Anxiety – definition: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
Here is one brother's account of anxiety and its effects in his life.
What condition do you have and how does it affect you in your daily life?
I have Trichotillomania which is a hair pulling disorder on the Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum, recurrent Depression, and a personality disorder with obsessive-compulsive traits.
The aspects of my conditions that affect me on a daily basis are mainly based around anxiety and self-esteem. The way I perceive people around me to be and my very low self-esteem mean that I usually avoid social situations because of how I feel I will be treated. I have not been to a mosque in almost two years.
What are your greatest achievements thus far?
What are the greatest challenges you have faced with your condition?
My wife and my kids by far.
Finding the strength to continue fighting the battles of life and being content in a world which I don’t understand. There is so much chaos, pain and hatred in the world and I just cannot relate to most of the people around me.
Has your disability hindered you in achieving your dreams and life goals?
Most of the jobs or careers I have attempted to pursue have been cut short due to my mental health, I fantasise a lot about life goals and dreams despite there being a huge elephant in the room that means that sooner or later those dreams will be just that, dreams. Slowly I feel I will get back on track insha’Allah, but I am having to rebuild from the beginning.
However, I have my own family, and that is one dream that came true and alhamdulillah one that has gone from strength to strength.
How has your disability empowered you?
Admittedly I don’t feel empowered, however I would say being naturally anxious and having a negative self-image means that I keep the peace, keep my head low and I don’t boast about myself. I think in a world where everyone wants to be seen and heard, being quiet and focussing on the middle path has its positives from an Islamic perspective.
What stigmas and barriers do disabled individuals face in society?
I recognise there are massive stigmas for people with physical disabilities, but personally speaking people with mental health conditions or “invisible” disabilites also face the same stigmas. I have noticed that the Muslim community doesn’t understand mental health as a whole.
How does the community that you live in react towards you? Are they understanding, friendly, helpful, accepting?
I don’t really reach out to them; I feel mostly rejected or ignored so see little use in trying. I feel that communities still see people with mental health as people who don’t have strong imaan, are possessed by some unseen evil and so on. I have read some very negative positions on mental health by established scholars and it is upsetting that such views are still in circulation on the internet and on the bookshelves.
How can we change the negative attitudes towards disabled Muslims in our society?
Mosques need to do so much more by holding seminars, giving khutbahs which are relevant to modern society and disability and really encouraging people with disabilities to be part of the community. I know of a great initiative called “Autism Mosque” which raises awareness of Autism and gets mosques to be more autism friendly, it seems promising and I hope a lot of people get on board. I would like to see prominent Islamic scholars having discussions about mental health and addressing some of the erroneous beliefs people have on it. Mental health isn’t about faith, it’s about genetics, how we are nurtured, our environment and simple brain chemistry.
What challenges and obstacles do disabled Muslims face when on their journey to find true love?
Anybody can lose an ability to do something, but it’s something that is yet to happen. For people already with a disability their cards in a sense are already on the table, and so people may not be so keen to invest their life on someone who is already struggling. It’s very sad because there is no difference in a person born without limbs and a person who is born fully abled but loses their limbs due to an accident, yet fully able bodied or minded people tend to be attracted to one over the other.
When a loved one becomes disabled, society rightly conditions us to love them for who they are, yet society has not yet got around to conditioning us to love a person born with a disability for who they are. Again, I feel there are age old stigmas in Muslim communities that are not in tune with Islam or the modern world.
What do you think of the Disabled Muslim Matrimony service?
I think it is a very good initiative which is sorely needed and has massive potential. At the very least it should get those important dialogues or discussions about disability going. As witnessed with many movements, all you need is one small spark to cause true change.
What can we at Disabled Muslim Matrimony do to help break more boundaries and stigmas, to help disabled Muslims?
Educate the wider audience on disabilities both visible and invisible, because many people may not be aware of the types of disabilities out there and the potential that people with those conditions have. It might pleasantly surprise people and maybe change their mindset.
Has your religion and faith in God helped you through the difficulties
and daily challenges? If so, how?
Knowing there is ease after hardship and knowing that it isn’t hard to earn His favour, these things all help. I may not always hold hope, but even if I feel hopeless it doesn’t mean there is no hope. Being disabled doesn’t mean we can’t be granted God’s blessings, we are totally equal to able bodied or mentally well people. Paradise is accessible to everyone. We don’t have to climb mountains to connect with God.
What advice would you give to your fellow disabled Muslims who are struggling with the daily challenges of living with a disability?
Be kind to yourself, be gentle, be forgiving and take everything one day at a time. Find time to relax, whether it’s in bed or in natural environment like parks. There needs to be a balance in life and if you get that balance right then you will be much more benefit to yourself, to others and to serving God in this life. Finally try not to be scared in asking for help, whether it’s friends, family or external services, as the tagline goes: it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to suffer in silence.