By Shannon Abulnasr
Wednesday, 15 January 2014, originally published via OnIslam
God will put us in difficulties and remove people from around us to show us a clear path and encourage us to reach out to Him, instead of others
There are a wide variety of causes of depression.
One type of depression is caused by external factors such as loneliness, guilt, and loss of a job, financial troubles, family conflict, marital problems, and many others.
Once you remove that external factor, the depression will disappear.
Other forms of depression may not be as easily to eliminate, due to them stemming from having a mental illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, or experiencing a traumatic event that alters the way we view the future, such as verbal, mental, physical, or sexual abuses. These forms of depression usually require psychological counseling, and possibly medications to overcome them.
The worst kind, is when two types of the above are mixed, causing great emotional instability.
Regardless of the cause(s), faith can play a role in overcoming depression. People usually search for answers to their suffering, and want to know why things they go through are happening, and begin to question God.
God will put us in difficulties and remove people from around us to show us a clear path and encourage us to reach out to Him, instead of others, for peace within ourselves.
Many people can't see the blessings given to us, or the path of grace until all external factors are removed. This causes struggles, illnesses, and loss of wealth, and more, but it is usually to give us a “wake up” call, to seek out our Creator for forgiveness, mercy, and His blessings.
You must first understand the cause of your depression in order to properly seek solutions. If you have the first type of depression, you can easily overcome it on your own. If you feel you suffer from the second, or combination of both types of depression mentioned above, have a licensed professional diagnose you and set a plan for treatment, and medications if needed.
New Muslims typically face the first type of depression caused by external factors. Many also suffer from the second form, or a combination of both. Since the second type requires one to be evaluated and treated by a licensed professional, we will be focusing on the external factors of the first type, as well as solutions to them. These solutions can also be implemented alongside professional treatment and medications to help you overcome depression and loneliness if you suffer from the second type.
New Muslims face numerous external factors that leave them alone, and isolated, leaving them feeling lost and hopeless. Since loneliness is the largest cause for depression amongst new Muslims, we will focus on that.
Below are the two most common “loneliness” scenarios that new Muslims fall into:
My Town, Muslim Population: 1
Mayra, a Mexican revert, was over the moon, thrilled about her new found faith, and was eager to learn and meet other Muslims in her area. Much to her surprise, she found that there were no Muslims where she lived. She also discovered that there wasn't a mosque within a several hour drive from her home.
Mayra was determined that she wouldn't let it affect her. She continued reading Quran in her free time, and started to learn the five daily prayers. She quickly felt it was overwhelming to figure out: “What is a 'rakat', and what is 'sujud', and 'tashahhud' and all these other words mean?” she wondered.
“Am I supposed to be standing when I say this, and what comes next, oh my goodness.... this is just too much!” She mumbles under her breath. She lets out a breath of frustration and puts her hands on her head, wondering how she will ever learn all this!
A book simply doesn't help as much as she thought it would. She needed someone to show her and someone she could ask questions to along the way. Not knowing any Muslims, she didn't know what to do. She decided she would contact the mosque to find someone to help her.
Assuming the mosque would have all the answers to her questions and solutions to all her problems, she called them to find that no one would ever answer the phone, at any time she called. So, she tried to email them, and was left disappointed without a reply to it as well.
After giving up on the idea of trying to find a live person to meet with, she resorted to the Internet.
She began trying to learn the prayers by watching YouTube videos, and found numerous other reverts on the Internet to help support her in her new path. This served just as a temporary solution to something she needed, but she did what she had to do.
Over time, she started to feel lonely because she didn't have any “real-life” Muslim friends in her life to spend time with. She needed some companions. She wanted a friend to go have lunch with, to talk about their lives with each other, and share her interests. She found that all the fun things that she did before Islam to fill her time were not getting replaced by anything new to make the transition easy, and was left feeling she no longer had any friends or a life.
She was not in a position to move to an area where there were Muslims, so she began to fall into a depression. She lost most of her friends, and family support when she became Muslim, and now she found that she wasn't gaining any new friends because there were simply no Muslims for her to meet.
Quickly she found herself in a deep depression, unsure how to get out of it. Her old friends and family started putting pressure on her when they saw her falling into a depression, and they jumped at the opportunity to blame it on Islam. This pressure began to mount, leaving Mayra to start believing that it is true. It is a field day for shaitan (Satan) to see someone becoming weak and questioning their faith.
Shaitan began attacking her really hard. She started contemplating whether she made the right choice or not by becoming a Muslim. Her life had only gone downhill from that time, so it must be Islam to blame, she thought.
Amongst Muslims, Yet Still Alone
Sabrina, an American revert, accepted Islam almost one year ago. She resides in a fairly large sized Muslim community, but yet, feels isolated. One year after accepting Islam, she is still struggling to make friends with Muslims.
She has met only three Muslims since she did her shahadah, and is feeling as if Islam has destroyed her life. She feels guilty for feeling this way, but has failed to find any other cause for her loneliness, that has led her into a deeper depression. She is desperate for a solution.
Sabrina reached out to the three Muslim acquaintances she knew, and they just told her to go to the masjid, and that she would be embraced by the community and it would be the answer to all her prayers. Sabrina was excited at this news, and so she started attending the masjid, but somewhat infrequently, with hopes to meet many new people and would finally have some Muslim friends.
After attending the masjid a handful of times, spread out over several months, she found that she still didn't meet anyone or make any new Muslim friends. She felt she was stared at in the masjid, and criticized by others based on her ethnicity, dress, and who knows what else! She assumed that no one wanted her there, and so she stopped attending. She didn't expect to have such a cold experience amongst the Muslims that she thought were warm and welcoming.
Her Muslim community offered many events, classes, and lectures for free to the general public, but due to feeling shunned, and out of place, she avoided everything, and everyone. She felt she was beaten with the loneliness stick, and didn't know how to break that stick.
Sabrina, just like Mayra, tried to learn everything on her own, alone at home, and quickly felt like a failure, alone and hopeless. She knew that she should know more by now, and should be able to implement Islam into her life better than she has done, but was lacking the support and help of friends.
Her parents had noticed her downward spiral into loneliness, and that she was weak. They began telling her things such as “see, this is what happens when you walk away from the church! Come with us to church on Sunday, and you will feel better. The church will always welcome you. You grew up in the church, and the pastor and congregation have helped raise you.”
This played on her emotional heartstrings to do their best to make her leave Islam. She loved the close nit relationships between the church parishioners with each other. It was like one big happy family, and she desperately wanted and needed this in Islam to feel a sense of belonging. She felt like an outsider that was shunned because she was different from the others. She was lost.
She felt like she was in a tug-of-war, with what is comfortable, her family, and disbelief on one end, and her belief in Allah and Islam coupled with loneliness and frustration on the other end. She wondered why she was being put through such obstacles and trials since she became a Muslim.
Why was she alone?
Why can't she make friends?
It just seemed so much easier to be a Christian.
Do you relate to one of these scenarios?
If you do, then read Part 2 - Overcoming Post-Shahadah Loneliness (linked below) to learn about the various aspects of loneliness, and how to overcome it, regardless of which scenario you fall into.