My Chronic Illness Makes Me Feel Depressed

21 October, 2019
Q How can I overcome this depression I have been suffering from for 3 years? I am currently doing my Ph.D. and I am not so sure anymore why I am doing this. I felt like sleeping the whole day. My motivation is always up and down. I pray and make dua every day, but I keep feeling low all the time.

I am always afraid and paranoid. I have an illness known as cavernorma. It is currently not life threating, but it does make me have a headache and sometimes numbness. I am always having panic attacks too.

Worst now, I keep feeling I am disappointing everyone around me. I cannot keep my promises to take care of them now that I am always sick. I keep on lying to everyone around me as if I am strong. But I am not. I cry every day in my sleep and whenever I pray. I am not sure what I want to do with my life anymore. Part of me wants to end it but I know it is a sin to do that.

Now I feel like I am stuck. Please help me.

Answer


In this counseling answer:

• It is okay to say “no” to requests from others.

• Your first obligation sister is to secure your health.

• I would kindly suggest sister that you see your specialist who treats this condition and tells him/her exactly what you are feeling emotional.

• Seek ongoing counseling sisters to address your feelings of fatigue, depression and panic disorder.

• Join Islamic support groups in your area that may address depression or panic.

• Make du’aa’ to Allah for guidance and direction regarding this.


As Salamu ‘Alaykum my dear sister,

I am sorry to hear what you are going through. It must be not only a frightening experience but also one in which you now feel you are letting others down.

Sister, I kindly urge you to first focus on yourself and concentrate your efforts on resolving these issues insha’Allah rather than worrying about “disappointing everyone”.  I do realize that you have obligations to others, but if you do not take care of yourself first, you will not be able to help others.

One point I would like to make is that it is okay to say “no” to requests from others. It is okay to say “I’m sorry, but I am not feeling well right now, perhaps another time” in regards to requests. As far as any promises you made in the past sister, it is okay to approach that person or persons and say “Look, I know I promised to do so and so, but I am not in the best of health right now, can I help later when I am able?” By addressing these past promises and any current or upcoming requests honestly sister, you will be taking a big burden off of yourself as far worrying about your abilities to complete any obligations.

My Chronic Illness Makes Me Feel Depressed - About Islam

I am sad to hear you think of ending your life as you are in such great mental anguish my dear sister, but I am happy to hear that you won’t as you know it is a sin. In any case, please do keep this number handy in case you ever need it.

Your first obligation sister is to secure your health. Health is comprised of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. You have stated that you have been diagnosed with a cavernorma. Just to be clear on what it is that you have, dear sister, according to Mount Sinai, “Cavernomas are abnormal clusters of vessels with small bubbles (or caverns) filled with blood that make them look like a berry. These can range in size from microscopic up to several inches in diameter. There is little blood flow in cavernomas. Since the walls of cavernomas are weak, blood can leak out. Cavernomas can occur in the brain and on the spinal cord. While a cavernous angioma may not affect function, it can cause seizures, stroke symptoms, hemorrhages, and headaches.”

As you did not state what region your cavernoma was in, but did state you had headaches, I can only guess that it may be in part responsible for the possible panic attacks, depression and other psychological issues you may be going through.  I am not a medical doctor, but the research I did concerning your health issues shows that a percentage of people with cavernoma’s do experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. “Although there is no evidence that vascular malformations of the brain directly cause psychological changes, it is quite common for people with this diagnosis to experience anxiety and depression. People often find it difficult to express how they feel, or talk about their emotions…”.

Based on the possibility of the cavernoma possibly triggering feelings of panic, depression, and fatigue, I would kindly suggest sister that you see your specialist who treats this condition and tells him/her exactly what you are feeling emotional. I would write a list if need be, and bring it to the appointment. Your doctor should affirm if these are indeed accompanying symptoms which can happen to people with cavernoma, or if they are not.

I would also ask your doctor to check your hormones for any changes as well as to see if there are any vitamin deficiencies. In any case, your doctor should be able to rule of out further physical cause relating to the cavernoma as well as refer you to a counselor for follow up regarding your mental health.

I highly recommend that you seek ongoing counseling sisters to address your feelings of fatigue, depression and panic disorder. These conditions are usually highly treatable. They are also very common disorders that millions of people worldwide have been diagnosed with. There is no need to live in a state of despair when you can get the treatment you need, heal, and move on with your life in a happy manner insha’Allah.

Sister, as you are studying for your Ph.D., as you know, it is a rigorous process. There is a lot of pressure and stress academically when completing any degree, but especially when it is a Ph.D. I wonder if you take time to relax, to socialize, to work out, take walks in nature or do other positive and healthy actions to combat the stress that you are under?  I realize that it can be hard to do these things when you are depressed and feel a loss of direction, but even committing to a few days a week to start will in sha’ Allah bring positive results.


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I would also kindly suggest that you join Islamic support groups in your area that may address depression or panic. Some Islamic Centers or Masjids do offer mental health services. It would be a wonderful blessing if you were able to sit with other Muslims who are experiencing the same issues as you are. You would learn helpful coping skills; you would be able to hear of others’ success stories as well as receive the Islamic spiritual nourishment which comes with any Islamic based treatment modality.  In sha’ Allah, you may also meet sisters who will become your supports as well as lifelong friends.

Sister, once you are stabilized you will be able to make a clearer decision about what you want to do with your life. Right now you have too many things going on.  I would kindly suggest that you begin to heal, resolve your current issues and then sit down and make a list of the direction you would like to go in. In sha’ Allah, you will continue your Ph.D., if not that is okay too. Make du’aa’ to Allah for guidance and direction regarding this. Trust that Allah loves you and will not lead you in the wrong way.

Sister, while I know you feel great despair right now, please know that in sha’ Allah these feelings and the possible panic disorder, depression, fatigue and feelings of a general loss of direction can be addressed and resolved, in sha’ Allah. As stated, millions of people worldwide have these conditions and are successfully treated and move on to live full, happy lives. You are not alone. Please, do consider the above recommendations in sha’ Allah, dear sister, and let us know how you are doing.

You are in our prayers.

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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.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.