Drowning In Bottles: My Muslim Story Of Addiction And Substance Use Disorder – MuslimMatters.org

With alcohol addiction, I’ve experienced acute intoxication, extreme drunkenness and poisoning. I don’t like to think about how many times I’ve had alcohol poisoning because my behavior was so self-sabotaging.. Hopefully now I’m taking much better care of myself. And I don’t have the need to tempt fate or see how much punishment my body can handle. Overdosing hurts. And I’m never sure if the last time will be my “last time”. I don’t want to keep thumbing my nose at Allah’s mercy without realizing how many times I’ve been saved before. 
— Read on muslimmatters.org/2020/08/17/drowning-in-bottles-my-muslim-story-of-addiction-and-substance-use-disorder/

Getting Med Refills Each Month as a Disabled Person

As a patient living with multiple chronic, mental and physical illnesses, it can be a challenge to receive your medication on time each month. One issue faced by people is how the doctor chooses to fill the prescription; monthly or every 90 days. Each option means you have to keep track of your meds and remember when you last filled them so you can keep up with the script schedule.

Another issue you may face is wait times at the pharmacy. Due to covid and distancing procedures, getting your meds can take twice as long as it did in the past. And even calling your pharmacy on the phone can be a daunting task. Pharmacy staff is often overwhelmed by customers in person and on phone lines which causes everyone to wait longer. It’s understandable, but frustrating.

Some doctors choose to e-file your scripts while others still rely on giving patients hard copies of their hand written prescriptions. This causes more lag time for patients and ultimately ends up in longer wait times at the pharmacy. The goal should be to minimize stress for those who are already dealing with a lot, not to bog them down in minutiae and red tape.

Those patients who take multiple medications often need pill minders and med calendars to help monitor their monthly intake of medicines. Otherwise it can get confusing as to what they’ve taken and when. One tip given by a local pharmacist is to keep your empty pill bottles each month (in a safe case) so you have the dates when last filled and any necessary med information needed in order to remind yourself when to next fill the scripts.

Do you have challenges filling your meds each month? You can always ask questions, at the pharmacy, at your doctor’s office, and whenever you feel you need more information. Getting your medicine shouldn’t be confusing. It should be a smooth process and one which facilitates part of your medical care.

Bipolar and Menopause, UPDATE

I’m on my millionth night of little to no sleep, and I just started singing to myself, “this manic moment…” to the tune of Ben E King and The Drifters’ iconic song. It’s the middle of summer, and my mania seems everlasting. What began as hypomania in the middle of the spring, has turned into full blown mania that won’t quit.

Usually, I can get a handle on things and the hypomania dies down long before this point. But this time its spinning out of control and I can’t seem to get my meds in synch with my moods. It’s frustrating.

Adding to the confusion is the onset of menopause and my thyroid disorder. I have a nodule which is wreaking havoc with my mental and physical health. The thyroid nodule is increasing my night sweats, anxiety, irritation and hyperactivity. And so is the change of life. It’s like a double dose of hormones and agitation thrown at me all at once. I feel like I can’t cope.

My brain is going haywire. Sometimes I’m not sure which emotion to use for a scenario or which facial expression. I notice myself singing a lot more, loudly, and laughing at inappropriate times. This is all troubling.

So what to do about this dilemma? Well, I’ve made an appointment with a new therapist and I have a new sleep doctor and neurologist as well. I will be discussing these issues with those specialists and asking for their guidance. I also need to work on my sleep hygiene and diet. But for that, I need to the help of a nutritionist or dietitian. My eating disorder has also been affected by these illnesses.

I’m not daunted by everything that’s happening but I am appropriately concerned. But as long as I keep in touch with my doctors and have a solid support system, things should work out just fine.

Bipolar Disorder and Menopause

I’ve had bipolar disorder for as long as I can remember. But only recently did I start experiencing the symptoms of menopause; early menopause, in fact. I’m learning how to manage the two together, and let me tell you, it isn’t easy.

Bipolar is an illness which makes it harder for you to tolerate stress. And also stress brings on the symptoms of bipolar disorder. It’s such a conundrum. Being menopausal is a stressful situation. Your body is changing, you are experiencing fluctuating hormones and moods, and you’re having hot flashes.

All of this can make you susceptible to a manic, depressive or mixed episode, which you have to address in addition to the menopause symptoms. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

One thing that’s helping me is to chart my symptoms and notice which condition they correspond to. I note my meds and how I’m taking them and also my sleep patterns. It’s a lot of work. The things that have changed the most are my appetite and my sleep. I’m either ravenous or not interested in eating at all. And I’m not sleeping well.

Menopause keeps me tossing and turning all night long. This is disastrous for me because for me because it’s adding to my anxiety and mania. I can’t seem to get a handle on the elevated moods because I can’t sleep. Sometimes I’ll go two days without resting. I’m both exhausted and wired.

What I’ve decided to do is roll with the punches and not fight my body. It’s tempting to try and actively manage this, however I’m willing myself to just relax. It’s similar to what I do with my ocd and intrusive thoughts. In the same way I don’t fight against my ruminating brain, I don’t force myself into recovery mode. Slowly, things are easing up, and lately I’ve been able to catch a few naps here and there.

Meditation is another coping skill I’m learning to use. I’m checking in with myself more often and learning how to access mindfulness techniques. This helps me to sit with confusing feelings and negative ideas. I notice this is effective for my suicidal ideation too. Ideation which is seeming to subside these days.

One positive thing about experiencing menopause at 46 is that I feel more confident and sure of myself. I’m used to weathering my ever changing brain, and somehow adding aging issues to the mix makes me feel more empowered. I believe it’s because I’m doing this as a single parent. I’m realizing how capable I truly am.

Bipolar and menopause are a fiery mix. Though things are up and down with my moods, overall, this challenge has been a great learning experience. I wouldn’t change anything, well, except for getting more sleep. But I guess we could all use that.

Addiction

I used to be addicted to alcohol. Alcoholism is a substance use disorder that I didn’t know anything about. I shouldn’t have been introduced to it as a child but I was. And my mental illnesses were too overpowering to fight. Addiction for me was a disease of compulsion. Of obsession and compulsion to be honest. I would obsess about being drunk, I wanted to drink alone or in a group, I couldn’t say no if offered and I felt like I had to imbibe. I felt powerless to say no.

Today none of that is true. I can go into a liquor store and not buy anything but soda. I’ve trained myself to do this. If I feel overwhelmed by the desire to drink, I trust myself to leave the situation immediately and work on positive coping skills. 

I don’t remember when the last time I had a drink was. Because I don’t need it anymore. I don’t need to mask my feelings and give in to those demons. I don’t need to drink something alcoholic in order to deal with grief or mania or sadness. It took me a long time to get to this point and hard work. 

Today I tell myself that alcohol is a substance I have no reason to approach. So I don’t have to rely on only my willpower, I can use my religious and spiritual beliefs as a reminder of what not to do. 

It’s become easier to say no. I’d love to go to a 12 step meeting now and then to be around my peer group. Meetings are where I find the most support and understanding. But in the end, it’s up to me not to drink.

I know I’ll never touch alcohol again and thankfully, the cravings are gone. But the nostalgia is still here. I now have to work on missing my addiction and missing that feeling of belonging when I drank.

I’m learning to find this elsewhere.

Recovery from gaslighting and emotional abuse

I never believe anything anyone says anymore. To me everything is a lie or a trick. It’s at my expense. This is what my brain tells me every day. “They hate you!” “This is just like last time!?” “Remember you fell for this before” “That couldn’t be true”…

It’s exhausting. Sometimes I find myself talking out loud to the negativity. “Don’t listen!” “You’re a good person” “La la la la” the last one said with my fingers shoved in my ears.

Yes Eventually this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If you react to negativity in a strange way, people will indeed hate you. So my paranoia seems to be justified.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t like this. On edge, hypervigilant, irritated, and waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I can’t take much more of the tension, I need a healthier way to deal with brain stress.

So far, I’ve only identified the problem: gaslighting and trauma. Emotional abuse as well. But I haven’t started healing yet because I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know how to let down my guard and trust people.

I’ve decided I don’t want to be reactive any longer because it’s so harmful. I think the best way to create new habits is to create a ptsd plan for emergencies. Once a dr told me to make note cards with sample responses to my stressors. And to keep them with me at all times as a reminder.

I’m realizing I can do this and feel empowered. This removes the fear factor in my mind. I don’t even have to take the cards out and look at them. Just knowing I have a plan and that I’m not unprepared makes me feel better.

The only way I’ll be able to trust again is to try. I have to step out on faith and hope for the best. Healing from emotional abuse takes work and time. I’m willing to put in both to make things better.

Allies

I am a person living with chronic and mental illnesses. I didn’t plan this, and I often don’t know how to manage this lifestyle. I research things a lot, and I cry a lot more. I also make dua.

When my mom was living, I had a sounding board and a confidante. I also had a friend. My mom guided me through my life and helped me parent with mental illness. Now I turn to my father and sometimes my friends. I also lean heavily on my mentors for support.

To me, an ally is someone who cares and is there for you throughout your life. They are someone who can help you handle your feelings and your situation. An ally is a person who steps in and asks what they can do to help. They are someone who notices a problem and decides to pitch in.

When you are an ally, you don’t pick that title for yourself. It’s a role and an unspoken relationship between you and another person/community. It’s learniny how to hold space for someone and their feelings. It’s not centering yourself, while at the same time, making sure not to diminish your own needs and such. Being an ally is challenging because while you are a helper, you have to know how to be emotionally sound and develop proper boundaries.

You have to know when to step in and when to step back. You have to know how to ask people what they need and how to listen. Being an ally is about active and passive listening skills. You also have to forgive yourself in the beginning and throughout, for the times you will and do make mistakes.

As a person who needs allies, I am learning to ask for help and to forgive myself for my own mistakes. This is a work in progress but I’m happy to be on the road to wellness with good friends, and true allies.

Life Plan For Mental Illness

 

Life Plan for Muslims Living with Mental Illness

Purpose
To illustrate how a person living with mental illness in a Muslim community (or any marginalized area) can safely and happily share their life with others

Who Should Make a Life Plan
Anyone who wants to share their lives with loved ones and feels comfortable adding them to their support team. A person who has a mental health diagnosis and wants to inform people how to address any concerns or questions about their health and safety, should an emergency arise (how to get the individual to their doctor and such). Someone who feels comfortable sharing emergency contacts and wants to teach others about their mental illness.

Who Should Be Involved
The individual who has been diagnosed should make this plan with their diagnosing psychiatrist. That way, the patient and doctor can discuss the person’s needs as far as their physical environment, support system, transportation, religious and psychosocial development, educational counseling, financial needs and so forth. Once developed, the person may share this plan with whom they wish. But as it is now part of their formal diagnosis and medical record, it cannot be altered or commented on by a layperson. And should not be tampered with. The purpose of the life plan is to augment the support system and make their job of helping the patient heal easier and more cohesive. It also helps the patient communicate with their doctor during check ups and any emergency visits.

When to Communicate Needs (Patient)
When the person notices their quality of living standards are reducing to the degree that they cannot handle day to day tasks and it is interfering with their quality of life. As an example, if a person isn’t able to attend to daily hygiene needs and if this is harming their standard of living, they may want to reach out and tell a friend they are in need of extra attention. Note: this isn’t cause for alarm right away or a call for action. Their prescribing doctor is the only one who can diagnose any new symptoms and understand the situation. Communication helps those around the person know that things are happening and to be more empathetic at this time. For the Muslim friend or neighbor, this is a great time to make dua and ask for relief of hardships for the person, nothing more. They must refrain from offering unsolicited advice, piling on extra household chores, parental duties, etc, and make a concerted effort not to add to the person’s overall hardships. In general, stress and pressure exacerbate mental health conditions and make recovery much harder. Stress also makes living conditions more tense. A person may feel shy to tell their friends and family members this and can ask for help with communication from a physician or social worker.

Always remember, reliving a sick person’s difficulties can bring many blessings inshaAllah.
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah:
“The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Whoever relieves a Muslim of some worldly distress, Allah will relieve him of some of the distress of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever conceals (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will conceal him (his faults) in this world and the Day of Resurrection. And whoever relives the burden from a destitute person, Allah will relieve him in this world and the next. Allah will help His slave so long as His slave helps his brother. Whoever follows a path in pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make easy fro him a path to paradise. No people gather in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and teaching it to one another, but the angels will surround them, tranquility will descend upon them, mercy will envelop them and Allah will mention them to those who are with Him. And whoever is hindered because of his bad deeds, his lineage will be of no avail to him.'”

When to Communicate Concerns (Support team/living partners or roommates)
If you are living with a mentally ill person or know someone with a diagnosis and become concerned about their symptoms, you may not know how to approach the topic. First, as long as the person has a regular doctor and/or therapist in their life, know that you are in no way responsible for their medical care. Your empathy can be best used by following Quran and Sunnah and not panicking. If you notice a change and are worried for someone’s safety, don’t be afraid to talk about things directly. Asking about suicide and suicidal thoughts does not induce suicidal behaviors or ideations.

An ice breaker may be “hey, I notice you’ve been withdrawn lately, do you mind if we talk?” or “Can we talk later? I’m worried about you. Are you alright? You seem upset. Would you like to talk?” “Is there anything you’d like to discuss? How can I make things easier for you?” “I really don’t know what to say but I want you to know I’m here for you and I support you.” “Please tell me how you’d like me to talk to you about your mental health symptoms. I don’t want to seem dismissive when I don’t know what to say.”
HIPPA
As someone’s friend, neighbor, roommate or family member, you may not talk about their mental illness or diagnosis with others. Even if the person discloses their diagnosis publicly. They are allowed to decide what they want to publicize however gossip rules still apply and it is best to leave sensitive subjects to the professionals. If you overhear someone crying on the phone, laughing with fiends late at night, talking about their inpatient experiences, describing uncomfortable symptoms, talking about their most and least favorite physicians or simply having an episode that a doctor has to handle, please let the professionals do their job and do not violate their personal space. Often times, this is how disagreements happen and feelings get hurt because lines are crossed that need not be. The saying that “too many cooks spoil the pot” applies to this situation. Please use best practices and do not violate someone’s privacy, which in turn will keep everyone safe.

Online
Many Muslims with mental health issues are visible online. Some are mental health advocates as well. If you see someone who has chosen to be an advocate for mental health online and they have specified their particular area of interest, please reach out to them directly and make contact. Get to know them. Get a business card. Give them the respect that you give other advocates and activists. DM them and give them the Islamic Greetings as you would any other Muslim advocate. Offer direct advice and sincere Islamic naseehah when they make a mistake, from the Quran and the Sunnah. With love and sincerity. If you have questions about where they’ve studied, ask them kindly, and not to poke holes in their life and ruin their mental health even further. Help them heal Islamically and spiritually and don’t step over their doctors who have worked hard to put their minds back together. With this, Insha’Allah, the community can come together and learn much more about the topic of mental health and those of us living with mental illness can feel safe and accepted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Life is Like on Disability

The reality is it isn’t easy. By the time you’re actually approved for disability you’re usually destitute. There’s no other way to put it. Even if you get a large sum of back pay, you’ve exhausted your savings and built up so many medical bills and other expenses that by the time you see your check, it’s all but spent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful to be able to sustain myself with what I receive from social security. And to know that I can also write on the side and teach students in my spare time to keep myself busy when I’m feeling up to it makes me happy. But none of these things create a windfall for me. I’m scraping by every month and barely surviving. If it weren’t for my mosque supporting me with zakat (charity), and help from my ex-husband occasionally, I wouldn’t make it. The thing is I used to have money. When I was married, things were fine. Better than fine, actually. But getting sick ruined my finances. And I haven’t been able to get myself together ever since. It’s like I’m treading water every month. I’ve often mentioned my issues with eating and my disordered patterns, but frankly, sometimes I just don’t have the money for groceries. So I don’t eat, simple as that. Everybody I know on disability is in a similar position. No matter how much they receive. They all tell me that their initial savings went quickly and they have trouble managing on what they receive each month. It’s really challenging. But nevertheless, I am still grateful for the fact that I have health insurance and some semblance of a paycheck. Things will get better. They always do. And my writing has already been helping me so much lately. So I can’t complain. I just wish more people were understanding of my situation. It’s hard struggling in silence. I feel like I’m alone in what I’m going through, until I remember those dealing with the same situation. That helps me not dwell on my problems and feel so sad. I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I don’t have to decide between paying a bill and buying a meal for the day. Then I’ll be able to focus solely on my emotional and mental well-being, and spending more time with my kids. It’s coming, I can feel it… 🙂

Disability and Mental Illness

IMG_2640

I began thinking about applying for disability in 2012. I had lost my job after a bad manic episode. At that time my mom was battling inflammatory breast cancer as well, and my children had just returned from a four year stay in Senegal with their father’s family. Stressed out doesn’t even come close to my mental state at the time. I simply couldn’t work under those conditions. I couldn’t even get off my couch or take care of myself in any capacity. I had no concept of functional self-care in any sense and I was barely lucid. After my mom passed away in early 2013, I became completely unstable. I went into a psychotic depression, sleeping off and on for several months. I was paranoid and delusional. I lashed out at those around me, accusing them of the worst things imaginable. My behavior was almost unrecognizable, and yet no one suggested I go to the hospital or even to my psychiatrist to get evaluated. They just lectured me to get myself together and stop acting out. Days merged into nights and I never knew what time it was or even the month. I developed bronchitis and then pneumonia but I still never left my house. I was too psychologically unwell. My primary care doctor was able to get antibiotics to my house as she knew I’d never make it to the emergency room for treatment.

At some point that winter, I finally decided to contact an attorney to help me file the paperwork for my disability claim because I knew I couldn’t complete it on my own. I remember telling the clerk I felt so poorly that if someone offered me a salary to simply staple papers all day, I’d have to decline because I didn’t have the energy to operate the stapler. I just couldn’t do anything productive. Even breathing was painful. I wanted to die. It took me 2 long years before I was able to get a hearing with a disability judge. My case was denied twice before that time. It was decided that I was sick, but not sick enough for disability. So I wanted to plead my case in front of a judge to see what would happen. On the day of my hearing, I was extremely nervous. Someone offered me a ride to the courthouse, because by this time I had stopped driving. I didn’t live on my own anymore either; I was staying with a family friend until I got back on my feet. Losing my mom took everything out of me. I was a shell of a person. Going to the courthouse was scarier than I thought it would be. My social anxiety was raging that day.

When it was my turn to go into the courtroom, my knees turned to jelly. I thought I was going to be sick. My attorney escorted me into the large room and showed me to the table where I would sit for the next hour. There were several people in the room already: The judge, the court reporter, a spectator/another disability lawyer, someone reviewing my case, and then my attorney. It was overwhelming and frightening. I felt like I was on display and I immediately wanted to run from the room screaming. But I couldn’t. I felt trapped. I sat at the table and shakily poured myself a glass of water. But I was too nervous to drink it. My attorney sat at an adjacent table. The judge introduced herself and explained why we were all there. She tried to put me at ease but it only made my anxiety worse. She asked me to begin telling my story and explain how I had come to be hampered by my mental illness. She wanted me to recount what had gone on for the last two years. But what scared me was that she had my medical records in front of her. How could I possibly remember all of that? I started talking and began stuttering right away. I do that when I’m nervous. Everybody in the room looked at me, puzzled. That made me more anxious and I continued stammering. I couldn’t stop. It was hard for me to put together a coherent sentence. My attorney looked so confused. Just a few minutes ago I was speaking clearly and without stuttering. I could tell she didn’t know what had happened and if I was faking my stutter. I was so embarrassed, but I had to keep talking. It was excruciating. My face was so hot, I thought it would explode. It felt like I was talking for hours.  When I was done, the judge asked me a bunch of questions. I felt defensive and angry. If my medical history was right there, why was I being cross examined? It made me feel like a criminal. I was sad and humiliated. Everybody in the room could hear my most personal medical details; the worst parts of my disorder and what it had done to me. I’ve never been so ashamed in my life. I knew the judge wasn’t trying to hurt me and yet I felt demoralized by her pointed questions. All this in order to determine if my mental illness was in fact debilitating and disabling. This wasn’t fun at all. When it was finally over, she concluded that my medical records supported what I had testified to and that she would make a ruling in about 6 weeks. My attorney said that was a positive sign that things had gone in our favor.

In the end, I was declared fully disabled and entitled to benefits. But the point of my story is that when I hear people speak disparagingly about those receiving help from the state, it traumatizes me all over again. That was one of the worst experiences of my life. It was bad enough to have to live like that for those years. In a fog of complete mental instability and confusion. But then to have to recount it in a room full of people as though I was on trial was something that hurt in a way I can’t explain. I don’t mind being disabled by my mental illness. But when I think about that day, I hate my disorder and what it’s done to my life. I hate that I had to tell a group of people about my illness in that way because it isn’t readily visible and obvious. That’s what hurts and shames me. And that’s what I resent about the disability process.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑