By: Malak Al
As we’ve progressed throughout history, the growth of awareness revolving around Mental Illness has somehow become extensive and yet limited at the same time. Anxiety Disorders have surfaced through a larger scale throughout media, however the majority of our elders have still pinned it into the lack of religion. Now, what I’m about to discuss is not an attack on religion, but a further argument about how religion, or the lack of, is not the only factor. There are connections in which spirituality does in fact offer benefits to Mental Health. As you may find extensive readings, as well as pre-acquired knowledge, this is solely based on my own beliefs and emotions/feelings, I ask you to not take offense to what I’m about to express.
During the month of May, my family and I went to perform Umrah. Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah. I went with the purest intentions of cleansing my soul and making amends with whatever shortcomings I have done. My anxiety hadn’t skyrocketed as much as it did on that day. Maybe it was guilt, yet my analysis was based on the amount of people and how I do not like to feel suffocated within a certain place, no matter its capacity. This goes back to multiple incidents and experiences, that I would not like to mention. As I was performing on the general floor of Sa’i and Marwa, I began to feel somewhat claustrophobic. I do not claim that I am claustrophobic nor am I diagnosing myself. However, I was not comfortable paying my dues with people, nonetheless I sucked it up since my father insisted to remain on that floor and not another one that may be a bit less crowded.
Therefore, I sucked it up and began to walk. An immense need to breathe struck me. I felt so incredibly violated and unable to continue. My heartbeat started racing and I couldn’t distinguish how to make sense of what was going on. My thoughts made no sense to me, because I’ve done this so many times, just not with this many people, since we always go at a reasonable hour. I paused and pulled my dad to the side and asked him to stop. I couldn’t contain myself and soon I began to sob. My dad believed that my foot was hurting and told me that this is all in the name of doing our religious duties, but that was not the issue for me. I needed to breathe. I nudged him and told him to help. He couldn’t understand that I was having an attack. He didn’t know the symptoms. My shakiness made no sense to him. My inability to comprehend why he wasn’t realizing what I was going through put me into more of a shock. He stood away from me and just watched as I had to comfort and calm myself down.
I realized there was no use in trying to explain it since his views and beliefs on mental illnesses was somewhat outlandish. He never believed in anxiety attacks, let alone anything else that is close to it. I can’t blame him, since I never took the time to explain or offer him some knowledge, yet as a father of a psychology student, shouldn’t he at least read the basics? Nonetheless, I had my attack and braved myself. I took deep breaths in and slowly let it out. I wiped my tears and stood back up. I never wanted to leave as much as I did right then and there. I had done my religious duties, I repented for whatever sins I believed I committed. I tried to talk myself into believing that this may have been a way for Allah to forgive me. However, the thought that was recurring was that I could not bear this much people crammed.
Slowly, I began to cool off and we ended up leaving. On our way back home, my father mentioned to my mother that I had a fit, because I couldn’t continue walking. He neglected everything I said and went along with something that was more physical than mental.
The reason why I’m mentioning this is because it boggles my mind, how we're advancing with the way of life, something as simple as Mental Health remains to be downplayed and not taken so seriously, pinning the majority of the struggles with the self on religion. There’s awareness out there, yet it’s not taken so seriously. One cannot be pouring knowledge into someone when their willingness to understand and comprehend is lacking. This is something that has honestly affected me in a way, especially when my father couldn’t act on what he observed. Something so simple as a moment of recognition and consideration would’ve helped me calm down faster, as well as a chance for him to open up and ask me what had gone wrong within the moment. He may view it as me being childish about wanting to walk in a less crowded area or pin it on something physical like my feet hurting. It’s understandable at the end of the day. I think all I’m asking for is a better understanding and explanation for mental health other than religion.
I’d like it if you shared your views and arguments around this. Again, please do not take my statements as an offense.