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/

Rumination: My Brain on Love After Divorce

To feel like you’ll never be in love again (even though it’s not necessarily true) is a crushing feeling. It’s an intrusive thought. It’s your OCD ruining things. It’s rumination trying to take over where you paroxetine leaves off.

At night, when I’m at my loneliest, my brain tells me I’m unworthy of romantic love. It taunts me and says I’m ugly, fat, undesirable, etc. I try to ignore these cruel and unrelenting thoughts, but it isn’t easy. The silence is even worse. It’s so deafening. I have to press my hands to my ears to block out the sounds of the voices telling me I’ll never get another chance at warmth and happiness. Sometimes I make counter noises and sing loudly, just to drown out the negative stuff. I want to talk back to the voices. I want to tell them I’m a good person.

My intrusive thoughts keep me up at night. Though it’s gotten much better, I still struggle with the feeling that I won’t feel love ever again. I have doubts about my current reality. Does anyone care about me? Do people know I’m alive? Will I die alone? Am I loved by Allah and His creation? Have I slipped into obscurity? What if I never meet The One?

If you’ve always lived with your significant other then these intrusive thoughts will seem foreign to you. OCD itself will seem like something ‘other’ as well. It’s hard to imagine the loneliness of living by oneself with psychosis and psychological trauma. With disorders that rob you of your sanity.

When you add loss of love to the mix, it gets even more complicated. I try to remain upbeat and keep myself occupied. I tell myself that whatever happens, I’ll be alright.

I’ve learned how to weather the loneliness at night and how to keep my brain occupied even when I sleep. And my medications are working better these days, thankfully. Will I ever find romantic love again is a question for God, and not for me. But I’m anxiously awaiting the answer. Until then, I sit in silence in the dark and tackle my rumination alone.

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.

Dealing with OCD and intrusive thoughts

I have a thing for numbers. I guess you can call it a strange sort of fascination. I don’t love math, but numbers themselves are fascinating. It’s how they interact that gets me. Combinations, coincidences, pairs, all of it. It’s part of how my OCD manifests. I get hung up on numbers in every facet of my life. For example, on social media I always check my followers versus how many people I follow. Not because I’m interested in how many there are, but because I’m addicted to the numbers in my count. I need to have things even. And I also have an obsession with odd numbers. Weird combination, I know. As an example, if I have 1443 followers and follow 774 people, I’ll feel off. Even typing that made me feel icky. I can’t handle seeing it. So for my social media, I’d have to then delete somebody to make the 3’s match. And it’s a constant challenge because people are always following & unfollowing one another. It never fails. As soon as my numbers match, someone gets added to or deleted from my count, and I have to start the whole process again. Sometimes I’ll notice that I’m coaching myself in my thoughts. I’ll say things like, “Ok I just have to choose 5 people to unfollow and then it’ll be alright”.

It happens in my religious life too. Such as with the Quran. In it, there’s a verse where God says He taught Adam the words to say (a prayer) to seek forgiveness. That’s in chapter 2 verse 37. Then in chapter 7 verse 23, there is a description of that very prayer. The circular nature of those numbers is amazing to me. It’s something I think about all the time. I repeatedly go back to those 2 verses to check that the numbers are still similar, even though I know for a fact that they are. I can’t explain it.

I can name countless other instances where numbers and counting play a big role in my life. But that’s just one facet of my obsessive disorder. Another thing I deal with on a constant basis is intrusive thoughts. Sometimes even in my sleep. Ever since I was younger I’ve had this problem. Like when I’m near someone on the steps, it scares me to death. Because out of the blue I often think, “what would happen if I suddenly pushed this person down the steps by accident?” Or when I’m in a moving car I’ll wonder what would happen if I suddenly jumped out. One time I did start to open the passenger door. It was almost like a compulsion. I couldn’t stop it. All of a sudden at the last moment I caught myself and jumped back from the door handle. I remember crying silently because I didn’t want my mom to know what had almost just happened. It was one of the scariest moments in my life.

Some of the other intrusive thoughts surround my relationship with my children. I’ve mostly had thoughts about what would happen if I didn’t feed them for a period of time. Or something of that sort. This all sounds absolutely horrible, I know. And I used to think I was a monster for thinking these things. But I couldn’t help it or stop it from happening. I used to cry, thinking I was a psychopath. It took years of me researching psychopathy and then finally getting my OCD diagnosis to realize that I wasn’t a monster; that I simply had a disorder, which was causing these thoughts.

Here’s a story which illustrates how harmful it can be to have this problem during a crisis. When my son was a baby, a fire broke out in my dining room. At the time we were living in a 2 bedroom condominium and the washer/dryer set was situated off the side of the dining room. In a small nook. I was sitting with my son across the kitchen in the family room. I could see the fire straight ahead. I realized it was coming from the cord plugging the washing machine into the wall, so I called 911. But at the same time I was having trouble collecting myself in order to leave the apartment. I kept thinking about what would happen if I left without my scarf on. I was in my pajamas and uncovered. And I thought something bad would happen if I left. Not in a religious sense at all, but in some other ominous way. It consumed me and I ended up literally turning in circles deciding what to do. I ran back and forth between my bedroom and the front door, filled with indecision.

I ended up unplugging the washing machine, on instinct, and the fire burned itself out. Later when telling the story to someone, she gasped. “You’d leave the house uncovered in that case!! She shouted. Of course I know that. It’s obvious. But that’s the problem with intrusive thoughts. You can’t just decide to shut them off. Even when faced with danger.

Fast forward to today. I’m so pleased that I’ve finally learned to take control of my OCD and begun living again. Even though what I’m describing doesn’t sound functional, it’s heartening to know that things used to be so much worse before I sought treatment. Now when those thoughts come, I can challenge them. And of course medication helps a great deal. Even when faced with symptoms I can’t quite manage, the time it takes me to recover and move on is much less. For instance, instead of spending hours correcting my social media numbers, I may spend only a few minutes. And when harmful thoughts come, I don’t take as long to ignore them. This is my life with OCD. A glimpse of it anyway. But it’s no longer my life ruled by OCD. And that makes me happy.

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