The petals of this flower in the picture are magnificent. Too bad, this marvel of beauty is on a cold rock, smearing its elegance. But the funny thing is that it sill carries some of it’s charm. But, why mention flower petals in a post about weak character? Read and you shall find out my friend.
I thought this comment “You’re just weak” was just something I only heard. I thought it was just something people said to the mentally ill. Lil’ ol’ me thought it isn’t anything substantial. But then I landed on this quote:
Muslim immigrant cultures also encourage individuals with mental health problems to “toughen up” and “deal” with struggles with depression and anxiety, or family conflict (Cauce et al., 2002). This is especially true for males who are expected to be strong and support their family (Vogel, Wade, & Hackler, 2007). Women are less likely to internalize the stigma against seeking mental health services and are therefore more open to receiving mental health assistance. (Ali, Liu, & Humedian, 2004; Farooqi, 2005; Haque, 2008; Vogel, Wade, & Hackler, 2007). Because the stigma of mental health problems and help-seeking behavior is strong among Muslim immigrants, many go without essential treatment and often unnecessarily struggle with a mental health issue that could be easily resolved with professional help (Aloud & Rathur, 2009; Redmond, Galea, & Delva, 2009).
Those bolded words “toughen up” just makes me cringe. Would anyone ever tell a cancer patient, “just toughen up and fight those deathly cells”? No way! They would not only tell them to seek medical treatment but actually support them in doing so. The bottom line is that many Muslims just don’t see mental illness as a real sickness. They don’t know that it has biological roots. I would provide the source for this claim too but do not have one specific author in mind. I did however learn in my neuroscience class about the potential causes of mental illness that are rooted in the brain.
We need to care about dispelling this myth because when it is perpetuated, we might start to be brainwashed by it too. Not only that, imagine all the Muslims who are recently diagnosed with a mental illness. They are going to be shot with this myth, often from those who love them the most and those who claim to have more knowledge. And I know you might still be dealing with your wounds but move away from your cloud of misery for a second and bring some sunshine to someone in need just like Allah is helping and supporting you through this blog.
As promised, let’s go back to the flower. Blossoms are very fragile and some would even argue weak but that is exactly where their beauty comes from. When the winds blow, they sway this and that way but they still stay grounded to their stem and ultimately their roots. They look feeble but they embrace that and turn it into beauty and strength. That’s what you must do: turn weakness to strength.
Let’s look at an example: A well-meaning loved one or an acquaintance mentions that, “You’re not depressed. You’re just weak!” Of course, there are many ways to respond to this myth, some more colorful than others but as a Muslim, you will in sha Allah be inclined to choose the best answer. There are many best answers and different replies will fit different scenarios and audiences. Just remember to answer with respect and empathy with something like, “Thank you for your help. I appreciate it. Insert name/nickname/title, I actually have an article about this very same topic we are discussing. Would you like to read it?” When they say yes, email or share this article with them through social media.
But won’t embracing weakness make you more weak? I believe weakness + weakness = strength, just as 1 + 1 = 11. This method requires the zeal to break away from traditional thinking and standard rules and look beyond that figuratively and imaginatively not just objectively.
In Japan, there is an art method of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer. This process shows the belief that something is more beautiful after it has been broken.
So your weakness is actually your strength. Turn your mental disorder to mental order by first accepting the condition and then squeeze some positive juice out of it. For me the positive juice is this blog. For you, it could be that you start working out to have better health or that you take up a creative hobby to express your feelings. Whatever it is, just do it and your life will be filled with gold despite the coal.
Check out these posts below in the “Seven Silly Mental Illness Misconceptions” series:
Enjoy and please do share so we can eradicate mental illness stigma once in for all.