Alone In a Crowd: Reflections on Ramadan

So, it’s Ramadan again. The month where the moon stays up so late and rises up early. To others it’s just summer. However, to us it’s the one holy month where we fast to have empathy for others, the month where we get to see all our relatives, and we gather together to interact, celebrate and pray, it is the month where we give the most compassion and take back love, the month where we feel the utmost peace for forgiving ourselves and others, and we feel forgiven as well.

To us, it’s more than summer, it’s more than fasting, it’s more than being hungry, it’s Ramadan. Ramadan is the month where the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). Ramadan is about community, it’s about being surrounded by the people you love, it’s about knowing that whatever you are going through, whatever you are feeling, the next person is going through this with you and you are not alone.

As you walk down the halls of the university as an international student fasting and trying hard to get through the day, you feel no sense of community and togetherness. You’re constantly being treated to blank stares and straight faces; no one is asking how you’re feeling but rather they’re asking why you feel the need to starve (Once again, Ramadan is not about starving or wanting to deprive yourself of anything, it’s about devotion). You haven’t heard “Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak” in so long that you’re starting to now lose the sense and feeling that this is Ramadan. In a month where your heart and soul are pure, the judgment you feel from others starts to develop anger in you. You know that you need to cleanse yourself but you’re stressed because “why can’t no one understand and be supportive?”, and instead of feeling the blessings from this month and walking around with happiness and cheerfulness, you end up with this lump in your throat.

All of a sudden, you’re withdrawing from others around you. You want nothing more than your family here but since they can’t be here, and you can’t be there, you slowly start to feel loneliness, isolation and secluded from the world. You enter a dark place where nothing else matters but to get yourself through this month, forgetting that Ramadan isn’t only about fasting but it’s about the heart, the soul, the compassion, the giving and the greatest love.

Moving halfway across the world into a different country, you come and immerse yourself in the knowledge others have to give. You learn so much about them and educate yourself in their ways of thinking, and their culture but yet they fail to even attempt to learn about you. People tell you not to expect anything from others but I always ask why? You give so much, why can’t you even expect the littlest of gestures or anything back?

Being so used to the warmth of the world where you’re from, and understanding everyone around you while they understand you back, the coldness and the ignorance you get in a different country makes it feel like a whole new world for you. You move across the world to make a better life for yourself whilst leaving your family behind but instead of feeling welcome, you’re left questioning yourself and wondering if this is all really worth it. It’s not just about this, but it’s about the constant self doubts, the constant stress, the feelings of inadequacy, the feelings of loneliness, the feeling of ‘maybe I’m not good enough that’s why they don’t want to welcome me’, feeling like they don’t care enough to understand my culture and my religion, the never ending anxiety, the panic attacks, the sadness, the depression.

One day my aunt passed away, and I had to write a final exam on that same day because how on earth do I contact my family who is mourning and grieving and ask for a certificate to not write my exam? I mean, I ended up failing, getting a panic attack, feeling inferior because I failed my exam and this is an accurate description of how I feel during Ramadan. No one feels the need to cater to you but they always feel the need to increase your school fees. Eating Suhoor by yourself and ending Iftar by yourself is honestly the worst thing. You feel so empty and the one thing you’re craving which is love, seems so distant and far away. I forget the purpose of Ramadan because everything I do is by myself and without anyone.

I’ll give anything to feel warmth and happiness during Ramadan. I’ll do anything to take away the emptiness that is overshadowing the pureness of Ramadan. Others always say to pray, I do pray and I’m connected to God but there is a reason why family and friends exist. If my family can’t be here, then the least I can ask for is a community that embraces me. Or is this too much?

 

Ramadan Mubarak folks!

Where Does Your Mind Wander?: A conversation about death and dying

Trigger Warning: Please note that this blog post discusses death, suicidality (ideation, contemplation, methods), and imposter syndrome. It also mentions self-harm, depression and mental illness.


Do you ever wonder how your life will end? I wonder if I think about this too much, I wonder if my cognitions are pathological, or if they fit with the 97% bulk of the bell curve; the “norm”. If this is the case and my thoughts are in fact normal and frequent, then why don’t I hear people talk about dying to the extent their minds cross it? Well the obvious answer lies in our favourite buzzword: stigma. And while I can’t help but roll my eyes when I hear that word, it does play a significant role in silencing our conversations around mental illness and suicide. But if we got rid of the “stigma” surrounding these issues would we really be more open to talking about death? Our inevitable mortality almost feels like a category on it’s own, people tell me that it’s pointless talking about death because we can’t stop it from happening and this scares them. Heath care professionals echo words of panic and “immediate intervention” when the topic is approached.

But what if I want to talk about death? What if I want to talk about my own mortality? When I was 15 years old I began thinking a lot about dying, and 6 years later this has not changed. I don’t know how much depression skews my cognitions on the matter, but I am convinced that I will one day take my own life. Being in a constant state of suicidality is comforting but also terrifying. Everything becomes about death: crossing the street and wondering what it would be like to get hit, belts and cords becoming nooses, full pill bottles an opportunity, and sharp objects…well I won’t even get into that. It is hard mostly because these thoughts cross my mind and fill my thoughts and I feel like I cannot express them the extent that I want to.

I believe this contributes to my sense of alienation in the world. My life feels like a parallel of imposter syndrome, only it is relative to every waking moment. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, imposter syndrome is characterized by an inability to internalize success, feeling inferior, and like a fraud mainly within the scope of academics. I feel inferior and incompetent in my life, I feel like everyone else is equipped to live, except me. I feel like I don’t belong here, or anywhere in this world for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, I do have friends, family, and consider myself to be quite sociable, however this feeling goes much deeper than that.

If you can relate to any of this, I wish I could make you feel less alone… And I hope that you feel more comfort than fear in your own thoughts whatever they may be. And if you cannot relate to this, then I hope you can open your mind to conversations that lie outside of your comfort zone.


If you feel triggered by any of the content in this blog, we encourage you to reach out to family, friends, health care providers, or anyone you trust to support you. In addition, here are some mental health resources you may wish to access:

CU Health and Counselling Services

Distress Centre Ottawa

Good2Talk

CU later SAMH!

By Holly

As I back down from being SAMH’s communications coordinator this 2014 - 2015 year, I want to put out a final thank you to everyone who’s helped support our club to be what it is today. I've worked tirelessly to help make SAMH one of the most forefront and recognized clubs here at Carleton University. In this process I’ve met so many brilliant and beautiful people. To share this passion of mental health with all of you fills my soul with joy. The energy you all provide me with, the knowledge and smiles and drive inspires me daily. Being a mental health advocate is in my blood. I will work towards breaking misconceptions and disintegrating the stigma every day for the rest of my life. Every moment you have to teach someone something about mental health, take it on. Every opportunity is another person who will know a little bit more about this important topic in our lives.

Lastly, and most importantly… each of you have a divine soul. I am comforted knowing that SAMH is in promising hands as I graduate. There is an ebb and flow in life, but never lose yourself in the tide. Be you and never forget that you are so special, and you have a purpose.

Please know if any of you want to stay in close touch, you are free to add me on Facebook if you haven’t already, or you can email me at hollyurbanski92@gmail.com. I am always here to talk to. I look forward to visiting and watching SAMH grow even though I am not going to be actively present. My friendships and love for this group are infinite. Leaving Carleton I am happy knowing I found a family.

Love you all to bits.

Clubs & Societies Gala

By Holly

On March 26th, CUSA hosted their annual clubs & societies recognition night. Lanisha, Ekaterina, Jenn and I represented SAMH on this classy evening at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. Accompanied by several other clubs and groups, we enjoyed an evening together. By surprise, we won an award! SAMH is now noticed as the "Most Active Social Club at Carleton University" for the 2014 - 2015 year! 

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Masterpieces of the Mind Reflection

By Chelsi Robichaud

As most people with anxiety know, presenting in front of large groups can be terrifying. When I checked the Facebook group and realized how many people were going to be present for the Masterpieces of the Mind Gala, I turned into a metaphorical pool of sweat. A creeping sensation crawled over my skin. I knew the people at SAMH would be supportive of everyone, but I still couldn’t shake the anxiety...

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The Movement That Helped Me Become a Mental Health Advocate.

 By Jenn

                 The To Write Love on Her Arms Movement is a movement that was created in the United States. It was a story that was based on a girl’s struggle of depression, drug addiction and bipolar disorder. Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) wrote the story of Renee and what she endured in her life prior to entering rehab. Renee’s story started a movement where people started posting their own mental health issues and it spread like wild fire. Now TWLOHA is a worldwide movement where everyone all over the world has heard about the TWLOHA movement and Renee’s story.

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Dealing With Anxiety

By Scott Zakaib

I have an illness. Well, I don't like calling it that. But that's what it is.

General Anxiety generally accompanies Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I have been back-and-forth with the two of them for the better part of ten years of my life. It started in high school, when the nerves were so powerful that I would lie awake at night, wondering how I would survive another day.

It didn't start as all the time. But soon, it was. After a doctor and psychologist agreed that they were able to name it and decided to help me with the condition, I stopped sleeping almost entirely...

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