Bear with me as I try to sort through my feeling in a few paragraphs. Where do I even begin to describe my religious journey, or lack thereof. I remember how my parents used to taunt me to pray, and how that had no effect on me. My reasons to start praying regularly were quite selfish ones. It was the summer after Ramadan. I kept praying because my O level results were about to arrive, and continued to do so till I arrived at LUMS. How I went from five prayers to none, I still do not understand. Maybe I could blame it on being too busy. Praying went from being a habit, to becoming a relief, to turning into an obligation. An obligation I kept shirking. A few missed prayers could be covered in qaza, but I did not know what to do when those prayers kept building up, till I realized I just wasn’t praying anymore. So, let me ask you this, when did you first become conscious of how lost you were starting to feel?
Did I feel shame? Guilt? Of course. I looked at the prayer mat folded up neatly on the sofa. Wanting to go to it, roll it down. And yet, I didn’t reach towards it. I looked away, not feeling my heart in it anymore. I used to cry my heart out in sujood, coming up feeling lighter. I used to talk to God, every problem, every fear. I constantly just prayed for one thing, to find ease in every difficulty. And now, when I lay my head down to the floor, all I feel is emptiness. No words come to my mind, no plea for help, no peace of mind. Just nothingness threatening to suffocate me. There are some days where the only thought that stops me from ending it all, is that it’s haraam. So, let me ask you this, who do you turn to for help when you feel forsaken?
The small moments are the ones that hit you the hardest. All my friends would be rushing off to pray, and I would be looking for an excuse not to. At times I did pray, to not feel left out, to not be judged. But it was as if I was just going through the motions. I felt no connection. For lack of a less cliched phrase, I felt like a part of me was missing. This Ramadan was the most out of touch I have felt with my faith. Instead of taking advantage of the holy month to try to find my way back, I was counting down the days where I wouldn’t have to force myself to get up and perform my duties as a Muslim. So, let me ask you this, what is your drug of choice to fill the hole inside of you?
I feel like I should write down what utter lack of faith feels like. There are days when my heart is beating so wildly that I can’t even hear myself think. But that is also the time when someone says something even remotely hurtful, even if it is unintentional, I’ll have to dig my nails into my hands to stop myself from crying, from making a scene, and then running off into the nearest isolated place so I can let it all out. Should I tell you about the times I have cried so hard lying on the floor, with my chest hurting and not finding any air to breathe. Or do I tell you about the days where I can’t find the strength to get out of bed. The days where my heart is empty and everything feels numb. The days when I have had to stop myself from digging stapler pins into my thighs just to feel something. The days when I’ve wished for someone to see me like this, to fix me. Maybe I should have been the one who reached out to God. So let me ask you this, which is better, drowning in feelings or not feeling them at all?
As I sit here writing this, I am still unwilling to admit that I might need help. I’m in denial about something being wrong with me. Having lost interest in not only religion, but most things that used to excite me. Label it what you like, depression, a crisis, but will putting a label on it really make a difference? You can tell me to keep at it. To make myself pray. To ask for forgiveness for the prayers I’ve missed and not miss any more prayers. That it will get better if I keep faith. I’ve tried that. If it makes any sense, I need to find some faith to start praying again. Because I have never felt more alone than when I’m screaming into my pillow in the middle of the night so no one would hear me. I do want to find my way back to God, I just don’t know where to start. Here’s to all the people who are struggling like me. This is me, reaching out a hand to let you know that you are not alone. So, let me ask you this, will you reach out and take that hand?