Have you ever heard the sheikh or khateeb tell you, “We are Muslims. We have Islam. We have Allah. How can we ever get depressed? Only people who are far away from Allah can ever get depressed.”
Chances are, if you are like me, this type of “reminder” might depress you even further.
I remember a sheikh at our local masjid giving a talk, commenting about peace and tranquillity, and then mentioning, “Wallahi, there is no need for psychiatric institutes and psychological clinics. How, when we have the book of Allah?”
The director of my university in Medinah mentioned that the key to happiness is tawhid. And he left it at that and I found this generally to be the case when we speak about these issues to some Imams and Sheikhs.
Well, it’s obvious that these people are extremely content with Islam as their religion, and that’s why they feel strongly about what they are saying. But does that rule out the fact that Muslims cannot get depressed? What’s going on here exactly?
Well I must tell you, that I have dealt with all the most severe mental disorders since I became a practicing Muslim. The most severe OCD, waswaawis, scrupulosity, and most recently, the most severe depression I have ever experienced in my life. And yes, I am a practicing Muslim, memorized Quran, going to the masjid for the prayers and pray five times day. I make dua, I say astaghfirullah (asking forgiveness from Allah) etc. What is the source of my depression? My relationship with the Quran, and not being able to connect to it in a healthy way.
What’s that? The Quran is the source of my depression? Well not really. It’s not the Quran. It’s not Islam. It’s the baggage that I brought along with me into Islam that became exasperated through the religion.
People who are at higher risk for developing depression are those who have self esteem problems, being pessimistic, traumatic or stressful events, history of mental health disorders such as anxiety or post traumatic stress, medications such as sleeping pills or high blood pressure medications.
Depression is more than just being simply unhappy or fed up, it’s a real illness and real symptoms as well as physical symptoms. Let me tell you I feel alone, broken, empty inside, no motivation and tired.
It may be difficult to explain in a short article such as this one, but what happens is a person who has become depressed has fallen into complete despair over their soul for an extended period of time. Whenever that happens, and they have given up on their own soul after ignoring it for a long enough period of time, they do things that push it away further, to push away the pain they may have experienced initially. It is a common thing with people who suffer from PTSD.
People used to say to me get over it, read more Quran and I’m in a place where you don’t get much support which made me even more depressed. I eventually found Sakoon counselling services who offered sessions via Skype, It was like a relief that there were Muslims who understood what I was going through and helped. Depression is not sadness. Spiritually, depression is a loss of vitality, an emotional death of the soul and spirit of a person, to where they become purposeless because of suppressing and despairing over their true selves. Sadness and grief, if not dealt with for a long enough time, and not channelled in a healthy way can also lead to depression.
Physiologically, the nervous system of a person has become stressed for such a long period of time, that it becomes overstimulated, which causes the systems of stress and anxiety to start occurring. Because the amygdala, which is emotional center of the brain is part of the nervous system, this too starts behaving erratically, thereby causing the symptoms of anxiety and stress which causes people to become further worried and continue the cycle.
Do I have any basis for what I’m saying here?
Well, for starters, my personal experience in dealing with these issues for many years. And secondly, there is an entire chapter in the Quran that is dedicated to dealing with self esteem issues and emotional issues. There are healthy ways to deal with the emotions and unhealthy ways, which lead to depression, and other psychological disorders.
The article started by stating Muslims can never get depressed but it is the opposite, Muslims can get depressed and it has no association with your level of faith. What I can tell you that Muslims do suffer worse because there are more dynamics to consider which isn’t covered in mainstream counselling. That’s why it’s important to work with a counsellor that understands your faith as well as applying Islamic counselling in the therapeutic process. #combatdepression
By Amir Yusuf edited by Ayesha Aslam
References: Surah Yusuf, Quran www.anxietycentre.com www.educatedanxiety.com www.helmyptsd.com Andrew Solomon, Depression, the Secret We Share. -Ted Talk