Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Verily, with every hardship comes much, much ease. (Quran 94:6)
Fourteen years ago, I was bruised and blessed with bipolar. Hence, the best moments in my bipolar journey weren’t at the top when I reached a specific goal. The sense of achievement felt good for some time. But, I felt true pleasure along the treacherous journey, the supportive and ignorant people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned because of bipolar or in spite of having a mental illness.
From those lessons, I will share the top three mistakes you definitely want to avoid when treating bipolar yourself or for a loved one.
1. “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt”
The hardest part is not a mental illness. It’s leaving Allah out of your plan that screws things up. That’s when thoughts of suicide and death enter the picture much like Hamlet’s wish above.
Even when you are not a spiritual or “practicing” Muslim, as you forget Allah and attempt to treat your illness alone, you won’t go very far. The reason is that bipolar is not something you chose to have. It’s a test from Allah so it would be wise for you to get His help. Only He truly knows what you are going through because after all He did fashion you and created bipolar.
Moreover, having Allah in your life gives you a divine purpose beyond the illness. You might wish to just melt away but when you translate “worshipping Allah” into living a life that profits on your talents, makes you feel fulfilled and helps in the betterment of humanity then bipolar just seems like a teardrop in the ocean of life. Your existence doesn’t revolve around the illness. And soon enough, you see bipolar as a blessing rather than a curse.
Having Allah in your life centers and grounds you. When bipolar rages in like a tornado, your trust in Allah will be like a strong rope pulling you out of disaster. The Hamlet in you will be saying, “O, that this too too solid flesh doth sing!” And in sha Allah you won’t die with your music still in you.
2. “I am arm’d and well prepared”
This trust in and submission to Allah sounds nice and dandy but it is utterly useless when you don’t reach out for the rope yourself. Like Antonio in the “Merchant of Venice,” be armed and well prepared. The most mind-boggling thing about mental illness is that many of us think that it is a personal failing. People misunderstand that bipolar actually has biological roots in the brain. Though we don’t know everything about how the neurotransmitters work and behave with regards to bipolar, we do know that mental illness is related to chemical imbalances. Thus, blaming someone for being bipolar is as absurd as accusing someone of having cancer because they are just too weak.
When you understand that bipolar is not your fault, you will in sha Allah feel more in control and are more likely to reach for help. To arm ourselves against bipolar, Allah gives us meds, therapies, gyms and healthy foods. But we need to walk to the doctor, reach for the meds and healthy foods and make sure we pray and sleep properly. Treating mental illness needs a holistic approach. Moreover, meds may or may not always be the answer. Talk to your doctor about this. Leave out any misconceptions you may have about psychopharmaceutical drugs. Do your best. Allah does the rest.
3. “How all occasions do inform against me”
Much like Hamlet, I too feel like the world is conspiring against me although not for the same reasons as his. With bipolar, our head often inflates and we think we can do it all. The mental illness will smack you in the face time and time again to teach you that you need to get your act together. Bipolar is an excellent teacher.
When I am disorganized with regard to managing bipolar, I just feel crushed. I’ve learned to keep my appointments in my phone with alerts (one alert is two days before and one alert is the day before). I also write it on my paper calendar on the wall. Moreover, I sleep and wake up around the same time. I keep my bed and clothes neat. I take a shower daily to keep my hygiene in place. Depending on the season, I do my best to sleep after Isha and wake up Fajr. I also follow a rough meal plan and make sure to have water and fresh produce throughout the day. I also do tasks that are important to my short-term and long-term goals.
For example, I wake up and work on my blog for 30 minutes and future eBooks or projects. When I’ve gotten these things done, I feel I’ve maximized my day even though it might just be 10:00 am. Of course, Salah is regular throughout the day.
With this organization in my time, Salah, food, exercise, sleep, mental and blog work, I really feel in control. This organized routine might be hard when you’ve started a new drug that makes you drowsy or you are just coming out of a period of sickness. It’s okay. Take your time to recuperate and start with the Salah, food, sleep and personal hygiene first. Those are your basics and from there work your way up.
After all this, you will conquer all occasions instead of letting them consume against you. Sorry Hamlet, I know you are insanely eloquent but I do wish you could read this article to manage those suicidal thoughts.
I could pull out some more Shakespeare quotes but let’s save that for another article and also my bipolar brain needs a break. For now, let’s understand that we need to keep Allah in the center so we can live with passion, purpose and pizzazz. Allah gives you the bricks but you need to build the house. That’s what trust in the Higher Power is all about. Lastly, get your life organized so that you are in control, not bipolar. Let people call you weak or blame you for bipolar. Just know that they don’t know any better and may mean well. And then there are those who are mean and have mental issues of their own but would rather judge you then take a good, hard look at themselves. Leave them because you’ve got better things to focus on like chilling on my blog 🙂