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Should I Disclose My Mental Illness to Others?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Jun 07, 2017

Question

2 years ago I got diagnosed with the following neurodiverse disorders: ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Visual Stress Disorder. This followed up with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis (High Functioning Aspie) last year. All my life I knew I was different and built my own coping mechanisms which helped me land a great first job even though academically I always struggled. I decided not to disclose any of my diagnosis to my parents. They are quite traditional parents, the best kind of parents you could wish for. I eventually had to quit my job as they just couldn't understand my hidden disorders. It's been over a year now and I am struggling to find a job. I also struggle with the impulsive random nights, anxiety, stress and depression. In addition, enjoying my own company has made me an easy target of shaytan. I talk to Allah every day since I was a child, yet only recently started praying few salaah every day. I know I'm failing my trials but each time I seek repentance and closeness to Allah. Am I using mental health problems as any excuse to pursue these pleasures? I believe Allah himself wants me to keep it all hidden till I get married. I know there isn't a cure and feel once in employment I will be much more in control. Should I continue trying new medications? Hopefully, you can shed some light on both mental health and some Islamic rulings or hadiths. Thank you very much.

Counselor

Answer


Should I Disclose My Mental Illness to Others?

 


In this counseling answer:

Disclosing mental illnesses to others might be difficult, but can make things easier for the individual by being in the presence of others more often. Gaining social support either through work or visiting family or friends can ease the burden of having a mental illness. Potentially, social support can protect people from the added difficulties they face when being alone.


As-Salamu ’Alaikum brother,

First of all, let me reassure you that you have done the right thing to stand up and talk openly about your mental health difficulties. It takes great courage to do this and is an inspiration to those who sit quietly enduring the same challenges that you are. The best thing is that you come forward to seek assistance. This is the first step in successfully overcoming your difficulties with mental illness, in sha’ Allah.

You are open about the various challenges you have been facing, but at the same time take the time to relish your blessings too.

You are conscious of Allah’s (swt) presence. This is what causes you concern, especially when your diagnosis seems to stand in the way of your worship. This concern in itself is commendable and shows your fear of Allah (swt) and desire to please Him. It is this attitude that will contribute to you moving forward successfully.

Whilst getting a job is a challenge for you as it is for many in today’s economic climate, regardless of the presence of a mental illness, you suggest it is an excellent distraction from challenges you face on a day-to-day basis. Not only will it give you back an added sense of purpose in your daily living contributing to a scene of accomplishment, but it gives you the chance to be with others.

As much as you like being alone, being with others is also necessary. Spending too much time alone for an extended period of time will only make it more difficult in the future to be around others, so it’s best not to form too much of a habit of it.

The issue perhaps becomes more about how to maintain the job whilst experiencing silent problems of mental illness. You can either choose to disclose it to your manager alone or to make others aware of your difficulties so that they’ll be more understanding. Or if you chose to keep quiet, learn how to manage symptoms successfully by ensuring that you maintain a workload that is not too overwhelming. Make sure you take your allocated time off as well as availing of your right for breaks within the workplace to be absent from the task at hand for a few minutes. You might use such times to listen to a bit of Qur’an or to pray to realign your Islamic values and have them in mind before you get back to work again.

Regarding keeping quiet about your mental health before getting a wife, this might be perceived as deceptive. A good woman will accept you as you are and be prepared to face the difficulties. In fact, having a spouse might aid your recovery due to the support you will get from it. This way, you can be sure that you are entering the marriage with no secrets.

Be confident that she has accepted you for who you are. If she finds out after and it’s a problem for her, then this could cause marital difficulties. She might feel betrayed, even if she accepts your illness. So, do think of these potential consequences if you choose to hide it.

Similarly, regarding disclosing it to your parents: when people have mental health problems that profoundly affect their daily life, social support is often of a huge benefit, especially from family. Social support is often cited in the psychological literature as being a great contributor to recovery from illness, both physical and mental in nature.

Keeping your mental illness a secret from everyone including your family, spouse, and work could even be what makes things even more difficult for you. It might only encourage a mindset in yourself that what you are going through is something to be ashamed of and should be hidden. This will only reinforce feelings of negativity towards yourself as well as feeling that you want to stay hidden inside on your own.

You said yourself that you were aware that being alone makes you an easy target for Shaytaan. The first step to overcoming this is simply recognizing this as a problem. You have done that, alhamdulillah.

Now that you are aware of the dangers of being alone and have seen first-hand the negative effects of it, you can move forward in trying to be with others more often and spending less time on your own. You could begin by simply befriending other brothers at the Masjid after Friday prayer.

Having a mental illness does not have to stop you from doing all of the things that people do without it such as getting married and having a job. It does, however, produce added challenges to these things. But, like you say, you can see this in a more positive light by remembering the beauty that lies within such trials. For example,

Allah’s Messenger (saw) 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.” (Bukhari)

Also, keep in mind that whilst it might feel like you are skipping between a devout worshipper and then impulsively abandoning things altogether, understand that this is something that a lot of people go through regardless of whether they have a mental illness or not. Everybody’s levels of faith go up and down, but it is up to you to continue with your Islamic obligations to battle through the moments when you feel more distant from your Deen.

Being with others, whether it be a work or a social circle outside of work, can be a useful tool to prevent Shaytaan from reinforcing negative thoughts. It can give you the strength to fight them. Being with other like-minded Muslim brothers could be particularly useful as a means to reinforce your faith.

When at home alone, make a habit of remembering Allah (swt) in all that you do in order that you won’t be distracted by thoughts that take you away from your worship.

Regarding your question as to whether to continue with medication or use natural supplements, some people with mental health problems choose not to use medication and some do. It is a matter of your own choice. There are, however, several hadith relating to treating health conditions that you can refer to that might help guide your decision. A hadith that is commonly quoted to support those that do choose to use medication is

The Prophet (SAW) asked the Bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?”  The Bedouin answered, “I placed my trust in Allah.” The Prophet replied, “Tie your camel and place your trust in Allah.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Taken to mean, do what you can to treat your illness, such as using medication, and leave the rest to Allah (swt).

There are also many alternative treatments that are suggested in the Qur’an and Sunnah including honey, cupping, black seed, and, of course, reading the Qur’an.

“Healing is in three things: A gulp of honey, cupping, and branding with fire (cauterizing).” But I forbid my followers to use (cauterization) branding with fire.” (Bukhari)

“There is healing in black cumin for all diseases except death.” (Bukhari)

“And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss.” (Qur’an, 17:82)

Overall, you certainly will face difficulties as a result of mental illness, but there are many benefits and rewards of this also. Keeping it quiet from everyone may only be contributing to your desire to be alone more often which ultimately affects your commitment to your worship at times. Disclosing your problems to others may be difficult, but it might also gain you the added support you need. If you chose not to be open about it, then you may make things easy for yourself by being in the presence of others more often. Gaining social support in the form of being with others, either through work or visiting family or friends can ease the burden of having a mental illness and potentially protect you from the added difficulties you face when being alone.

May Allah (swt) bring you ease with your mental illness and give you the strength to overcome any difficulties you face as a result. May He (swt) reward your patience with it and grant you the best in this life and the next.

Amen,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.




About Hannah Morris

Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (www.facebook.com/activemindcare)

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