Depression: A Muslim’s Perspective

1 Jan

A lot of this has been taken from the NHS website, only because it was something I genuinely agreed with. Where I think things aren’t necessarily true or needed I will say so and offer my personal advice along the way. There’s a lot of information on the internet about depression but it’s sometimes difficult to find the correct, concise information you require. So take a deep breath and read on.

What is depression?
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or hopeless for a few days here and there. Unfortunately, the words “I feel so depressed” are over used and misused. If you were really depressed I don’t think it’d be that easy for you to say so freely.

It’s true, we all have good days, bad days, we get moody, stressed and irritable at some point in our lives. Sometimes, with most people, this is a common thing. That is, to have mood swings or just generally being an impatient person. Being an impatient person is likely to lead to mood swings, stress and outbursts when things aren’t done when you want them to be done or how you want them to be done. This ultimately makes you unhappy or angry but it is not depression just because it happens all the time or more often than you’d like.

Depression is when you persistently feel miserable for weeks or months on end rather than just a few days. Sometimes, there may be a known trigger. Other times, the trigger may be unknown. It could be something like a memory at the back of your mind or a feeling you’ve attempted to suppress for a long period of time. Each person, case and scenario is different.

Some people still think that depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can ‘snap out of’ by ‘pulling yourself together’.
Alhamdulillaah, with the right treatment and support, most people can make a full recovery and go on to live a much better, healthier and happier life.

How to tell if you have depression
Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. They range from lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety and in some more severe cicumstances, some may have suicidal thoughts.
Some physical symptoms may include loss of appetite or increased appetite for ‘junkie’ or ‘comfort’ foods and constantly feeling tired and insomnia. It is clear the severity of the symptoms can vary and at first you may not show or feel all of these symptoms.

For a more detailed list, read more about the symptoms of depression via the NHS website. Please pay closer attention if you’re a female, particularly to your mentruation cycles. These can change in severity, length of time and even blood type. If changes occur over time do mention it to your Doctor or Nurse. The stress of being depressed can affect your body and hormones a lot more than you’d expect. It’s easier to notice these changes if you were regular and your cycles have changed.

Most people experience feelings of stress, sadness or anxiety during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short time rather than be a sign of depression. Read more information about low mood and depression. It’s important that you view this list with an open mind. Try to pick a day to view this list when you feel in a better mood and when you’re more able to judge your previous character.

When to see a Doctor
It’s important to seek help from your GP if you think you may be depressed. Don’t be indenial, as soon as you suspect or genuinely have that gut feeling that this is more than just a small phase, see your Doctor! You’ll know the feeling I’m talking about if you are depressed. Have tawakkul (trust and reliance on Allaah) and if you’re wrong, then alhamdulillaah, all praise is to Allaah who has saved you from this particular distress.

There’s this small test you can do on the NHS website to find out if you’re depressed. I would say, it’s better to listen to yourself but if you do think you’re the indenial type then do the test anyway. Be honest, even if the feelings have passed. You may have to take yourself back to a bad memory or time in order to think about your answer. Take your time and don’t be afraid. Remember, you’re looking to make yourself better and there’s no shame in seeking help. If you’ve been feeling low for more than a few days, take this short test to find out if you’re depressed.

Many people wait a long time before seeking help for depression, but it’s best not to delay. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can be on the way to recovery. From a personal experience, I was the indenial type of person. Someone told me they thought I was clinically depressed and they were talking from experience. I was annoyed with this person and never spoke to them again. It took me about a year later to finally come to terms with it and accept that it was the truth and during this period of time I looked at depression but made claims that it wasn’t me. It was bothering me as I knew there was some truth in it. I just didn’t know the severity of it and there was this huge fear of taking that first step into asking for help. I was clinically depressed and there was nothing I could do about it at the time to help myself.

Sometimes there is a trigger for depression. Life-changing events, such as bereavement, or losing your job or even having a baby, can bring it on. In my case, there was a trigger. One which I can talk about quite happily now but there’s no need for me to mention it without a real purpose… So that knowledge will remain with me and whoever else I have told. I genuinely see the blessing in something that caused me several years of trauma and took me a long time to overcome. More than half my life (in terms of years!) has been affected by it. However, after going through the right methods and seeking the correct help and being brave enough to ask for help, I’ve come out as a much better person, something that people who personally know me cannot deny and even they don’t know what my trigger was but they know that today and for the last few months I have become a better person in every way possible. Alhamdulillaah. Remember, not everyone has a trigger, perhaps you’re one of those cases when there is no real reason or no single reason.

Find out more about the causes of depression.

Treatment
Treatment for depression involves either medication or talking treatments, or usually a combination of the two. The kind of treatment that your doctor recommends, will be based on the type of depression you have. <– says the NHS website and just about everyone you ask! My advice, as a Muslim and someone who eats clean with experience having been through it. Try talking first! Never, ever take antidepressants without exhausting every other solution first. You may think it’s the easiest way out and a quick fix but did you know so many antidepressants can cause people to become suicidal?! I have close links with a few people who work for the government. They analyse the side effects of drugs and every single day they gets reports of various medications, particularly antidepressants that have caused the loss of a life due to suicide. I am not at liberty to mention the cases I know of (shh, naughty I know) but I do recommend you do your research first. There are plenty of real-life stories on the internet and forums where this has been discussed.

There were times when I thought ‘I want antidepressants’ but I had heard they just make a person feel “numb”. Sounds good, right? Yeah, I thought so too. Alhamdulillaah, I lived a “numb” day after contemplating this. It was the strangest thing ever. It was like I had no feelings or emotions. My head felt empty, my heart was empty, every action I did was empty and it felt like I had no purpose in life. I felt a bit robotic. The day was long and alhamdulillaah the next day the “numbness” had vanished. I was back to feeling the pain but I was also sane enough to know that this feeling of numbness was wrong and so far from healthy and normal. I decided that day that antidepressants were a no-no and this experience was a way that Allaah showed me to guide me away from medication.

I went through two sessions of counselling and by sessions I mean a block of counselling with different people over two different periods of time. There were pros and cons to both women I saw and though I was able to talk about a fair bit of stuff, it didn’t ‘cure’ me. It was only some three years later (earlier this year, wait, hang on, we’re in 2013 now, d’oh! It was half way through 2012 when I sought Islaamic help for my condition. That’s a discussion for another day though) when I finally dealt with all my issues. Towards the end of October that’s when I was truly better, and all praise is due to Allaah for his Mercy and guidance.

Anyway, about the counselling, at the time I was under the age of 21 so counselling works a little differently if you’re in the UK. If you go through the NHS and you’re under 21 you don’t talk to the counsellor in your GP’s office. Instead you get refered to another organisation, the one I was refered to was called “Solutions”. It helps to have a healthy relationship with your counsellor. If you have a funny feeling about the counsellor just by looking at them (I don’t judge a book by it’s cover but I should have gone with my gut instinct I think) then be honest and tell them you’re not comfortable. Obviously don’t tell them they don’t look nice but find an excuse, just describe the sort of person you would like to talk to. Perhaps someone younger or someone you feel you can relate to more, just to make you feel at ease. Don’t be worried about offending them, afterall, it’s all about you and they’ll do whatever they can to help.

Read more about the treatment of depression.

I would also like to emphasise the importance of a good, clean, healthy diet. Yes, this is where going gluten free or even paleo comes in. InshaaAllaah, there will be a post about the link between depression and diet soon so keeo your eyes peeled.

I’d just like to add, it took me a year and half to finaly tell a Doctor I was depressed. I was finally ready to accept it and seek help. Alhamdulillaah the Doctor had nothing but praise for me. It was the scariest feeling ever but because the Doctor was nice, I felt confident. I was praised due to the fact that I was smiling, young and brave and in addition to that, came from a culture where depression was taboo. The Doctor was rather impressed and so helpful. Finally, I felt like I had hope! This kind of praise was a good kind as it was the sort that encouraged me to carry on with my mission in going for counselling and avoiding medication! Bite the bullet and be brave. Noone will judge you for it and if you are suffering in silence like I was at the time, you don’t have to discuss it with anyone either. I hid how I felt and what I was like for years, in hindsight, talking about it would have been better but I’m more than pleased with whatever has been written for me as I’m a much better person.

And finally…

Living with depression
Many people with depression benefit by making lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, cutting down on alcohol and eating more healthily. Self-help measures such as reading a self-help book or joining a support group are also worthwhile. Find out more about how self help and improving your lifestyle can help you beat depression. <– The first step is to accept that you have a problem.

When you start seeking help and you ask friends or family, it’s so easy for them to say “pick up a hobby, excercise, you need to go out more” or other ridiculus things. What they don’t understand is that when you’ve reached your lowest point, these words are useless. If anything you may want to scream at the person for talking nonsense and not knowing anything about what they’re saying. It’s easier said than done.

You need to find someone who is willing to hold your hand and work through your problems with you. Someone who won’t turn their back on your despite your highs and lows, good days and bad days, mood swings and crazy outbursts. Alhamdulillaah I found that person for the right period of time. Sometimes we actually need to work on the smaller things that prevent us from taking up a new hobby. We need someone to help us through it, guide us, lend us a hand and so on. We need that support system, even people who aren’t depressed need a support system at times. We all need that one person we can put our trust in (after Allaah of course!), someone we can talk to, someone who can listen and ideally, offer solutions from an Islaamic perspective.
For example, I had a few fears and so I focused on having Tawakkul first. I also suffered from paranoia and anger so learnt about how to cope with these from an Islaamic angle. Of course we know these feelings aren’t right but I went into them in more detail so I could understand the origin of it, my personal triggers, I even learnt about how the two things are classed as sins and could even make you leave the fold of Islaam! Since my eemaan was what I was focusing on getting back during 2012, I obviously wanted to avoid anything that would lead to such evil so I had all the motivation I needed and the help from a person with knowledge to aid me.

My eemaan plummeted throughout the years of my depression hence why I was so determined to get it back. I felt better after counselling but my eemaan was still almost non-existant. Since fixing up properly with the correct Islaamic help, my eemaan is a lot better and stronger than what it was pre-deression. And I thank Allaah for his guidance and Mercy otherwise this would not have been possible. Yes, I have only been completely cured for a couple of months now but I know I’m at a stage where there is no returning back to my previous state because everything that was an issue for me has truly been dealt with correctly. InshaaAllaah, the previous issues will no longer affect me… as for anything else, then I put my trust in Allaah and inshaaAllaah if anything does happen in my future, I will be better equipped, mentally and with knowledge to be in a better position to control the issues I had or the new ones that face me.

I genuinely don’t get angry or paranoid anymore and I remind myself these are from Shaytaan. I also know it’s not worth fussing or stressing over and whatever I face now is nothing like my dark days during depression. I don’t think anything could be worse than that. The days of low or almost non-existant eemaan are by far the scariest things a person can encounter. Without eemaan, belief in Allaah and trust and reliance on Him, I was nothing. Without eemaan, there is no point in living as life would not be pleasant at all. May Allaah protect me from low eemaan such as that I have experienced before… Aameen yaa Rabb!

There are some beneficial quotes I would like to share with you. InshaaAllaah they will be posted sometime soon and perhaps you could apply them to your life. Please look into the link between diet and depression in the meantime. A little bit of your own research will be beneficial inshaaAllaah.

Hayaakumullaah

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