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…
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