Ramadaan is an Islamic month which is regarded as very holy to practicing Muslims all over the world. Following the lunar calendar, Muslims are expected to fast from sunrise until after sunset; when they are finally allowed to break their fast with a date, water, and food to follow. Ramadaan is a month of self-reflection, of humbling one’s standard of living when realizing the gratefulness of our lives, of reaching out in the community to those in need. Ramadaan is a month of prayer, a spiritual cleanse of all the bad that has happened in the past 6 months and begging Allah to turn things around in the coming second half of the year.
Such an auspicious month with beautiful cultural and family traditions is not always spent the same as others or as previous months. Surely many look forward to Ramadaan but when you are spending it with a mental illness, that is already looked down upon in the Muslim community, it is difficult to keep your head above water or to keep up with the lies that you’re ‘fine.’
There are many Muslims that go through this month with their depression, which decreases their enjoyment and involvement in such activities. When a person is depressed, their thoughts feed them lies and negativity, dropping their mood and general involvement in things to a low. And so when Ramadaan comes and you’re continuously reminded to count your blessings, how others have it much worse and how you should be grateful for even breaking your fast properly and among those that care about you; your depression seems “silly” to you, which plummets your mood and involvement further as you try to break free of the initial reasons or circumstances that placed you in a depression in the first place. The guilt of being in a depression ironically places you in a deeper depression and adds to the anxiety.
But I need you to know that you are valid.
In the wake of the suicide-glamorizing second season of 13 Reasons Why and the shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, the last ten days of Ramadaan look bleaker than when the month had started. But now is the time not to lose your last glimmer of hope.
I need you to know that you are worthy.
As the last ten nights are already upon us, we should do our best, or at least force ourselves, to surrender to Allah’s mercy. A suddenly happy facade or your usual smiling mask won’t be necessary because now is the time where you can mend your relationship with Allah. One of the holiest nights of the year, Laylatul Qaddar (Night of Power), is among these last ten days and “The night of Laylatul Qaddar is better than a thousand months” (97: 3).
Of course, closeness to Allah and simple prayers will not automatically uplift you of your internal struggles, nor will it suddenly “cure” you of your depression like so many preach to us. However, these actions may please Allah and relieve some of the pain that we hold within.
1. “Allah loves those who purify themselves” (9: 108).
Try to always be in a state of wudhu. Depression, among other mental illnesses, can really clutter our mind with negativity and this can show in our appearances or in the state we keep our rooms in. Our clothes pile up higher than usual, our desks become more disaster than disastrously organized, and our need to stay in this reclusive period coincidentally makes us “miss” our opportunities to shower or take care of ourselves as it is too much of a bother and effort. This is where the forcing part comes to use – maintain your hygiene in the last ten days. Remind yourself to go to the bathroom now and then, make sure you take a shower and try to follow at least the essentials of your skin and hair care routine, even if that means just moisturizing and drying. These simple reminders place you in a state of cleanliness and allow you to benefit in this last stretch of Ramadaan. It also takes you out of the darker place that you’re in.
2. “Indeed Allah loves the doers of good” (2: 195)
Ramadaan is supposed to be a month that breaks the classist system that divides us. Charity is a very favorable action during Ramadaan, it’s actually so encouraged as you are uplifting others as well as yourself through your generosity. But maybe your wallet is also facing a depression of its own, and as much as you’d love to go out and help the less fortunate, you cannot stand the idea of being surrounded by people. This is completely understandable.
Charity does not always need to be in the form of money or community outreach work – you can help a little more in the kitchen, you can help a little more around the house, you can help your little siblings or cousins with their work that you once did. Charity and generosity need to come from the heart, not from your wallet. The intention to do a good action, no matter how small or big, may reap good outcomes. Another form of charity that will help you is to reach out to someone that you trust or to finally begin professional help and explain to them your current situation or feeling. You are not a burden. I know you fear being judged by this person, but to just admit that you are hurting and for them to share a few uplifting words is a personal form of generosity and charity.
3. “Allah loves those who rely upon him” (3: 159)
There is a common and crudely false misconception that people with mental illnesses have a weakened faith. That is what the Muslim community inaccurately sums it to be. But you and I both know that this is far from the truth. I do hope that you were maintaining punctuality with prayers this Ramadaan, this year, but sometimes we need more than prayers to be okay. I would kindly advise you to sit on the Musallah and just beg to Allah. This can be before or after prayers, even during the spare hours in between. Are we not the servants of Allah? We must beg for things to go right, we must beg for Him to change this situation, we must beg for Him to grant us happiness again, which has become such a distant memory. Instead of asking WHY you are suffering, ask Him to stop you from suffering much longer. These sessions don’t even have to be that deep – make it like a conversation with your Lord, a true heart to heart. It’s a great way to let your tears and frustrations out because only He knows what’s in your heart and if you believe, truly, He will change things for the better. In these last ten days and on Laylatul Qadr, you must wholeheartedly believe in your prayers, in your begs and that Allah will grant you happiness again.
Maybe it’s just my storytelling mind, but I like to compare these situations when Yunus (AS) was stuck in the whale’s belly, a place so dark and isolating like the mind at its worst, but his remembrance, begging and most importantly his belief that Allah would get him out to to see life again wavered but remained stagnant. Things are horrible and I’m so sorry that they are, but you have to believe that Allah will take you out of this darkness.
4. “And Allah loves the patient” (3: 146)
Carrying on from the story of Yunus (AS) and his sincere remembrance of Allah while he was stuck in dark and despair pit of the whale’s stomach, one must also practice patience. Sabr; we’ve all heard this word before – when we rush our parents to an event, when our little siblings annoy us and when we use it as the snarky, last comment in an argument with our friends. But there is so much more to the word than just “waiting” for things to come right. This word, as I interpret it, as the complete encompassment of all 3 actions from above and to rest your complete faith in Allah and His plans for you. This may not make sense when you ask why Allah has made you suffer in the position you’re in. Instead, I see the practice of Sabr as allowing Allah to slowly and gracefully pull you out of your depressive episode into something greater than just release of depression.
When Yunus was pulled out of the whale’s stomach, he did not only see light for the first time in ages but had landed on a beautiful and fruitful shore. That I was I pray and I believe that when you are out of your depressive episode, Allah not only wants you to achieve happiness and light in your life again but to recognize and give gratitude that it was because of Him. So that even your supplication of maintaining your cleanliness, your generosity and charity, your reliance on Him and your Sabr of practicing all of these acts would remain long after you’re out of your depressive episode. ‘But there’s no correlation between prayers and depression?’ No, there’s not and I don’t condone the Muslim community shoving that narrative down the throats of those who are mentally ill. Your depressive episode may be long and it may be hurtful, but Insha Allah, it will not last if you practice the truest and most faithful form of Sabr.
Subhanallah, I hoped these guidelines help you and that you benefit and enjoy the last ten days of Ramadaan. I hope I wasn’t to preach-y because I only wish the best for those that are suffering from mental illnesses. Insha Allah, you will grace us with your beautiful upcoming Eid selfies. Until then, I hope Allah makes this time, and all the times afterward, easy for you.