Written by: Seada
As a child born in an immigrant family, I learned the value of obeying authority and did as I was told. I learned that my voice did not matter; this perception was supported when I spoke my opinion. I grew up being my own worst enemy. Despite how kind and forgiving I was to others, I did not understand how to be kind or loving to myself.
Throughout my childhood and young adult years, I was paralyzed by fear, feelings of inadequacy, and self-disappointment. I clung to people who were strong, assertively vocal, and independent, hopeful I would one day be just like them. This brave idea led me to the pursuit of a counseling career.
Being a Muslim mental health therapist has been tremendously personally rewarding and spiritually uplifting. At the heart of therapy is the ability to be aware of personal biases in order to be a more competent therapist. The awareness I developed helped me make connections about the relationships between culture, religion, and mental health.
Over the past two years, I’ve experienced both positive and negative challenges within the Muslim community while attempting to increase understanding about mental health. Resistance and reluctance have sometimes overpowered my ability to formulate ideas to smooth barriers. I often heard things like, “Don’t share your problems or else you’ll bring shame to yourself and the family.”
Understandably, a lack of knowledge about mental health and research enables cultures to frown upon its never-ending reality. For example, depression is often not given credence as an actual condition; instead, many simply suggest that someone who feels sad needs to pray more, read more scripture, and strengthen their poor connection to God. Often, I wonder if these suggestions treat the root causes of depression, or if they just enable shame. If we are not targeting the source, healing the wound, and trusting the process, depression will be masked by anger. In fact, the complaint “no one understands me” is so evident it would be inhumane to suppress this call for help.
Many cultural traditions practices inhibit recovery from mental health struggles. Shame and guilt are rooted within cultural upbringings. The truth of the matter is that Muslims of all backgrounds have just as many mental health problems as any other religion or culture, and they must be addressed with the aid of professional help.
My ultimate goal is to cultivate a bridge constructed with openness, understanding, compassion, and courage. Converting fear into courage is one small yet drastic step towards cultivating the willingness to embrace help. That child in me was reluctant to embrace her true identity because of the lack of assistance, so be brave and allow your inner child to reach out for guidance. We all have the right to live with a peace of mind. Begin your journey today.