written by Princess R. Lakshman
What is Depression?
Is feeling sad the same as being depressed? No. Not really.
Feeling chronic sadness, empty, worthless, teary and having recurring thoughts of self-harm all the time, every time and not knowing exactly why you feel these emotions are significant signs of Depression.
Depression is now categorised as a disease and can exist by itself in different combinations such as Post Natal Depression (affecting new mothers), Bipolar Disorder (periods of major happiness and major sadness), Dysthymia (mild, chronic sadness existing for at least two years) and Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD (affects people during shorter, darker months in autumn and winter), to name a few.
Signs and symptoms of depression often go unnoticed because our society expects people to “suck it up and keep fighting”. There are stigma and shame associated with anyone showing vulnerability in acknowledging weakness. The fact of the matter is that we are all blessed with strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, some people dwell on their weaknesses for too long and develop a mindset of feeling worthless. This feeling brings deep sadness, tearfulness and eventually begin to entertain thoughts and sometimes specific plans of self-harm.
Physically, the body responds to these symptoms in the following way:
• Loss of appetite or sometimes increased appetite (emotional eating)
• Insomnia, or, for some people, too much sleep
• Loss of energy – Fatigue
• Inappropriate guilt – recurring thoughts of “It’s my fault”
• Confusion, inability to make decisions – recurring thoughts of “I don’t know what to do”
• Isolation, often remaining alone in one part of the house for too long, such as extended hours in the bedroom or extended hours on the balcony watching out into space
• Lack of physical movements – always preferring to lie down or sit for extended hours, or mindlessly watch TV or scroll on the device, not really engaging
• Lack of interest or pleasure in any activity
• Inability to find joy in any situation – recurring thoughts of “Why is it always so hard for me?”
In 2009, after my brain tumour was diagnosed, I began questioning my life’s choices and began experiencing feelings of deep sadness, guilt, emptiness, a strange void, rapid weight gain due to emotional eating and thoughts of self-harm.
My GP was able to diagnose these symptoms and recommend that I seek counselling and psychological help. My daughter, who was six years old at the time, was suffering vicariously as a result of my condition. I made a conscious decision to follow my GP’s advice. I lived. Alhamdulillah, because that renewed life led me to Islam in 2011.
In Feb 2012, I embraced Islam and in May 2012, I had my brain tumour surgery. Alhumdolillah, Allah’s mercy is upon us every moment. We need to become more mindful to indulge in shukr rather than blame ourselves or others for our circumstances. We need to change ourselves from the level of thought. Thoughts affect our words, words affect our deeds.
Good thoughts. Good words. Good deeds.
Managing Depression with your Mind Power
Every brain has a mind of its own. No matter what our experiences, we do not have to identify ourselves by our experiences. ALLAH has blessed us with a mind that has enough power for us to change our thinking and begin to manifest good and joyful outcomes.
The following activities are absolutely necessary if you want to overcome depression.
• Full blood test and seeking help from GP to diagnose any thyroid dysfunction, blood pressure abnormalities or vitamin deficiencies
• Finding a person you can confide in without fear of being judged (counsellor/ psychologist/ therapist) and talking to that person to process your feelings to find healing
• 30 minutes exercise daily
• Cognitive behavioural changes (becoming mindful of changing thoughts that don’t serve you to thoughts that do serve you)
• Silence 5-10 minutes daily, preferably after Fajr or Isha Salaah, helps connect with your Essential Self (spirit)
• Practise self-love, gratitude and forgiveness (having an attitude of gratitude and forgiveness is not enough, you need to practise it daily strategies, for example, keeping a daily gratitude journal and writing down all the things you are grateful for that day”
Mind Power can help overcome Depression in the following ways:
• Challenge the WHY in your life – take a pen and paper and write WHY as the topic. Underline it.
• Now, write down all the feelings you are experiencing today and try to explain why.
• Keep challenging the why until you start seeing some clarity happening. For example, “I feel tearful today because I feel empty inside. I feel empty inside today because I am not working and I really wish I had a good job and my own financial independence. I am not working because I lost my job. I lost my job because I was not meeting my targets…” (and these “WHY challenges” continue until you find clarity).
• Write a description of your ideal self in the present tense as though you are actually living that ideal life. For example, “I am wearing my black suit today as I have my first day at work. I am starting my new position today as Department Manager. My shoes are brand new. My shirt smells beautiful…”
• Thought Switch – divide the page into two columns. On the left column, write down your limiting beliefs and on the right column, write down the opposite of those beliefs. For example, Limiting belief: “I don’t think I am qualified for the job. I’m sure they will not hire me”. Opposite belief: “I am perfect for this job and I look forward to starting my new job and making a positive difference to people around me.”
For more inspiration, check out the YouTube Channel for Muslimah Mind Matters