The first part of this piece can be found here.
My anxiety and even my anger grew. I was angry all the time. I could not stand to be the one that had to do so much, I grew angrier towards my spouse, towards my child. I started to hate my choices: choices to marry, to reproduce, to be expected to give until my cup was running empty and then feel blamed for when I could no longer give. Hate is indeed a harsh word, but that is exactly where I was. I once had to take a mental health day from work. I just sat at home, did absolutely nothing, mind blank, tears streaming down my face for several hours until I had to retrieve my child from the nursery. I’d cry myself to sleep every night for months, and I’d cry in the presence of my spouse, but generally I felt nobody would even ask me what was wrong. The anger grew; I felt unloved and bound by duty all around me. My anger would result in unfortunate outbursts at home.
One day I just Googled ‘very angry after child birth’ and that is when I started to learn about what is called ‘post-partum rage/anger’, and I recall feeling so relieved and thinking: ‘Something IS wrong, and this isn’t just who I am.’ I had never heard of such a thing; I was prepared to look for signs of depression, but not this.
In regard to anger, we know that the Prophet advised that the one who is strong is the one who controls himself when he is angry. Many things have been said and done in bouts of anger that have left people crippled with guilt and consequences. I wanted to just scream into the abyss, scream until these ill feelings were out of my system.
After reading a few forums and an article, I sent a couple of links to the father of my child, so he may understand and get me the help I needed.
I understand that not everyone knows what to do or say, but it takes a lot of courage to admit that there is a problem. Trying to get help for myself while trying to take care of such a small person felt almost impossible with the anxiety always at a high, and I just wanted someone to take control for me.
I was able to understand what my triggers were, and so I was aware of the situations that made me feel worse and heightened my anxiety, such as being in the company of certain people and being with them for a duration that felt too long. My daughter was not a crier, even to this day; a few seconds of crying and she is done. We would visit some people often, and for whatever reason, as soon as we would arrive until we left, my daughter would cry; she would cry until she would fall asleep. Once awoken, she would cry some more. A crying baby triggers a reaction to solve the matter, and a screaming baby triggers more than that; it triggered my anxiety; my fight or flight response. I would then be met with what sounded like accusations that I had not done something right. I would find myself exhausted after a few hours into these visits, and the entire time I could feel my pulse in my neck and my heart pounding, all while trying to smile and pretend that I was fine. After a few months, I knew if I continued with these visits, this would be detrimental for my health. However, in order not to make things difficult, I went, though I would spend most of the visits doing work in a café in the area, then seeing people for a short while afterwards. Even in that short while, my anxiety would be high and I’d count the seconds until I could leave.
I found that these encounters made me increasingly anxious and angry. The days in between were not enough to recover from each visit, so the next visit would pile on top of what was remaining from the last visit. This took a major toll on my marriage and my relationship with myself. However, this was not the only trigger; there were many. The feeling of wanting to disappear would grow. I was expected to give my all to all, despite my struggles and my cries. I wanted just one person to say: “Stop, you can’t do this anymore, let’s get you some help” or “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to”, and even “Let me do that for you” or “You go to sleep, I’ll take over.” Just anything…
It was when my child was almost two years old that I finally got some help and had a couple of sessions of therapy and got myself on medication. I had to tell myself that my child needed me to be well, even if it meant being a medicated mother, so I went to the GP. I was expecting the doctor to tell me this was no longer a post-partum issue as my child was older now, so I was surprised when she told me otherwise. She advised me well and informed me of the side effects of the medication, one of them being suicidal thoughts, and that should I ever become overwhelmed with such feelings then to inform someone and get myself to A&E.
Hoping for the best, I began the meds. For the initial two weeks, by the Grace of God, I was around family. I knew the symptoms would get worse before I started to feel better, and they did. However, eventually, after those two weeks, I felt great! I called them my ‘happy pills’. I felt like my old self before having a child, and for the first time, I felt that I was a mother to my child and that my child finally had her mother. I had no anxiety anymore being alone with her, doing things alone, taking sole responsibility for her. We would laugh, roll around the grass, run around. The silliness was back in my life and my child would giggle, something she would mostly only do with her father, but now, the sweet sound of my child’s laughter filled my home and my heart. For two whole months, we were happy.
Then suddenly, my own mother and family needed me, such that I became overburdened with guilt, not knowing the right decision to make. It seemed that whichever path I next chose, I would be letting at least one side down. In the space of a couple of days, the guilt and burden took over and a switch flipped; I became overwhelmed and became fearful of committing kufr. I did not want to question Allah subHanahu wata^ala, I did not want to object to His Will. I knew that the one who dies on al-Islam is under the Mercy of Allah, and would eventually enter Paradise, and the one who dies on kufr will be tortured eternally. I became convinced that death would be better for me and that it would be a way out of my fear of committing kufr. I was living a life for others, being bound by duty to others; something I have done for years. I couldn’t paddle for my life anymore; I was tired. I stopped and allowed the ocean to consume me. I would no longer be responsible for anyone, including both my child and my mother, both of whom I feared I would be letting down in some way, but at least my heart then would stop aching.
One evening my daughter went out with her father. After finishing some tasks, I made sure my daughter would have everything she needed. I bathed and prayed, and I supplicated that something inside me would change, as I knew it was wrong what I was about to do. I was crying; I didn’t know a person could produce so many tears. I emailed my family and a friend: I told them I loved them, and that they shouldn’t blame themselves.
I put on my prayer dress, locked the doors, sat on my bed, weeping, and ingested some tablets.
I recall throwing up and being shaken awake by a couple of people. I was rushed to medical care and spent a week in ICU. They didn’t need to pump my stomach as I threw up several times. A day into their care, I was smiling laughing and joking, and they kept saying with relief “You were unsuccessful.” I knew what they meant but I didn’t feel the same relief. The following morning, a doctor walked in with a team of five to see me, and I felt like a child in trouble. The doctor asked if I had depression. I said “I had post-partum depression, but my child is two and so it can’t be post-partum issues anymore as it’s been so long”, and he said “No, my dear, that’s not how this works.” He asked me a few more questions, and then there was silence, until he eventually said “You should have received treatment a long time ago, you should not have been left like this.” In my heart, I already knew this, and I knew exactly when I should have started receiving help.
My attempt at suicide has hurt my family in ways that I cannot repair.
Despite my smiling face and loud personality, there was something broken that I hid from some of them, and as for those who had been aware of my struggles to a certain extent, they had also been enduring hardships of their own. I blame none of them.
Indeed, “Other women do” do it; childbearing and childbirth is not a new concept. Allah created women in a way that He ^azza wajal did not create men.
Men have never experienced how it feels to have one’s organs rearrange themselves to accommodate another life growing inside, and then how it is to break and repair on the inside and then on the outside. How then to do that while one’s heart is broken and while one’s mind is ‘broken’?
A broken leg receives sympathy and understanding; we know such a person cannot do xyz, we give allowances, as we know they can’t do what they used to do. But the mind is not something visible and apparent, and a change in one’s temperament and mannerisms should not suddenly become something blameworthy.
Instead of labelling a person as being sinful and ‘a bad person’, how about showing compassion and ensuring the person receives adequate support and help? Some of us may seem strong, but we are human too and have our limits, so using phrases like “You’re a strong woman” can cause more harm than good, no matter how well-intended. It was not as though I didn’t try to heal.
For instance, I started the meds; plus by the Grace and Mercy of the Owner of our Souls, I never stopped praying during this whole ordeal. Also, for several months I was fasting four days a week and doing istighfar 300x almost every day. We know in these practices there is a great benefit and means of cure. The only day I would miss doing the dhikr was when I was exhausted and fell asleep. To imply that one is not God-fearing enough, not reliant upon Allah enough, if they knew the means some of us go to, to help ourselves, they may rethink how they choose to advise.
No one generally asks to be afflicted with a mental health issue; it is a physical, mental, and emotional pain, that affects not only the individual but those around them too.
Losing oneself and having to watch yourself become something else, falling into darkness and losing the light behind your eyes, hoping so hard someone will see it, that they will take you by the hand and will pull you towards the light; if this not something one has experienced, then this in itself is a blessing.
I will continue to live with these scars, as will my loved ones, and I hope my experiences, now put out in the open for you to read, changes the mentality of our community for the better. Mental health issues cannot always be seen when looking into the eyes of loved ones, but they can leave one feeling like one is losing one’s mind. Asking someone “What are you depressed about?” is like asking “What are you unhappy about?” Hearing statements using the word ‘depression’ loosely such as “Many people today are depressed because they don’t have what they want – they look at others and ask why don’t I have that? They seek the pleasures of ad-dunya” can frequently be misleading and harmful. This is not referring to clinical depression and it is inaccurate and needs to be rectified if one assumes this is what clinical depression actually is.
There are many amongst us who seek piety and are quite detached from materialistic matters but struggle with mental health issues. Know that it takes a great deal of courage to open up about one’s struggles, and your response can either encourage someone to progress in healing or close them off from ever seeking help again. If you do not know how to help them, ask them how you can be there for them; they may just need to feel heard.
You can say for instance “Thank you for telling me, I know that cannot have been easy. What can I do for you?” As some people say: kindness costs nothing. Be merciful, be easy in your dealings with others and be easy to deal with.
Please note: If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned here, please do speak to loved ones or seek professional help.