Mental disorder is the brain feeling pain, to put it simply.
There’s no ‘crazy’, there’s only a spectrum of how severe the ‘pain’ is. And like there are different types of physical pain like cramps, sharp pain, dull pain, etc, there are different ways different mental disorders are experienced.
I have mental disorders. Possible bipolar ( still under diagnosis by psychologist), PTSD, severe anxiety, OCD . I have had them since I was 15.
And to me, recovery has meant me separating who I am from my different illnesses. I try to view my mental disorders like the physical ones, but it’s tough. When the norm is that you should feel ashamed and subhuman, you tend to identify with your mental disorders because you are in such denial. What you resist persists. I’ve only found true progress in the past 2-3 years which is when I decided to stop trying to pretend I’m fine when I’m really not.
Most days I experience emotional pain of about 5 on a scale 1-10, ten being the highest. Some days are really bad and the pain is a solid 9. But what has changed my life drastically is that I’ve created a safe haven within that keeps me stable even during the worst of storms. I stopped imposing any rules or fixed ways on myself, I’ve learnt how to tune in to my inner being, how to let intuition guide me. So instead of waking up with an emotional pain of 8 and forcing myself to stick to the plans I made a week ago, and thus resisting and exacerbating the pain, I am open. I’m open to the uncertainty, to listening to what these messengers of pain are communicating. Are there issues I’ve overlooked? Am I worried about something? Am I holding myself to unreasonable demands? Are others demanding stuff of me or otherwise violating my boundaries?
I let my feelings update me, and it’s difficult y’all. Sometimes it takes months for a message or life lesson to reach me because of how much I evade it. It’s not easy being still and letting the waves of raw pain wash over you. And even when I find myself stuck in a loop, I try not to judge myself or rush myself to get it over and done with. I honour my process and I validate my fear of opening up to more pain. Sometimes I have lessons within lessons, like nesting dolls.
Throughout the years I’ve learnt that you can’t rush the soul, it has no time to keep. It’s like a river that is travelling along an antediluvian path that was carved out by fate. I’m simply a passenger and I try not to derail the journey.
When I have manageable days, I focus on what I can do. If I feel the slightest bit of distress, that’s a warning sign. I take a break, meditate, take deep breaths, draw, read, do anything that isn’t burdening. This allows me to stay in balance. The importance isn’t to test the limits but to maintain an inner balance. But I still try to do as much as I can. I focus on what I can and growth. Going easy on myself allows me to keep my focus on the good. If you resist and try to suppress certain feelings because they inconvenience you, you’re inadvertently amplifying those negative feelings because focus is a creative power; wherever it’s shifted it creates more of.
The days that are really tough, I give myself permission to hibernate for as long as I need to; no rush, no shaming, no judgement, no guilt. And ironically, by giving myself limitless time for recovery, I usually recover super fast. I’m often well enough by the end of the same day or the next day to be able to resume my activities. On rare occasions I have slumps where I barely get out of bed for weeks on end. And even then I try to give myself space to heal. I’ve come to know enough about myself to trust my soul’s work. It knows what to do, I don’t need to supervise it. I just make constant ducaa no matter what I’m feeling, that Allaah guides me to that which is good and wholesome for me. And many a times the path to goodness is painful and mired with uncertaintie. But I’ll take it ; I’ll take that if it’s the only way to live authenticall.
I remind myself that I’m not simply idling around; just because I’m not doing something others can see doesn’t mean that I’m not productive. I bet you that I’m more productive than most workaholics when I sit still in conscious focus as the tsunamis of pain crash into me and recede. Or when I try my utmost to be loving and nonjudgmental towards myself ( I’m a recovering perfectionist, so you know that selfcriticism is my forte). Or when I struggle to stay mindful when huge clouds of hopelessness threaten to absorb me.
I bear my soul for the world to see ( scrutinize, judge, scoff at, belittle) because I want to leak insider information, like Edward Snowden 😂😂 . But seriously, I want to show you, anyone, everyone, that healing can’t take place in shame and silence. It’s ok to stumble and mess up. You’re not a machine made for utilitarian purposes. Don’t judge yourself by industrial and capitalistic standards. You are not your struggle. But the struggle is a theatre play showing you who you are. Stop directing a show that will go on with or without your cooperation, and sit back in humbleness.
“Because it is possible to create — creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self, as well as creating in all the innumerable daily activities (and these are two phases of the same process) — one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever. Now creating, actualizing one’s possibilities, always involves negative as well as positive aspects. It always involves destroying the status quo, destroying old patterns within oneself, progressively destroying what one has clung to from childhood on, and creating new and original forms and ways of living. If one does not do this, one is refusing to grow, refusing to avail himself of his possibilities; one is shirking his responsibility to himself. Hence refusal to actualize one’s possibilities brings guilt toward one’s self. But creating also means destroying the status quo of one’s environment, breaking the old forms; it means producing something new and original in human relations as well as in cultural forms (e.g., the creativity of the artist). Thus every experience of creativity has its potentiality of aggression or denial toward other persons in one’s environment or established patterns within one’s self. To put the matter figuratively, in every experience of creativity something in the past is killed that something new in the present may be born. Hence, for Kierkegaard, guilt feeling is always a concomitant of anxiety: both are aspects of experiencing and actualizing possibility. The more creative the person, he held, the more anxiety and guilt are potentially present.”
— Rollo May