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themuslimhippie

At the intersection of race, culture and mental illness

What My Life Was Like When My Kids Were Overseas

Slay Girl Society

Today’s guest blog post from The Muslim Hippie focuses on a difficult period in her life. For other blog posts from the same author, click here to read her article on being a Muslim parent with a mental illness and here to read about parenting with a mental disability.

I’ve often written about the fact that my children went to live in Senegal when I had my first mental health breakdown in 2008. It was a psychotic depression to be exact. My husband at the time and I decided it would be best to send our 3 children to his family because I was so sick, and because of his busy work schedule. We just didn’t want the kids to suffer because of what we were going through. It wasn’t an easy decision but it had to be done. I’ll never forget the day they left. My children were 4…

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Loneliness, Addiction and Lack of connection

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People say the opposite of addiction is connection. I struggle with loneliness and a feeling of not being connected a lot of the time. I also have what is known as an addictive personality. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that I would have developed addiction issues and alcohol dependence at a point during my life. I talk about my mental health issues every day both online and in real life. But my emotional issues I don’t address as often. I believe those issues are at the root of why I struggled with addiction when I did. And why I have an addictive personality in general. It’s why I have such a deep feeling of loneliness even when I’m in a crowded room, and why even though I have such a tight-knit, loving family, I often feel starved for attention.

I remember times back when I was deeply entrenched in my alcohol dependence or stimulant addiction. I used because I was so very lonely and sad. I reached for the bottle and/or pills back then to stave off those feelings of soul crushing loneliness. I often drank or used when I was alone. That’s the thing about my addiction. I wasn’t as much a social user as I was a lonely user. That makes me sad when I think about it; even though I’m better now. I’m sad for that person and for who she was. And even when I partied with other people, I used to excess. I drank to a point of alcohol poisoning many times in my life. I’m not proud of that. And I used pills to a point where I was scared my heart would stop or I’d have a stroke. Repeatedly. But that didn’t stop me from using. I kept doing it over and over again, for many years. I needed to numb my pain. I still do in fact. I always will, I just have found healthy outlets for my needs. And I have learned how to control my appetite for those feelings. But it hasn’t been easy.

I spend time with my friends when I can, and I talk about my feelings with those who understand. Though that is a slippery slope in and of itself. Talking about addiction too much can make me want to use again, so I have to be careful. Being around people who use or used to is hard. Because I never know how well they are and if they will backslide. And I’m always one slip away from falling into addiction again. Alcohol was easy for me to overcome. I could fall back on my religion for help with my drinking habits. There was simply no justification for me to drink anymore and I really didn’t need it; even when I was manic. So I quit cold turkey. But the pills were much harder. I absolutely needed them for my medical condition of excessive daytime sleepiness and adhd. If I don’t take them I fall into an almost narcoleptic like sleep. It happens in the spring mostly but also it’s a function of my bipolar and depression issues. So I almost can’t escape using stimulants. My neurologist practically insists on me taking them, even though he knows I have bipolar disorder. So I have had to muscle through my addiction with them. Thankfully, I overcame it, mostly on my own. I’m proud and grateful for the work I’ve done, knowing that it came easier to me than for a lot of people. For that, I give thanks to Allah and I say many prayers of gratitude.

My loneliness comes and goes. But as I make more friends, I notice I feel more connected and less alone in the world. I think a part of me will always be lonely. That’s the little girl in me that just feels sad no matter what. I accept that. It’s just a part of who I am. Writing this has helped. And meeting new people online everyday has also been a blessing. I do believe that the opposite of addiction is connection. I am working hard at staying connected and staying addiction-free for the rest of my life. As I said the other day, I love my life now. I intend to keep it that way.

Love, Unanswered

*I wrote this short paragraph one night when I was feeling particularly vulnerable. I was involved in an unconventional friendship with a person who at the time didn’t see me the way in which I saw him. It made our friendship very challenging to say the least. 

I want him to take me seriously. To see me; all of me, no matter how wild and uncontrolled that ‘me’ is. As a person, I mean. Not as a group of symptoms to be managed. Or a challenge to overcome. I wonder if he could ever love me. I don’t care about his situation and if he’s available. That’s not what I’m talking about. I just want to know if someone like him could ever love someone like me. Is it even possible? I wonder and I hope… 

Loneliness and Isolation

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Nobody really understands loneliness. At least that’s how I feel. And it’s probably different for each person. For me loneliness is like a sudden vacuum of feelings and emotions. Like the wind has been knocked out of me and I can’t breathe. It’s as if the world is spinning without me and I’m watching from inside my little bubble. I can see people going about their daily lives and routines, but I can’t join in. And that hurts more than anyone can imagine. I feel all alone in this world. Like if I were to die today, that no one would notice or miss a beat. And the pain of that realization is so crushing that sometimes I can’t stand it. People say to reach out when I’m feeling like this and to let others know I’m struggling. But that’s just it. I can’t. I can’t tell anyone how badly I’m hurting inside. I feel like I’m stuck behind a glass wall. I’m pounding on that wall with my fists, screaming to be let out, begging to be noticed. But nobody notices. Everyone just keeps walking right on by.

Everything makes my loneliness worse. Not having a family of my own, being single, living with roommates who are never home, having friends who are always busy, etc. I feel like I live on this planet alone sometimes. It’s one of the reasons I spend a lot of time on social media these days. In addition to receiving many jobs through my media outlets, I try to stave off feelings of loneliness by talking with online friends during the day. Anything to forget I don’t have what I want or need in real life to keep me occupied or engaged. Even when I do interact with people in real life, I feel this soul crushing loneliness. It is so painful. I could be in a room full of people and suddenly feel like bursting into tears. Even when I’m engaging in a conversation, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “None of these people really understands me”. I hate that feeling. I know it may not be true. But I can’t help feeling that way. And I don’t know how to overcome it. I was thinking to join a group in my area for people who suffer from being isolated. Maybe that will help me get out of my shell and help me interact with others who are in a similar situation. I do know that people truly understand. But anxiety tells me I’m the only one feeling this way, which forces me to stay closed off.

I don’t want to wallow in my loneliness. I’ve listened to therapists who explain how to overcome this and how to feel better. And I know I’m not the only one. So I will put my best foot forward and try to reach out when I’m feeling lonely and isolated. It’s going to take so much work, but I don’t want to feel like this forever. Loneliness is the monster that has been seeking to destroy me for so long. I am determined not to let him win. It’ll be the fight of my life, but hopefully I’m up for the challenge.

Getting help for suicidal thoughts online

Let me try to explain why I had a knee jerk negative reaction to the news that Facebook is launching suicide prevention tools on its site the other day. First off I think it’s praiseworthy that the company is trying to help people who are suicidal, of course. That goes without saying. But I had a trigger response to the idea that someone like me might one day feel suicidal and post something there that would be policed, and I felt scared all of a sudden. Really scared. Though I’ve often been truly suicidal, I don’t actually want to die. And when I’m suicidal, I’m not thinking rationally at all. I got scared that I might see or read something that though it’s intended to help, might scare me into doing the very thing I shouldn’t. That’s how suicidality is for me. Sometimes when people try to help, I run the other way out of fear. That’s why I often end up hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and ideation. For me, suicidality is it’s own mental illness, if you will. If I were able to think clearly, I wouldn’t want to take my own life in the first place and I wouldn’t need psychiatric help.

But that’s just me. I know everyone doesn’t have my experience. However this is why I reacted so poorly when I read the news and why I got so frightened. It’s why I’d still be scared to post anything on Facebook if I were ever suicidal again. I can’t be sure how I’d react to any type of help that didn’t come from a person talking to me face to face, in a safe environment. For me, it’s too precarious and I may make a permanent mistake that I don’t intend. So though I thoroughly support Facebook in their mental health efforts, I know I can’t utilize the services if I’m feeling suicidal. I just can’t take the risk.

Single Parenting a Sick Child… and some tips!

This is a wonderful post!! Really insightful.

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Part of parenting is taking care of your sick child or children, right? But is single parenting a sick child so much tougher?  YES. You cannot split the physical and emotional exhaustion.

In the beginning of a child’s illness, there’s this instinctual softness that overwhelms you as a parent. You want to soothe your baby with warm baths, whip up hot soups. Awe… the snuggling. You can’t beat the snuggling and rubbing your fingers over those curls and waves while they fall asleep.

Sounds lovely, peaceful and filled with hope. It reads like a commercial story board for a baby bath time product. But there’s another side, especially for single parents. After I share some truths, I’d like to offer a little encouragement along with a few tips for you, your family and friends. Hopefully it helps ease the stress of caring for a sick child as a single parent.

The Truth.

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Guest Blog: Why I Self-Harmed And How I Quit

I am 8 years free from self-harm 🙂

Slay Girl Society

Hi everyone! Today is Self Injury Awareness Day, so I thought it would be the perfect time to publish my first piece on self-harming. I think it is extremely important to discuss because it is very common yet there is such a huge taboo and stigma around talking about it. Even MORE so than talking about other aspects of mental illness. A very kind mental health advocate named Jessica Remter from the blog Flight of Recovery Flight of Recovery agreed to write about her own experiences. I am so grateful that she was so open and honest. It is a very powerful story. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Nine years ago I started self-harming. Three years ago I quit.

When I was thirteen years old, life wasn’t too bad- at least that’s how it looked from the outside. I’m not sure what planted the…

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Guest Post: Being a Muslim Parent With Mental Illness

Slay Girl Society

Today’s blog post is from another guest contributor. She is the writer at themuslimhippie, which discusses the intersection of race, culture and mental illness. I’m so excited because she has agreed to write a series of posts about her experiences with mental illness. Here is her first! Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

I’d like to begin by stating that I was thrilled and humbled to be asked to write for Slay Girl Society.  I’m new to blogging and happy that my posts resonate with those in the mental health community. Today I want to talk about my experience being a mom living with mental illness in a Muslim community. It’s hard enough living with a bipolar I disorder. Harder yet when you’re a parent and spouse. And it’s even more complicated when you’re part of a tight-knit religious community. I’ll start my story here: When I…

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A letter to my friend mental illness

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Dear BP,

Hi, how are you? How have you been? I’ll admit I’m a little nervous writing to you because I don’t want you to think I’m asking to see you. And I don’t want you to think about me and decide to visit. I’m just not ready to be around you. But I did want to check in with you since you’ve been relatively quiet lately. If you recall, it’s been about six months since we spoke. Well formally anyway. I see your posts online from time to time but I never comment. I think we were last together at the hospital, right? That particular stay was a doozy! I hope I never go back. Remember that one girl who kept attacking everybody and calling us names? That was so wild.

So Ziprasidone and I are pretty friendly these days. I know how you guys feel about him, which is also why I’m staying away. But he’s good for me. I do miss our old friends though. How’s Elevated Mood doing? I hear she might be coming to town soon. I know she always heads this way in the spring for an extended visit. Ooh, maybe she’ll get to see the cherry blossoms this time. Tell her I said ‘hi’ if you talk to her. Out of everybody, I miss her the most. She can be a lot to take, but she doesn’t mean any harm. She just has a ton of energy. We always have fun when we’re with each other. I wouldn’t mind getting together with her for old time’s sake.

Hey, you know who I’ve been thinking about? Impulsivity. Man, we used to get into so much trouble back in the day! I’m so glad I’ve learned to love him from afar. But sometimes I like to reminisce about the things we used to do. If nothing else, to remind me what life used to be like before my health got better. Do you remember when he and I went to get matching tattoos? Goodness, it was like we couldn’t help ourselves. We just had to do it and nothing would deter us. I was shaking so much in the chair from all my nervous energy that the tattoo artist got upset. He said if I couldn’t sit still, he wouldn’t continue. Imp just laughed at me.

Afterwards I felt so ridiculous. And by then, Imp was nowhere to be found, as usual. I was embarrassed I’d let him talk me into getting the tattoo. What bothers me is I’m not even supposed to have those. It’s against my religion. But as soon as Imp started hyping up the idea, I couldn’t say no. And it came up out of the blue, so suddenly too. We didn’t think about the consequences or wonder if we’d regret doing it. This didn’t occur to either of us. All that mattered was getting that ink. To be honest, we’d been hanging out with that guy Compulsion too often back then, and we let him influence our choices. I think both Imp and I are pretty suggestible, if you ask me.

Oh my gosh, do you know what I did the other day? I decided to create a gratitude journal to remind myself of all the good things in my life that I’m grateful for. Oh BP, it’s been such a help. Every day I write about the things that make me happy and what I appreciate. You know they always taught us to do this whenever we’d go to the hospital. Well I finally got around to it. You should try it sometime. You’d love it!  And maybe it will give you a better outlook on life.

Guess who I’ve been chatting with lately? Insomnia! Can you believe it? I know we used to hate each other. But we’ve since reconciled and we’re spending almost every night together. We laugh and carry on like two little old ladies. Her jokes about not sleeping are too funny. And she still loves to play pranks on me in the middle of the night, as much as she always did. That Insomnia is such a card! We really have to stop meeting up though, or I’ll get sick again. You know how that goes.

So I have to know, how’s BPD doing these days? Do you see her often? Has she gotten herself together yet? Last I heard she was ruining yet another relationship. I’m sorry to say it but I hope I never interact with her again. She and I do not get along. She makes me so mad, I can’t stand it. And we always bring out the worst in each other. It’s always all or nothing with us. Things are either great or horrible. There is no in between, it’s awful. She’s just not a good influence for me so I try to avoid her at all costs. And if you remember, I had to go to therapy partly because of her. I’m still salty about that. I’m not trying to shift blame or anything, but I can’t help thinking that if I’d never met her, my life would’ve been much less stressful and anxiety ridden.

Speaking of my cousin Anx, did you hear she had a baby? Yeah, she named her OCD. I’m not one to criticize name choices, but OCD? Ok, I have so many questions. Don’t tell my cuz 😉 But why that name? What does it even mean? That kid’s going to have a tough time in life with a name like that. Why OCD? Is it a family name? Is it symbolic in some way? I keep saying it over and over, letting it roll around on my tongue so I can get used to it. It just makes me feel so prickly inside when I say it. But I can’t stop. I’ve repeated it about 500 times now. OCD. OCD. Nope, I still can’t get used to it. It sounds strange in my head, like an echo and a hollow tinny sound all at the same time. Oh wait; I’m getting fixated again. Don’t mind me. You know I do this sometimes. It’s gotten better, but I still slip now and then. My brother Buspirone has been helping me overcome it. He’s been such a blessing. He has his moments, like everybody, but overall I’ve loved having him around. I wish I had told him sooner that I needed his help.

You know, Depression has been on my mind a lot lately. I can’t help thinking about him and wondering if he’ll ever get better. He just seems so lost sometimes. It’s like he lives in his own dark world where no one can reach him. I feel so badly for him. He brings everyone down with his misery, negative outlook and detachment, and he doesn’t even realize it. He’s a good guy, just misunderstood I think.

I guess you heard that Anger and I made up a few weeks ago. We decided to part ways for good, but in doing so I think we’ve reached an understanding. I’m so happy about it. I think he realized how he much he was hurting me and knew why we couldn’t see each other anymore. It’s really for the best. I sometimes get scared that I won’t find anybody else, but I’m trying to be patient. I don’t want to go back to him just because I’m lonely. It’s hard though. Being alone I mean. I can’t shake the fact that I’ll die by myself, with nobody there to notice. That thought bothers me all the time. People say ‘just be positive’. But even in doing so, I haven’t found anybody else that understood me like Ang did. A friend of mine always counsels me to accept things as they are and to look forward to better times. You know that girl Patience? The one everybody always talks about? Well she’s his best friend. I guess that’s why he’s always so calm and collected. Maybe I should meet her someday. She sounds lovely.

I’m not even going to ask about Grandiosity. He annoys me to no end. Always thinking he’s better than everybody and deciding he can do whatever he wants. He seems to think the world revolves around him. That guy is so obnoxious. And he makes me look bad when he’s around. I get sucked into his schemes and plans, and I forget who I am. But his presence is so intoxicating. You know how he is; charismatic and charming…until he completely alienates everybody with his over inflated sense of self. I’m sure I’ll run into him again soon. It’s inevitable.

Oh wow, I just realized this whole letter has been one big gossip session. Hey, maybe we both needed that. Anyway, I hope you’re doing well, BP. I don’t hate you or anything, but I need some space. I hope you can accept that. I know we’ll always be in each other’s lives. I just think it’s best if we limit our time together. Take care of yourself.

Love,

Karen

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