This past week, my mental health has taken a huge beating.Oct 29, 2022
I'm not writing this for sympathy or pity points. The objective of this post is to illustrate how quickly mental health can deteriorate with the onset of any physical illness or condition and what needs to be done to protect it. I’m writing from a place of pain and complete and utter rawness - so bear with me.
Last Monday, I woke up with heavy lungs and a feeling that my cold was progressing for the worse. A quick trip to the doctor’s office confirmed I had a respiratory infection, and I was given antibiotics, amongst other prescription medications, which I obediently took. Later that evening, despite taking 2 doses of the antibiotics, my lungs quickly went from bad to intolerable. It was difficult to sleep that night. I felt as if pockets in my lungs were tearing apart. My throat and lungs felt like someone had rubbed a shredder on them, and even though I could breathe, it certainly wasn’t comfortable. I waited until Fajr to make the hospital visit, during which they put me on a nebulizer as well as an IV serum. The standard COVID swab was done, and I was instructed to stop the medications I was prescribed the previous day. Two additional antibiotics were now to be used in tandem along with cough syrup, NAC + Vitamin C, and painkiller, then 4 doses of Probiotics upon completing the antibiotics.
The word COVID alone conjures up feelings of fear, sadness, PTSD from isolation and trauma we endured as a global community, and the memories of loved ones we've lost in the past 2 years.
My health before COVID was already a struggle with my food allergies, histamine intolerance and perimenopause symptoms. Eating food for nourishment had already lost its pleasure, and I often found myself hating food in general.
I enjoy cooking for others and teaching about food, but even on a good day, I suffer from anxiety even when eating my own cooking because of how often I've become gravely ill from just eating a normal meal.
I had COVID pneumonia 6 months ago, and it took my lungs 2-3 months to fully heal. The last time I had it, I was pumped with antibiotics and other prescription medications that improved my condition but at the expense of my gut flora. The past few months I’ve tried to focus on rebuilding my gut health when I find myself yet again on antibiotics and prescription medication that will again destroy my microbiome.
Let's be real honest here. I would never avoid antibiotics when batting a bacterial infection that can be life-threatening. Saving my life at the expense of my gut microbial life is worth the sacrifice. We are designed to heal and regenerate, and the gut flora will be rebuilt again and again over the span of our life.
However, all prescription medications complicate matters. I can't take my herbs the way I normally do because they will interact with the medications and it's hard to know how they may affect my health.
And as a person who loves and teaches about herbs, being unable to incorporate them freely the way I used to is just another set of limitations I'm battling and further depletes my emotional and mental health.
The pain I've experienced this week, though it's only been a short 5 days in the grand picture of life, has felt like an eternity of suffering. The quarantine has me feeling like a prisoner in my own home. I found myself sad, in tears, and wanting to isolate myself from the outside world because it was hard to enjoy anything.
Alhamdulilah, I'm getting better but my mental health has taken a huge beating.
Illness, regardless of whether it is acute or chronic, WILL affect your mental health.
Depression and anxiety come hand in hand with almost any threat to our well-being.
Who doesn't become scared and anxious when they are diagnosed with pneumonia, cancer, food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, PCOS, infertility, sepsis, Multiple Sclerosis, or any other illness or an autoimmune condition?
Who doesn't become depressed when they can no longer eat normally, are loaded with medications, struggle with fatigue, pain and countless visits to doctors and hospitals with little relief?
Health is a relative concept. Prior to COVID, I struggled with chronic issues that I had learned to manage with diet, herbs, hijama, and dua. But when a new, short-term, acute illness takes hold of our well-being, the mental health rollercoaster escalates at a very fast and destructive rate.
It’s not uncommon to hear waswasa (*whisperings/negative thoughts) when you are sick.
— Look at you, you are teaching others about health and wellness, and you can’t even save yourself from the grips of death!
— If Allah loves you, why does He keep testing you with trial after trial with your health when you haven’t even healed from your last condition?
— What’s the point in making dua? He hasn’t answered your dua about your food allergies. You still can’t even eat what you want?
— It’s time you give up on Nurasunna/Propheticmedicine.com!
Even more important than healing from the illness itself is strengthening your mental health in the process. Because healing begins with the mind.
How do you do that while you are struggling with physical pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and waswasa?
Belief - You re-acquaint yourself with Allah SWT. The only way to know Him SWT better is to read the Qur’an, for ⅓ of the Qur’an describes His Names and Attributes.
He is Allah!
The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. (1:3)
When My servants ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about Me: I am truly near. I respond to one’s prayer when they call upon Me. (2:186)
He is the Only True God in the heavens and the earth. He knows whatever you conceal and whatever you reveal, and knows whatever you do. (6:3)
And He ˹alone˺ heals me when I am sick. (26:80)
He is the First and the Last, the Most High and Most Near,1 and He has ˹perfect˺ knowledge of all things. (57:3)
He is Allah—there is no god except Him: the King, the Most Holy, the All-Perfect, the Source of Serenity, the Watcher ˹of all˺, the Almighty, the Supreme in Might,1 the Majestic. Glorified is Allah far above what they associate with Him ˹in worship˺! (29:23)
Allah—the Sustainer ˹needed by all˺. (112:2)
Knowledge — You read. You seek knowledge.
As you lay helpless in your bed, read.
You read the Qur'an for it contains healing for your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
"And We sent down in the Quran such things that have healing and mercy for the believers"
"For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease."
Truth — You read hadith specific to illness to strengthen your resolve and dismantle the waswasa that you are facing.
(the wife of the Prophet) Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn."
Sahih al-Bukhari 5640
You read inspiring healing stories of others who overcame the same battle and you continue to have hope that:
"And [mention] Job, when he called to his Lord, "Indeed, adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful. So We responded to him and removed what afflicted him of adversity. And We gave him [back] his family and the like thereof with them as mercy from Us and a reminder for the worshippers [of Allah]."
Empowerment — And you empower yourself to take action that promises healing and recovery:
Remember - Ayyoub Alayhi Assalam didn’t receive his healing while laying in his deathbed helpless. He got up, went outside, and struck the earth with his foot as instructed
We responded,˺ “Stomp your foot: ˹now˺ here is a cool ˹and refreshing˺ spring for washing and drinking.” (38:42)
- Drink zamzam and make dua
- Take a tablespoon of honey several times a day
- Take ¼ teaspoon of black seed daily
- Self Ruqya
- Water therapy (showers/baths)
- Sun/nature therapy (even if it means sitting by a window in the sunlight)
- Rest, and give your body time to heal
I leave you with these final reminders!
Help others even when you are sick. Give charity. A smile. A kind word. Give advice to others. Never stop serving others when grieving your own loss.
Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah continues to fulfill the needs of the servant as long as he fulfills the needs of his brother.” Source: al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr 4664
Islamic medicine is inclusive of both Prophetic medicine and some of Modern medicine. We are a middle nation. We do not go to extremes and only resort to Prophetic remedies without knowledge of medicine nor do we only use Modern medicine without inclusion of Prophetic medicine and the laws of Islam pertaining to medicine.
Alhamdulilahi rabbul ‘aleem
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