• Alwia

Go see a doctor: You're Mentally Ill

If you've ever had 'depression' or 'anxiety', I'd like to remind you today that it's your fault. It's your fault that you're depressed because someone who truly has faith in God and submits to his will would never feel stressed or sad during tough times. It sounds harsh but sometimes, you just need to be reminded of how lucky you are in life. Look at all the blessings you have. You have a roof over your head and food on your plate. Why would someone in your position be depressed? Really, it's quite ungrateful when you think about it. As for your anxiety, well now, that one is stupid too. The future isn't something you can control so why worry about it? You need to learn to submit to the will of God and accept his plan for you.

This destructive and truly ignorant attitude to mental health is widespread within Middle-Eastern communities. Depression is not a simple state of sadness. Anxiety is not something you feel temporarily for a few minutes. Mental illness isn't something you can 'pray' away in the same way you can't simply pray away diabetes. Just like physical diseases, mental illnesses need support and at other times, medical intervention. And just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses can affect EVERYONE at certain levels and points in their lives.

Yes, YOU! You've been mentally ill or will be at some point in your life. Because no one is 100 percent healthy at every single point in their life. Saying this, is like claiming that you've never had a physical illness ever in your life. You've never had a cold. You've never been deficient in some vitamin or mineral. In reality, we're all susceptible to certain diseases and this includes mental ones. With the right environmental triggers, any one of us could fall ill. It's nothing to be ashamed about. It doesn't mean you're crazy or ungrateful. It just means you're human.

And the correct way of approaching mental health, isn't by ignoring that it exists, by putting people down, spewing unscientific nonsense, claiming someone is crazy, evil, or possessed by a jinni. We need mental health awareness so badly in Gulf because this stigma is stopping people who need help from seeking professional support. I can't tell you the times, I've heard people criticize others for behaviors that are clearly linked to certain mental illnesses. And the funny thing is, instead of acknowledging that these things require intervention, people are normalizing them, as if these mental conditions are simple character traits.

'I'm just a bit neurotic. I don't let my kids leave the house except for school.'

'Oh I went to the emergency services and collapsed from anxiety when my baby caught a cold. Yeah it's just the way I am. I really love my kids.'

'She sleeps till 2 pm everyday and lacks motivation to do anything. She's just lazy like that.'

'Mashalla, your son is so quiet in class. His face is glued to his book and won't ever make eye contact. So bashful.'

'I only go out after cleaning the soles of my shoes with bleach. I'm just really clean.'

Sounds familiar?

I'm not a doctor but I think it's safe to say that if you have a 'personality trait' that is getting in the way of you living a happy, healthy life, maybe...just maybe you should see someone. By someone, I don't mean your mum or the local sheikh. Although family and friends can offer support, they are not a replacement for therapy- especially in extreme cases. Regular people don't always know how to give the right kind of support to someone who is mentally ill and can make things worse.

Anyhow, in case I haven't been clear enough, let me repeat:

-Being mentally ill doesn't mean you are not religious.

-It doesn't mean your faith in God is weak.

-It doesn't mean that you have no support system.

-That you come from an individualistic society.

-Being part of a community doesn't make you immune to mental illness.

-Mental illness can be severe or mild, either way it is okay to seek help.

-No one's mental health is perfect all the time.

Including yours.

Food for thought in this week's post. Hope you enjoyed it and see you all next Tuesday.

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