we are all beautiful regardless of words and comments.
“No one is you and that is your superpower”- Dave Grohl.
In our lives we all have been in situations where we have no control; death of loved ones, illnesses and uncertainties in life. It’s okay to be honest about how you feel, what you’re experiencing and what you need or want. It is important to understand your own mind and body, to not push yourself and accept the things about yourself you might dislike.
Over the years I have found peace in Tawakkul, if you did not get something you want or something did not go your way, know that Allah has something better planned for you. Alhumdulillah ala kulli haal (All praises are for Allah in every condition). I found that stories from the Quran helped me accept struggles within my life, understanding Qadr and having Sabr, helped me overcome my sadness of loss and accepting my illness. We go through life not understanding why bad things happen to us but when we change our perspective knowing there is a higher plan in everything that happens we come to a self-understanding, a deeper understanding of our own hearts. Today I am thankful to Allah for every hardship put in my path as there is Hikmah behind every test and I feel I am who I am because of every test I faced.
Through my experiences regarding my father and through his values I want to live a life of meaning leaving behind a legacy by helping others with their hardships.
“Verily with hardship comes ease”- Quran 94:6
“Do not lose hope, nor be sad” Quran 3:139
I’ve learnt to overcome my hardship with the right tools, everyone’s tools are different and we each have our own stories. No one’s way of feeling pain is wrong it’s all about how we deal with that pain which defines a person. Self-love is knowing your worth, being kind to yourself, embracing who you are and forgiving yourself for your shortcomings.
Who am i? I am me and I am happy being me.