Photo by Henry Be, Unsplash. Lettering by me. 🙂
I saw a post by on Facebook by a mother who has lost her daughter to a drug overdose, and her words struck me. She said she felt fractured into a million pieces and didn’t know how she would put herself back together again.
There are those of us who know all too well exactly what she means. Even if what happened to us is different, the result is the same.
For me, it began with the person most beloved to me going suddenly, inexplicably criminally insane. He was a perfectly good person with no signs of trouble. Then suddenly he became murderously hostile to everyone, engaging in violence even against himself as well as others.
We felt terrorized. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that. The hospital admitted him on the grounds he was having homicidal ideations, including me among his targets. But given the state of healthcare in America, facilities let him out after only short periods, as soon as he said he was not feeling violent. Then something would happen, and he would go back…and forth.
Even back then he kept saying he was going to strangle me, sometimes adding lurid details of what he had planned. I still shudder to think of some of what he said, and can’t bring myself to type it here.
Mental Health Care “System” in America
The mental health “system” in the US is a revolving door. They only admit people to a facility if they are having suicidal or homicidal ideations or both. Then they just do “crisis management,” which means they drug them up and send them home, usually within a few days. In our case, as with so many others, the long-term “care” facility turned out to be jail.
Later, after these first few events launched the sequence, we would struggle against many other trials. Illnesses, drug abuse, violence, serious injuries, and even death, in unimaginable proportions for nearly half a decade. It was my mother who first was freed and granted peace, as she is the one who died.
I don’t expect anyone to understand or even believe this accounting of what’s happened to us. Nevertheless, things have unfolded as they have, and I’m left standing here to survey the results.
What started in the fall of 2012 I didn’t recognize for what it was at first. But that was the beginning of the horror show. It would end in the summer of 2017 with that mentally ill person I mentioned finally making good on his threat.
He did finally try to strangle me. I may write about that incident in a separate post because that experience alone was massively transformative.
In the months since that awful summer night, things have finally started to seem somewhat normal. But I still always feel vulnerable to some fresh trauma striking, restarting the horror show all over again.
I was so happy when one of my friends said she prayed to Allah and asked Him not to test her so hard. I never knew that was even an option! So, of course, I’ve been praying this same prayer ever since.
Yet, oddly enough, I’m truly grateful because it was only through being fractured, even pulverized to dust, that I was able to start rebuilding everything in a completely different way. This was a process that started even in the midst of all this mess and is still going on.
In the days before, I felt very comfortable. I felt confident and had a strong sense of who I was, and I was at home in my culture. Reconciling Islam with my way of life wasn’t easy, but I didn’t struggle with it too much because I didn’t even realize how far astray I was.
My understanding of this deen was not systematic. I was still a product of my own experience and upbringing, trying to graft Islam on top of that. That doesn’t work very well, at least not for me.
I’m not sorry all that happened to me, even though I can’t imagine living it all over again. It was the price I had to pay to receive right guidance. Some people really balk at the idea and even scold me for saying such things, but it’s my experience, so how can they really know?
Not long ago I wrote a piece called “Convert Troubles” which was about discrimination against converts by “born Muslims.” I still believe everything I wrote there, and think discrimination is unfair.
At the same time, I do think people are a product of their raising and experience and in general. Muslims who were born and raised in the West, like me, really have to work at purifying our hearts and understanding Islam on its own terms. Many of us will never succeed, and that is why, I think, so Muslims are skeptical of us.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve succeeded, but rather that at least now I’m striving. I can’t say that I was before, at least not toward the right things. 🙂
In fairness, though there are many “born Muslims” who are also led into temptation and confusion. I’ve seen many of them myself. So I guess what I’m against is shortcuts. Putting people in categories so it’s easier to deal with them rather than taking the time to know what they really think and believe.
Nothing comes easy in this life. Without an absolutely devastating horror show that literally lasted for years, I would no doubt still be thinking the way I used to think, and doing the things I used to do.
Small, Tentative Steps…
I’ve mostly gone quiet now. Not online but in real life. It’s taken me this long just to feel okay.
To be completely shattered means you’re going to have to rebuild absolutely everything, Your sense of self and how you relate to everyone else. Your view of the world and how you related to everything and everyone in this world, and most importantly how you see Allah and His message.
The only person I’ve wanted to see for the most part since the summer incident is my cousin, who was born when I was just one year old and has been with me for my whole life. I feel threatened by the rest of the world, so I’ve just shut it all out to the greatest degree possible. I even avoid Muslim friends who are dear to me. I’m trying now to reconnect, though it’s hard to feel anything in common. With anyone.
When everything is truly terrible, it’s like the trauma itself is your only friend. I sincerely hope that doesn’t make sense to you. 🙂
Anyway, it’s going to take a long time, I think, to contemplate all that’s happened and what it means. Much longer than just a few months.
All I know is that before all of this, I was lost, confused, and astray, and I didn’t even know it.
Alhamdulilah for every blessing. For all that seems good, and even all that seems bad.