What messages bombard you daily? Are you even aware of the subliminal programming that shapes your thoughts, actions, and beliefs? Do you think you’re immune to outside influences or do you recognize your weaker points and Achilles heels in the media blitz of things? I know for me, when I see an ad for something savory on tv or online, I’ve already decided how and when this item will become a part of my life; usually by lunchtime. I’m impulsive and quite receptive to what I see and hear. It’s always been like this for me. I’m working on it, but I don’t mind admitting that this is a major weakness of mine.
When it comes to critique about my appearance or family life, I’m equally sensitive, I’ve noticed. Maybe it’s my social anxiety, and maybe it’s a little bit of vanity mixed in too. Allah knows best. To that end, the only side effect from my medications that really troubled me over the years has been weight gain & what came along with it. At 5’1, I couldn’t afford to put on much weight without it being noticeable, and more importantly bad for my overall health. Yet, my old med regimen caused me to be significantly larger than I wanted to be years after I’d had my children. My moods and symptoms were beginning to normalize, but my body was going through its own turmoil.
I’ve worked hard at not caring what others think & accepting myself, but deep down it’s been a source of shame and serious self-esteem issues. My body image has suffered tremendously, and I grew to hate looking in the mirror at all. My hijab and Islamic style of dress became a place where I could hide for years, and I grew comfortable in this cave of shame. There was no grooming or beautification going on in this cave. Only the addition of negative body images and self-harm paintings on covered skin walls. Nobody could see in or out and I liked it this way.
At this point in my life, there was only negativity and frustration. I found nothing good about myself or my situation. I hated everything about what my illness had done to me and those around me. And I kept ruminating on this message of self-loathing. Especially when people told me I’d find someone if I only was skinnier. I didn’t agree, and yet I did have to pause. My hatred for my illness was poisoning me and making me hate my body. In turn I wasn’t taking care of myself. Regardless of weight or anything else, I needed to care enough to take care of the body I was given. However, I still wasn’t ready to change.
One day in the spring, however, I’d finally had enough. I was making dua and asking Allah to grant me ease with my situation and to grant me a way out. I just needed something new to be excited about. That summer, I experienced Ramadan with a family who welcomed me into their home and invited me to eat and pray with them. I couldn’t fast, but I got up for suhoor anyway. I went to the masjid for taraweeh every night after Iftar and listened to the Quran at home on the nights I couldn’t make it. Suddenly, I started losing weight. It felt like this came out of the blue. I started walking more and I even changed my diet. But most importantly, I finally stopped being mad about having mental illness and fighting with my body.
After that summer not only did I continue to lose weight in a healthy fashion, but I found a dr. who changed my medication regimen to one more suitable for my illness. These meds are weight neutral and ones that are better equipped to control my psychiatric symptoms as well. Today when I went to the doctor, I’d lost another 4 pounds mashaAllah. Since 2015, in total I’ve lost 33lbs, by the grace of Allah. And I’m not stopping! I accept that Allah has given me the test of mental illness and that I need meds to control my symptoms. I trust my doctors and the Muslims who assist and guide me. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to feel better about myself regardless how I look and that I’m treating myself in a way that makes me feel good. That’s the best I can do at the moment.