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Doubting Allah Because of My Autistic Brother

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Nov 08, 2016

Question

Salam. Before I start telling you about my depression, confusion and the waswasa from which I suffer(ed) - I feel much better now - it is important that I tell you what happened before the summer (I had the depression in the summer).I have a younger brother, who suffers from severe autism. He is also mentally handicapped. He can’t talk, but el hamdullillah he isn’t physically disabled. He is sixteen years old. After a long search for an institution where he would be happy and could spend the rest of his life, finally, we found him a place. It was impossible to keep him at home any longer. My parents were continually under severe stress, he ran away a couple of times (my mother was sure somebody had kidnapped him and was going to do him harm), he lit a part of the living room on fire, he had anger seizures in which he would hit everything and everyone, and if he had the chance - smack you down the floor (this happened to my mother twice). He would also scratch me. I thought that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal for me when he left; I thought I could handle it. But apparently, I couldn’t and became depressed, I started doubting myself and everyone. I even started doubting Allah. I was so scared and disgusted of these thoughts, I prayed a lot, read the Qur’an (this often made me MORE scared!) and I immediately searched help by calling my middle school Islam teacher (I’m a university student now). He helped me a great deal, and so did your site (it is a very good site maashallah) and I am happy to say that I have less doubts now, and when I do, I immediately call upon Allah, I seek refuge in prayer and try not to pay attention to the thoughts. You should also know that I have a very stubborn, headstrong character, I ask a lot of questions, I’ve been like this since I could talk at the age of two (my mother often tells me how I drove her crazy with all my questions). I am often in a lot of doubt (in every single thing that I do), I think this is how I am, it is my nature. Don’t understand me wrong, I am not trying to explain away my bad thoughts, I am merely trying to tell you how my character is. Perhaps, my character is my test and trying to be calm rather than my chaotic self is my task in this life. In July, at vacation in Turkey, I realized I had a depression, and that it wasn’t just a religious seeking. I was scared I was going to die every single moment of the day. I was sure I had cancer (I don’t have cancer!). I was rude to everyone. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I study Assyriology and Arabic, I would love to work for a museum. Politics also interests me a great deal. But suddenly, I wasn’t sure of all those things anymore. I commented on what I called other peoples' weak faith'. I became arrogant, you see. Only Allah is obliged to judge. I judged constantly. I became a religious freak. My mom and aunts were scared of me. I hate myself now for being so rude to them. Luckily, I’m better now. But I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. I want everything to be perfect and exactly how I plan it to be. But here’s the thing, life almost never is how you plan/want it to be. After prayer, I would sometimes address Allah in a loud voice, while crying. I was seriously messed up. I realized that my brother going away has caused all this to happen, I never gave myself the time to think things over and to accept that he will live there for the rest of his life and that he will only come home in the weekends. I think this is partly due to the fact that we as humans always tend to think in 'projects'. We always have an upcoming project, something we have to do. Securing my brothers future was my project and suddenly - my project was finished and I was quite lost. I am scared for the future. What to do when my parents aren’t here anymore, how will I explain this to him? He won’t understand... He will think they have left him because they were tired of him. Or what if he gets seriously ill?

Counselor

Answer


Doubting Allah Because of My Autistic Brother

Answer:

Wa ‘Alaikum As-Salaam dear sister,

You are a very dedicated sister and daughter, and I can tell that you love your family very much. You are a very aware young woman with great intuition. You intuitively recognized that your depression is normal – and it is. It is a natural grief process. It is also normal to worry about your brother. I would like you to consider the stages of grief and also complicated grief.

In your case, you live in a family system that was initially struck by grief when your brother did not develop like other children. You likely are close to your parents and you absorbed their grief, fear, and confusion into yourself. You have been feeling their feelings and taking a lot of responsibility upon your own shoulders. You likely felt grief about your parents’ grief without even knowing it.

The difficulties and the sometimes even chaotic events that have been experienced by your parents have likely affected your parents’ ability to focus on you as much as they would like to and as much as you needed. Yet, you realize that this was due to circumstances beyond their control. So, the role you took within the family is the healer and the responsible party.

This role also filled your heart when your parents could not. So, your grief is on multiple levels. You miss your brother, you likely feel loss in a way that may be difficult to describe in regard to your relationship with either both your parents or with your mother. And you lost your “purpose” role. That is a lot, but if you can look at the different areas of grief, you may be able to move through them and work through your feelings.

One suggestion is to get three separate notebooks for yourself and begin journaling. Keep one notebook for your feelings about your brother; one for your feelings about your relationship with your parents; and one for your past and present functions and roles within your family, community and society, and then add to that ideas, hopes, and dreams for your future.  This will take a few hours every week, but it is well worth the effort.

Don’t worry so much about your personality, but rather look at your strengths and weaknesses. The attributes that you have mentioned about your personality will be very useful in helping you to complete your education. It sounds like you are very focused and analytical. If you can steer your energy into a constructive and productive activity, even your occasional obsessive thinking can serve you.

Here is a little secret: You cannot achieve the doctorate level of education (19 years minimum total education in the USA=after 12 years of high school, another 7 years minimum) without being a little obsessive. In order to make it that far, you have become details oriented, analytical, and intensively focused.

With that said, I suggest you complete the studies that you have already begun. There is always a hump in academia. It often disappoints the intelligent student who begins the journey all fired up and enthusiastic, only to find that the actual day to day “travel” requires a lot of focus on things that are not always so inspiring or exciting, but are essential to developing the skills required to become an expert in your field of study. I call this the rocks along the path because they are, indeed, nut and bolts and they have to be mastered. Learning the languages while also getting a degree in political science will position you to be able to serve humanity in a very lofty manner.  Stay the course.

Once you “reset” yourself and focus on your studies again, your worries and irrational fears will likely subside. Your mind is just too active and it is wandering. To ease your worries about your brother, write out your concerns and then write a plan of action for your concerns.  Follow your plan of action and you won’t need to worry so much.

You are correct: life is a process, and life is Allah (swt). Trust the process, trust life, and trust Allah (swt). Take time each day to find five things to be thankful for, and remember to thank Allah (swt) for your eyes, for your ability to walk, for the beautiful mind that He (swt) gave you, for your very breath each and every day. Then ask Allah (swt) to use you as His (swt) instrument. Only after you have done this – even if only silently to yourself- proceed with your daily routine and tasks.

This world is very lucky to have a young woman like you. Your nature is to serve humanity. You are also very passionate. Ask Allah (swt) to guide and direct that passion for the fulfillment of his will, and your fears and anxieties will be relieved, In sha’ Allah.

Salaam,

***

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