In this counseling answer:
• Letting go of anxiety is the first step. When you decide to re-start your prayer practice, you will begin slowly and with a new understanding, experiencing one prayer per day at first so that you can change the effects of the practice into one that is in and of itself a coping skill for you. When you do this, you will do it for yourself, not for anyone else.
• What is most important for you to do now is to get yourself into a support group with people who also suffer from mental health issues.
As-Salamu ‘Alaykum M,
Thank you for sharing your struggles with mental illness and your sincere desire to have a life that feels congruent with your spirituality. We cannot be held accountable for actions that we do not have control over. The duty of a sincere seeker is to be authentic and to keep her heart open to the love and guidance of Allah. Allah is Most Merciful.
This is not just an act of Allah (bestowing mercy upon us) but is also an attribute of Him. In other words, it is inevitable that a human being will be strong in some areas and fall short in others sometimes because of our own character defects, sometimes because of ignorance, and sometimes because of a lack of ability. If we identify those character defects within ourselves and strive to improve them, we will be gently corrected by Allah.
The correction of Allah is in itself a form of mercy as to when we are proactively working on improving our character, correction is actually enjoyable. It makes us feel liberated and recognize who we actually are at the core of our being when we no longer think, feel, and behave incorrectly. That is all correction means. It is neither harm nor a punishment.
Look at the tree that is leaning and possibly dying. If a tree doctor comes along and removes debris which blocks the sunlight from reaching the tree, then the tree will be corrected by that sunlight and become strong and straight. The tree will be able to fulfill its purpose which is aligned with the will of Allah. And in this, the tree finds fulfillment. If our deficits are a result of ignorance or inability, that cannot be held against us. If we truly want to become whole and connected with Allah, then Allah will provide us with the skills and abilities that are necessary to connect with Him. Allah is our Lord and the Provider of all our needs.
Do not listen to other people who know nothing about mental illness. They do not know what kind of correction will benefit you or how you are meant to fulfill the will of Allah. You are practicing your faith to the best of your ability. If you are not praying, it is likely that you do not understand the benefits of prayer. Over time, as you are able to manage the symptoms of your mental illness, you will likely to find the benefits of prayer and will also learn that prayer can help you integrate and feel more grounded and stable.
Prayer has many benefits and functions, and it is perfectly ok if over time you learn how to use it as one way (in conjunction with other interventions) to accomplish the goal of symptom management. For now, if you are not able to utilize prayer in this manner and find yourself dissociating during prayer, by all means, put that aside for now. Take things one step at a time.
What is most important for you to do now is to get yourself into a support group with people who also suffer from mental health issues. It would be especially helpful if you and your sister proactively joined a support group in your area. Islam is not an isolative concept. It embraces all we are and we can become; all that is contained in our world and beyond it; all that we can comprehend, and all that is beyond our comprehension. Islam doesn’t limit; it is the portal through which we discover who we are, and it is so much more than we can comprehend.
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Allah is the source of all creation, and all creation comes from Allah. Do not limit yourself and the source from which you are willing to learn, grow, and become strong as a human being. Allah is the source of your understanding; He is the source of your help.
So, when you go to your doctor to participate in group therapy and find ways to introduce your parents to family support groups, understand that Allah wants to help you by this way so that your unique life journey can unfold to facilitate your own personal growth toward more and more understanding of your relationship with Allah.
I highly encourage you to continue with therapy, join therapy support groups, encourage your sister to do the same, and encourage your parents to participate in family support groups. I found you ‘Canadian Mental Health Association’ on the internet that provides support for individuals with mental illness and their families. Here is their website. I encourage you to read the content and make some calls for your own support and to get your family connected.
Consider that as you discover tools through therapy that will help you manage your symptoms, you will also be learning so much that you can share with other individuals who struggle with similar issues. You have so much to offer, please do not give up. And don’t worry about the prayers; they will come when you are ready.
Over time, after you are feeling stable, we can consider the practice of prayer to synthesize our identity and let go of worry about whether we are sincere. Indeed, Allah is Self-Sustaining and Sustainer of the Universe, thus He does not need us nor our prayers. We need Him and that is why we pray. Again, over time, you will understand that prayer is a valuable self-help tool that can help you clear your mind and ground you. But do not worry about this right now.
Letting go of anxiety is the first step. When you decide to re-start your prayer practice, you will begin slowly and with a new understanding, experiencing one prayer per day at first so that you can change the effects of the practice into one that is in and of itself a coping skill for you. When you do this, you will do it for yourself, not for anyone else. If your prayer does not benefit you, it cannot benefit anyone else. If it does not make you feel centered and connected to Allah, then it is not a real prayer anyway regardless if you are performing all of the postures correctly or saying all of the surahs perfectly.
Take things one day at a time and we will work toward authentic prayer later. The sincerity of a spiritual practice is easy. Authentic sincerity is a result of authentically wanting to heal, to become a better person, and to feel that content of calmness which is a result of connecting with Allah. That automatically leads to a desire to contribute to the welfare of humanity.
The spiritual path is a natural and healthy path. If you are striving to become healthier, then you are on an authentic path. If your heart calls out to Allah for guidance on this path, you will naturally receive that guidance.
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