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I Can’t Find My Life Purpose; I Feel Anxious

Questioner

Muslimah

Reply Date

Sep 14, 2016

Question

Assalamu AlikumI am 25 year old muslimah living in the UK and have suffered from anxiety and depression all my life. I was studying Accounting and Business in University, I took a gap year from studies in my second year because of severe anxiety which lead me to depression. I tried to return to studies numerous times but found it difficult .I made istikhara whether to continue studies or not and after that I decided to withdraw from studies as this would be better for me. Leaving my studies has made me feel better. But it also gave me a sense of emptiness , I have not been employed for four years now and hardly get out of the house. I don't have a social life as I hardly interact with anyone. I am on medication for my anxiety condition but I don't think it helps. I have tried to seek talk therapy but could not get access to it. I am trying to volunteer to do something useful with my time but I still feel that I am a failure and don't have a purpose in my life. I have no plans for the future and don't know what I'd like to do as a career and this makes me anxious.Could you please help?Jazaka Allah

Counselor

Answer


I Can't Find My Life Purpose; I'm Anxious

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,

What you have been going through is not easy. My heart goes out to you. Anxiety is not an easy disorder to resolve, as many think it is. Anxiety affects millions of people worldwide. The physical and emotional/mental symptoms that go along with anxiety can be devastating, as you well know. Depression is a natural response to a constant feeling of anxiety that is not properly treated as one can feel as if their whole world must succumb to this condition.

I kindly ask you to reflect on several things. When did you first start feeling anxious? What were the symptoms, and how did you initially cope with them? Has the anxiety become worse as you got older? Do you recall anything that happened in your life in which you can say that the anxiety started around that time or a few months later?

Please start a journal, in sha’ Allah. Write down the answers to these questions and reflect on your anxiety, how and why it may have started, and your reactions to it. This may, in sha’ Allah, give you insight into the underlying causes of your anxiety and help you to resolve them with your therapist. Try to write in your journal daily. Document your feelings, your reactions to these feelings, then write something positive that came out of it or something positive that you will do.

I suggest dear sister that, in sha’ Allah, you read about anxiety and holistic approaches to anxiety such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive body relaxation,  acupuncture and the many more options available for treating anxiety. I also suggest that you learn coping skills as well as how to “flow” through a period of anxiety rather than fighting it.   When you can learn to do that, you are on your way to mastering the anxiety.

As far as the depression, I urge you to discuss this with your therapist. While it may be a natural response to external factors caused by the anxiety such as quitting school, not having a social life, not going out of the house, it could also be caused by other things. It’s important to find out. Your symptoms are the symptoms of depression; and they are often symptoms-behaviors of prolonged anxiety. I would kindly suggest, in sha’ Allah, that you address both illnesses with your therapist.

Also, evidently, the medication is not working or you would be functioning as you wish. I would discuss with your therapist the idea of changing your medication as well.

However, as with any illness, you must also put forth great effort to “climb out of the hole of despair”. Your idea about volunteering is great! Volunteer in several fields that you are interested in and, in sha’ Allah, you may find one that you would like to turn into a career.

I would also suggest that you join a support group in your area for people who suffer from anxiety. Your therapist can offer referrals or go on the internet and look for groups in your area. A global platform called Meet Up should have a group for this. By joining a group, you will, in sha’ Allah, develop better coping skills, share, and listen to others who have been going through the same thing you have. You will meet others who understand you and what you are going through and, in sha’ Allah, you will also meet those who have defeated anxiety and now live lives that they desire. This can be very empowering, and I highly suggest it.

Lastly, dear sister, make du’aa’ to Allah (swt) to relieve you of this and to grant ease in your recovery.

Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira: “The Prophet () said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari) 

Remember, sister, that everything we suffer from relieves us of some of our sins. This in itself is a blessing and mercy as it lessens our amount of sin. Thus, we suffer not in vain. Sadness, anxiety, and depression, while not enjoyable at all, may serve to strengthen us for future situations, strengthen our relationship with Allah (swt), and make us more compassionate and aware of the plight of others around us who also suffer.

Remember, you are not alone. Connect with those who know what you have been going through and who can help you to overcome it so you can live a happy, fulfilling life.

Also, try to relieve the burdens and sadness that others may experience by doing acts of charity and servitude. In sha’ Allah, you may find great relief in these deeds and you will receive Allah’s (swt) blessings for your efforts.

You are in our prayers. Please let us know how you are.

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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