Take Care of Your Mental Health! (Counseling Live Session)

Salam Aleikom dear dearers,

Thank you for submitting your question. Thank you sister Aisha for answering them.

Question 1

As-Salaam alikum,

I have been married for 14 years and have three kids alhamdulillah. I had a relationship in the past about which I didn’t tell my husband. He asked me few times but I lied to him. Now after 14years, he came to know for some reasons and I confessed as well.

Now obviously he’s heartbroken and depressed. He wants to forget everything and to move on in life but he can’t get over my past. He said he feel jealous. He imagined me with the other guy all the time. He told me he has forgiven me but in every argument and even in normal talk, he starts taunting or I can feel the sarcasm in his talk.

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I don’t know how to help him to get over all this. Can you please guide me on how can I help him?

As salamu alaykum,

Thank you for writing to our Live Session with your most important question regarding your situation.

Married for 14 Years

Sister, you have been married for 14 years and have three children. You did not indicate if you and your husband were close or how your marriage is. I can imagine however that up until this point you had a very solid marriage created upon Islamic foundations. Unfortunately, a previous relationship that happened over 14 years ago before you married your husband was revealed to him.

Husband’s Reaction Causing Conflicts

At the present time because of this newly found information, your husband taunts you or becomes sarcastic and you feel this has greatly damaged your relationship. My dear sister, your previous concerns about not telling your husband about this previous relationship and your concern of your husband finding out are valid in one way. This is due to the fact that he feels he was entitled to know about this past relationship. He may feel betrayed that you did not tell him and possibly feels jealous. However, this situation was to be between you and Allah only.

Correct in Not Disclosing Sins

Sister, as this relationship with another man was over 14 years ago, I am confident that you have sought repentance, asked Allah for forgiveness, and moved on with your life. When we seek repentance we are to give our sin to Allah, let it go and not talk about it or bring it up. We are to trust in Allah’s forgiveness and mercy and that Allah covers our sins. Thus, you were correct in not informing your husband. This was between you and Allah. As a Muslim your husband should understand this. Of course, being that human emotions can get in the way of things, he may be prone to forgetting that this was and is between you and Allah. It had nothing to do with him.

Past Relationship and Consequences

As this relationship was in the past and you sought repentance, it should have been left at that. You stated that during your relationship with your husband he asked you a few times about previous relationships but you lied. While lying is not good, he actually should not have put you in this position nor asked you this question to begin with. When we repent for our sins others should not ask us about them nor should we inform them.

Trusting in Allah

In this case your repentance and moving on with your life takes precedence over telling him about this relationship or other sins you may have committed and repented for. While sometimes our sins do have consequences even when we have repented, we must trust in Allah that the outcome will be beneficial for us.

“The one who repents from sin is like one who did not sin.” [Ibn Maajah]

Helping Husband to Move Forward

In regards to helping your husband move forward and beyond this emotional obstacle, it will be important to focus on Islamic principles of forgiveness. For instance, you may want to discuss with him the fact that indeed this was between you and Allah and that once we repent we are not to disclose our sins. You may insha’Allah wish to point out that this was before your marriage to him and that for 14 years you both shared a sacred bond and closeness. Give him gentle reminders of the importance of forgiving others so Allah forgives us. Forgiving means to “wipe things clean” as if it never happened.

“Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allaah. Indeed, Allaah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [Quran 39:53]

Moving Forward

If after discussing certain Islamic points with your husband on forgiveness, repentance, and non-disclosure of sins brings no change in his heart, thoughts, or actions, you may wish to engage with him in Islamic marriage counseling. Oftentimes marital counseling which is started sooner than later can help with “damage control”. This is to mean that by getting counseling now, it may insha’Allah prevent further hurt, anger, and mistrust from becoming so embedded in the relationship that it destroys the marriage. Insha’Allah, please do consider this option if he does not respond to Islamic guidance and principles concerning past sins and repentance.

Conclusion

Sister, it seems as if you did all you could to move forward with your life. Your repentance to Allah and attempts to keep your previous relationship out of the realm of your new life as a married woman was the correct thing to do. It has been over 14 years and you thus far had a successful marriage with three children added to your beautiful family. Insha’Allah, stand firm in your trust in Allah. Try to bring your husband back into the folds of Islamic thinking to assist him with letting go of something that had nothing to do with him. Pray together and make duaa to Allah swt for healing. If this does not change the situation, insha’Allah please do seek Islamic marriage counseling. We wish you the best. 

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Question 2

Assalamu ‘alaykum. I started practicing Islam three years ago. I started to pray five times, fasting, and last year I decided to wear hijab. I suffered of waswasah (whispers of Satan); I had a lot of evil thoughts about Allah, but I could control them and they disappeared. So everything was going Ok. I decided to study Arabic at a university in Italy. Because of university, sometimes I used to miss my prayers, so after a while I felt guilty, and then I decided to do more dhikr.

One day, while studying Arabic literature about the Qur’an and how it could have been invented, I felt like I believed it so I asked Allah to forgive me and I gave it up and started reading Qur’an. While reading the passage where Allah describes Kafirs (non believers) in surah al Baqarah, I felt like that and I started crying asking Allah’s forgiveness, but then a voice in my mind told me that now I am a kafir so I started to feel hopeless, I blamed myself a lot, then I remembered maybe it could be shaytan so I tried to relax, but it didn’t work.

I started to question Allah a lot. I had a lot of doubts in my mind. It was scary and I felt really hopeless, and suddenly I felt like I believed not in Allah anymore. Now my doubts have almost disappeared. I continue praying but still have this feeling as I can’t believe in Allah anymore, but anyway I fear hell a lot. Every day I suffer from anxiety, I feel like Allah has abandoned me (I hope I am wrong). I can’t get close to Him anymore. The more I try to convince myself I am a Muslim, the more I am confused. Sometimes, I know I believe with my brain, but my heart seems dead.

How can I get rid of this confusion? It seems Shaytan has won. You cannot imagine how sad and depressed I am. I wonder if I am still a Muslim or not. I don’t want to be a kafir, but I am confused. I fear hell. I wonder if it was a trial for me, or if Allah doesn’t want to guide me anymore? How can I get free from guilt and from this tremendous confusion?

As salamu alaykum,

Thank you for writing to our Live Session. Sister, many Muslims experiences what you are describing, so you are not alone in what you are going through. I know this doesn’t make it any less scary but it is a rather common experience.

New Muslim

Sister as you are a rather new Muslim of three years, there may be many things that challenge your belief system. Insha’Allah you may learn to use discriminatory analytical thinking when finding things that lead you away from the straight path. An example of this was your studying Arabic literature that stated the Qur’an could have been invented. When one reads literature or information like this, if there is a pre-existing condition of anxiety or intrusive thought disorder, it can affect how one feels and moves forward with Islamic education. It can distort the truth, raise alarms, fears, and doubts.

Studying Islam

When one studies Islam it is an intense and beautiful experience. We are invited to participate and learn about the only right and true religion that was given to us by Allah. It is an honor to be chosen by Allah to be Muslim. With this said, our quest for learning new information should be from valid and reliable sources. This acts as a protection for us.

Doubts and Fears: Waswasah

Doubts and fears can arise when studying Islam. Sometimes it can be due to waswasah, however a lot of times it is due to our own internal issues which can be traced back to either depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental health conditions. If there is no history of mental health issues nor current evidence, perhaps it is waswasah. It is best however to rule out mental health issues first. Mental health issues left untreated may result in an endless cycle of fear, confusion, and an exacerbation of symptoms.

Importance of Mental Health

Millions of people worldwide suffer from anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health issues. Oftentimes mental health issues can get in the way of daily life activities as well as Islamic learning by creating phobias, paranoia, fears, depression, and a feeling that things are just not right. This can be a scary experience especially if the underlying mental health issues are not addressed. According to HPA, “Mental illness is a global problem.

More than 300 million people, 4.4% of the world’s population, suffer from depression. These alarming figures reflect the wider prevalence of mental ill-health more generally. It is estimated that mental health conditions will affect a staggering one in four people at some time in their lives.” These statistics are only for depression; thus we can hypothesize the numbers dramatically jump when other mental health issues are included in the stats.

Looking at Mental Health Status

Sister, I kindly ask you to look back upon your mental health history. Have you ever experienced anxiety or depression before this? Have you ever experienced intrusive thoughts? Have you experienced any unusual feelings prior to taking shahada? You may want to make a list of the feelings/emotions, triggers, and dates, both historic and current concerning any mental health issues. I encourage you to assess your past and current mental health status in order to determine if there is a possible connection.  As discussed earlier millions of people worldwide suffer from some kind of mental illness. It is nothing to be ashamed of however it is something to be addressed.

Counseling and Spiritual Fortitude

Sister, in addition to doing a self-inventory of your mental health status, I would kindly suggest that you also seek an evaluation and ongoing counseling in your area. Taking care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual health is incumbent upon us as Muslims. In addition, continue to strengthen your relationship and connection with Allah swt through prayer, reading Qur’an, going to the Masjid to pray, as well as making duaa to Allah asking Him for guidance in removing these thoughts and feelings from you.

Conclusion

Sister please do rule out any mental health issues. Insha’Allah seek out an assessment and counseling on a regular basis.  I pray you can proceed with your Islamic Studies with joy. By ruling out or confirming any existing anxiety, OCD, panic disorders, or depression, can greatly help when trying to put things in perspective in regards to your Islamic education and what you are feeling. You are a Muslim sister; Allah does love you and Allah is most merciful and understands us better than we do. You are in our prayers.

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Question 3

Dear Counselor, I have a serious problem. I don’t like the way I look. I always have the feeling that I want to be perfect in front of others. Although most people say that I am pretty, I don’t feel it! Whenever I smile or even speak, I always imagine how my face will look like. I always think of my look, whether the people like my face, the way I speak, and so on.

One day, I was joking with my mom about noses and she said that I had a curved nose! This stucked in my mind, It was the first time I noticed this and I began to ask people around me whether I really had a curved nose. Due to this issue, I have even begun hating my profile and always facing the people so that they don’t see my profile.

Even when I choose a place to sit in a meeting, I make sure the least people see me from that place.  I spend much time in front of the mirror in fitting rooms looking at my nose and pretending to smile and to speak in order to see how I look like. How can I like my face?

As salamu alaykum,

Thank you for writing to our Live Session. Sister it is natural to want to look nice. Most people want to look appealing to others, especially in social situations. However, we live in a world where everything is focused on perfection and sameness. Sadly, in society and on most social media sites there is an illusion to attain this false perfection.

Messages we Hear

The messages we hear about ourselves from childhood on up are very important. Some children are constantly ridiculed, teased, and put down for their appearance. They are bullied by peers and even family. As children grow older and become teens, self-image and confidence are often sabotaged further by this abusive behavior and assault upon one’s looks.

Beauty and Perfection

A lot of celebrities and others use filters quite heavily on pictures, they modify their faces and bodies, leading to false images which the normal average person can never live up to. This creates a sense of failure, self-loathing, and psychological fixation concerning looks and perfection. Beauty and perfection by society standards are very difficult to attain. However, Allah did create everyone perfect, as Allah makes no mistakes.

Distortions

As social media enters the picture, self-image and confidence take another hit as it is impossible to live up to the fake images seen on the magazine covers and social media sites. Oftentimes when this happens people, especially women, may tend to focus on things they do not like about themselves. This may cause an exacerbation of minor yet endearing differences among human beings. This phenomenon is extremely troublesome and sad because our definition of beauty and being viewed as pretty becomes so distorted we cannot even see the beauty that Allah has created in us.

Comparing Self to Others

As we compare ourselves to others and self-esteem and confidence continue to fall, we can become very unsettled in our appearance, often overlooking the pretty and endearing qualities of our beauty that Allah has blessed us with. Often what is lost to our vision is the innate beauty and nice features Allah has blessed us with.

Increasing Self-Image and Confidence

Sister, I encourage you insha’Allah to try to shed preconceived notions of beauty and perfection. Perfection does not exist. It is manufactured. Instead, focus on what is appealing to you about your face/looks and take solace and appreciation for these fine traits!  Remember too, that which you do not like or wish to change, other women may be wishing for!

Focusing on Your Unique Looks

By embracing your unique looks (no one looks just like you unless you are a twin), you will insha’Allah see the beauty that is yours and yours alone. It may be the joy of your smile, the clearness of your skin, a beauty mole, the shape of your eyebrows, and yes, even the curve of your nose! Take pride in your beauty and the differences. Differences are what actually create beauty!

Sameness is Boring

Sister looking like everyone else is a “sameness” ideology. It is based on the premise that we must each have the same perfected features to be attractive. This is a false ideology and is boring. It can be looked upon as “common”.  

Conclusion

Insha’Allah, learn to be proud of your looks-especially your nose as that is what makes you unique, individual, and appealing! Instead of focusing on what you do not like, look at your face as a whole. I am confident you will find a very attractive face looking back at you. Remember though- it is the individual differences in your face that make up the whole totality of your looks.

Lastly, do not forget to factor in your wonderful personality traits, your spiritual light (dedication to Allah), as well as your way of relating to others. The totality of who you are is always transferred into that which makes you beautiful. Have you ever seen a woman (or man) who appeared to be so attractive until they opened their mouth? Or you saw them mistreat someone?

These things feed into our overall perception of looks-and what once appeared beautiful can suddenly turn ugly. Learn to love, embrace, and integrate your total self, and insha’Allah you will see the beautiful, appealing woman Allah created. We wish you the best.

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Question 4

Hi, my mother has been sick since I was 7 years old and my parents don’t have a good relationship. My father beat up my mother and she became sicker. We are two sisters. We are clever students by the grace of God. My younger sister got a full scholarship in Australia to study engineering and I’m studying in Bangladesh. My father had several affairs and recently he’s got married the second time and we had to accept it.

My mother is now mentally impaired as she can’t process anything and I have to look after her all the time. I feel really depressed, but I don’t show that to anyone. I have always been the top student in my class but lately, it’s very hard for me to concentrate on my studies. I feel really bad to say but I hate my parents.

My sister is my best friend and since she is not here I feel helpless, but I’m still doing good in my studies even though it’s really difficult for me. I had severe vertigo problems from 2008 to 2011 and hence I had to drop many semesters. I cannot relate to anyone in my class. I feel very lonely. I had a boyfriend for 4 years who was my best friend, but after a while, he started showing less interest in me and gave excuses e.g. he is busy. At the end of the first year, I left him.

Then after two months, he came back saying he was sorry. Then we got together again, but broke up again after few months. I told him that I don’t think he loves me, and we shouldn’t continue like this because I really love him and it hurts me a lot every time we break up. Then he finally said that he doesn’t love me; he only likes me a lot and he is sorry that he realized this after 4 years. We haven’t talked for 7 months and I’m glad that it’s over.

But this relationship affected me a lot; now I can’t talk to guys anymore. I am lost. I don’t know how to forget these hatreds inside my heart, how to deal with my mother, and how to concentrate on my studies. I’m in constant fear that my mother would die any time. She has lots of sleeping pills which is making her even sicker.

But if I try to reduce her meds, she becomes very angry. I’m so tired of being afraid. I really want to be stronger but I just can’t anymore. I can’t trust anyone. I feel helpless. I would be so grateful if you could find some time to reply. I really want to be established and live with my mother and sister happily and peacefully. Thank you.

As salamu alaykum,

Thank you for writing to our Live Session. I am sad to hear about the things you have gone through regarding your family dynamics, dysfunction, and especially your mom being ill since you were seven years old. I can imagine this has taken a great toll on you emotionally. You stated you now feel helpless, and just want to live happily with your mom and sister.

Unstable Family Dynamics

Sister, there were several things going on in your home while you were growing up. Your parents did not have a good relationship, your father was physically abusive to your mom and as a result, she became emotionally/mentally incapacitated. Your father had several affairs which I’m sure to hurt your mother immensely. He recently got married for the second time and the family had to accept it although it affected your mom to the point wherein she is now mentally impaired to the point that she cannot process anything.

You stated that you now have to take care of her all of the time. Between the domestic violence, cheating, and the declining health of your mom, you have somehow managed to grow into a fine young woman who is enrolled in college. I can imagine sister this was not easy. Additionally, you have remained sweet, caring, and loving. May Allah bless you abundantly.

Mental Health Counseling for Mom

Sister, I am wondering, with all of this going on throughout the years, did your mom ever see a doctor or get counseling for mental health issues? If not I will kindly suggest insha’Allah, that you find a good therapist in your area for your mom. Counseling can make all the difference in the world, especially since your mom has been through domestic violence, betrayal, and increasing loss of mental health status.

It may be helpful for your mother to be evaluated by a therapist in order to see what can be done to help her now. It may be that she needs medication to help with mental functioning. It could be that when she starts counseling she will begin to heal. I cannot offer anything else in the affirmative because I am not privy to the specifics, nor am I her counselor.

I kindly suggest though that you do consider taking your mom for help. It could make a huge difference not only for her future functioning and happiness but yours as well.

Addressing your Mental Health Needs as Well

My dear sister, I would kindly suggest insha’Allah that you as well go for counseling on a regular basis. You have a lot on your plate sister and it seems that you could use somebody to talk to in a therapeutic relationship. You did state that you feel depressed and are finding it hard to concentrate on your studies. You also discussed how your sister is your best friend, but she is away at the university. You described yourself as depressed, fearful, tired, not able to trust anyone, and you are also very lonely.

Self Care

At this point sister, I do suggest that in sha Allah you make some time for yourself to address your own needs. This would include physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Though you may feel like you are alone and you cannot trust anyone, there are people who can help insha’Allah. You just have to be willing to reach out.

Support Groups

In addition to counseling, I would also kindly suggest that you seek out a support group in your area for young women who suffer from depression. Support groups can be beneficial because they provide social contact with people who are going through the same thing you are in regards to feeling depressed, helpless, and afraid.

Many times, people in these groups are working through their issues and can offer tips and skills which can help you cope. They also provide success stories of young women who have overcome depression and other obstacles in their lives and are successfully living their best life. Insha’Allah if you contemplate this suggestion you may find listings in the mental health section of Healthcare Center brochures, online, and of course if you go for counseling your therapist will recommend one.

Uplifting Activities

I encourage you to take walks in nature if possible. Nature is beautiful and has a healing essence. If you enjoy working out, join a gym. Exercise is beneficial not only for your body and health but for your mind as well. It reduces stress and produces a feeling of well-being.

Eat healthy foods and drink lots of water. Often when we are stressed we forget to eat correctly. Take up a new hobby or develop a new interest. Volunteer for a charity such as feeding the homeless or assisting those in need such as refugees. There is great joy in being part of a team that does charity work.

Trusting in Allah

Sister, try to go to the Masjid as often as you can for prayers. Insha’Allah be open to meeting new sisters who may become lifelong friends. Our sisters are often our greatest sources of strength and encouragement!  Stay close to Allah through prayer, duaa, reading the Qur’an as well other Islamic events and activities. Trust in Allah swt that your situation will be resolved.

Conclusion

We cannot change the past but we can help mold our futures. My dear sister, you stated that you just want to live in a home with your mom and sister. You want to be happy and live in peace. That is understandable. In order to obtain this vision, it may be necessary to start the healing work now. This would include getting your mom into counseling as well as yourself.

Your mom may resist, it is her decision, just like it is your decision if you chose to go. Insha’Allah, taking these small steps towards self-care and healing will be the beginning of a happy and peaceful life for your sister. Taking these initial steps may be scary at first but doing so and trusting in Allah, can open many doors for you sister. We wish you the best.

Monday, Sep. 27, 2021 | 06:00 - 07:00 GMT

Session is over.
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