Something for me, from my Client

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This is from a Word Document I received from my client who has been one of my most challenging clients till date. He gave me so much to learn myself and worked hard on his self to bring him out of such a mess by the grace of Allah. He wanted to share his experience with you all and spread awareness on Mental Health. Do give it a read!

When you get a broken arm, you get a cast and everyone rushes to sign in. But when you have a mental illness, a broken soul? People abandon you and leave you alone.

I have learnt this through my experience of practicing medicine as a doctor. If you have a physical ailment, Allah gives you the strength to bear the pain and you get through it. Your mind still works and therefore you are able to stay strong, both mentally and emotionally, to get through the rough patch.  On the contrary, mental illness which I consider the worst form of any illness, you live a miserable life and are left to struggle alone. The phrase “mind over matter” is crushed and you fail to gather yourself in the face of ever worsening circumstances. Many people feel embarrassed of their symptoms because our society places illogical taboos on mental health issues over physical conditions.

Speaking a little of my own personal experience, I never knew what depression felt like when until for the first time I, myself, felt it. I had seen numerous patients with these complaints, but never really felt what they felt like till the time it hit me as well. It was terrible. It was like my mind being in control of something I had never seen, never known, and never wanted to know. As much as I tried to struggle to escape, I did not know I was going further down in it.

Death and Divorce. Death of a loved one, divorce of a sibling. I witnessed the two worst forms of calamities and to make things worse, break up with my girlfriend. All these took place within six months. At that moment I was in 3rd of medical college.  At first I never knew I was not okay. I made the worst mistake of my life and that was ignoring my own self. I tried to run away at first thinking that everything would be fine, but as months passed everything piled up and I had to burst. I developed OCD and that too at its worst form. From thoughts of self-harm to blasphemy related obsessions, from guilt of every bad thing happening around to questioning the very reason of my own existence, my mind was tangled up with these unnecessary and unanswered questions.

When these started affecting my daily life, where I could not perform the simplest tasks like driving my car from home to my workplace, talking to people, having normal conversations, focusing on my studies, taking a bath and changing clothes, I realized it had infiltrated me thoroughly. I used to sit for long hours in the washroom, fighting obsessions, taking more than an hour to understand a simple 10 lined paragraph of my textbooks, repeatedly interrupting people during conversations, and the worst offering a single namaz for long number of hours.

I tried to hide it from everyone as much as I could, but eventually it became a part of me, depicted who I was from inside. I could no longer fake a smile and pretend that I was calm and happy inside. When these things were noticed by my family and friends, I decided to talk it out to someone I knew. I scribbled down a few names, but everyone is not good listener. Some told me I was doing fine, they go through the same too, some gave irrational opinions and some did not pay much attention. My last resort, which should have been the first one, was my father.  He explained me all the reasons I needed to go for professional help. This was not something a friend could have done, not something my mother would have alleviated by a tight hug and not something a girlfriend would have solved just by being there.

We fail to realize that these things are equal to any illness that strike us. Mind is an organ. Like any other it too needs energy, it needs refreshment, it needs rest, and it needs treatment when necessary.  We don’t take care of ourselves and we make the gravest of all mistakes, ignoring the very important organ that actually drives as through everything. We pay no attention to it.

I was referred to Miss. Abeer Naseem by a friend.  At first it did not seem important. Opening up to a complete stranger and sharing my personal life events over a meeting scheduled for one hour, seemed unnecessary but after a couple of these meetings I realized that I need these therapy sessions as much as I needed the medicines.

Miss Naseem provides a very confidential and safe environment and establishes a warm, caring and a therapeutic culture. It is very important for a therapist to define what exactly psychotherapy is, and explain how this drill of having equally spaced, scheduled hourly meetings would help.  Miss Naseem tends to listen to all the information the patient provides and get to the level of the patient from where she takes him/ her on a journey destined towards a normal life.  She uses tools to facilitate the understanding, growth and psychological development of the patient.

The patient-therapist relationship forms a vehicle for therapeutic reasoning and development, which Miss Naseem focuses on from the very first day. As a therapist she is great at building rapport with the patient through empathetic listening. It is understood that the rapport between therapist and patient is one of the most consistent predictors of successful treatment. This is also important to build trust between the therapist and the patient.

It took me 9 to 12 months of therapeutic sessions till I was able to work my way out through the most difficult time in my life. Miss Naseem provided me a very comprehensive detail about how our mind works and how exactly we can control it. The thought process needed to be refreshed. She used different thought stopping and diverting techniques that helped me understand which thoughts were important and which were useless. Stress controlling exercises were given as tools to combat the stress and anxiety driven agonizing conditions.  I was given weekly tasks and was never left alone even when I was not compliant. It was like she held my hand tightly and walked me through that darkness into a world of brightness filled with colors. She paid attention to all the problems and took one at a time and helped me find answers to all the questions.

The concept of having a shrink was well understood when I was half way through therapy. I could see things changing and my life improving as a whole. She not only paid attention on me but also on my relations with my family and friends, helping me understand how important these are to shape our lives.  She consistently interacted with my family through family sessions. This helped the whole family to understand what I was going through and explained how important these bonds are in times of difficulty.

Now that I am done with therapy and almost good enough to deal with my problems my weekly scheduled appointments are now scheduled after every 6 months. During this time Miss Naseem has shared with me her professional phone number to reach out if needed. She frequently keeps checks on all her client once the therapy sessions are over just like inter-session checks that she used to during therapy.

She is truly one of the best therapists I have known and I am deeply thankful to her for all the time and effort she put in to help me walk through darkness. I genuinely support her for all the work she is doing to spread awareness about mental health.

#everyoneneedstherapy#therapysaveminds#mindovermatter#spreadawareness#mentalhealth#stepforward#saveasoul

 

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A short guide to Anger Management

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“The strong man is not the one who is the wrestler but the strong man is the one who holds himself back at the time of anger.“ (Prophet Muhammad SAW).

A popular saying goes: “For every 10 minutes that you are angry, you lose 600 seconds of happiness…Are you willing to do so? One is so sure that he doesn’t want to waste any moment of happiness and therefore, this article will help you explore the mechanism of anger; gain knowledge about the harmful effects of anger; learn ways of coping with anger. To start developing an insight on this, first we need to understand what anger really is. Anger is a normal universal emotion. Emotions are human instincts that each individual feels in varying intensities. We are emotional beings and there is no harm in feeling emotions including excitement, happiness, euphoria, anger, scared etc; the problem begins when these emotions surpass our abilities to bear with them and take them out in a positive, healthy manner. Positive emotions build us whereas, negative ones simply deplete us.

Different definitions of anger include:

  • The emotion of anger is usually a reaction to a specific trigger which is mediated by the person’s beliefs and expectations about the situation. It is an emotional state which each individual feels in different intensities, but taking it out in inappropriate ways (aggression) is absolutely not acceptable.
  • Novaco (1975) views anger as an emotion with three components; physiological, behavioral and cognitive.
  • A secret weapon that leads to destruction of all noble qualities in man.
  • It is considered root of all evils.
  • It is responsible for snatching away the wisdom of man – transforming him into a beast like entity.

Why do people get angry?

  • Appraisal of threat.
  • To harm oneself/others.
  • To achieve control/power.
  • Lack of sleep/feeling hungry.
  • Frustrations/stress.
  • Distorted/cloudy thinking.
  • Emotional insecurity.
  • Low self-esteem/confidence

The human body is manufactured in a way that it sends signals when it is getting angry. Harmful physical, emotional, social, spiritual effects of anger become evident as soon as a person becomes angry. For now we will only see the most common signs our body shows in anger, that are:

  • Clenched fists
  • Grinding teeth
  • Loud voice
  • Red ears and face
  • Racing and pounding heart
  • Excessive sweating
  • Upset stomach

Destructive behaviors caused by anger are:

  • Negative talk
  • Self-blame/blaming others
  • Taking everything personally
  • Assuming
  • Over reacting
  • Looking for fights
  • Smoking
  • Overeating
  • Irritability and isolation

Tips on how to manage your anger:

  • Convert resentment into gratitude
  • Instead of giving a REACTION, give a RESPONSE
  • Transform your fear into trust
  • Do not dwell on the negativity from your past
  • Forgive yourself first and then forgive others
  • Take responsibility for your own actions and own up to your mistakes
  • Exercise EVERYDAY!
  • Replace Maladaptive Thoughts
    • Instead of “Omar did that on purpose to make me look bad”, you might think, “Omar is trying his best, but he still has room to grow and needs my help.”
  • Be empathetic towards all
  • Practice patience and perseverance
  • LISTEN FIRST and COMMUNICATE LATER
  • No matter what, do not disrespect the other person
  • Take little things in life easy and develop a good sense of humor
  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable, let certain things be
  • Organize your mind and desk every 5 minutes, every hour
  • Never reply to a message/call/letter when you are angry. Let it reside until you are able to think clearly
  • Learn to say no with assertiveness than to do it with a frown

 

Habits….Are They Really that Powerful?

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Let’s start with an understanding of what a habit is. A habit is a stable, repeatable pattern of predictive behavior that one can execute without thinking too much about it, which with a little repetition becomes an unconscious behavior.

Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors are repeated a few times and then they become automatic. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. A reason for this is that habit formation creates neural pathways that strengthen over time as much as a habit is repeated. If a habit starts to result in negative consequences and one feels he has lost control over it, unfortunately the habit has been converted into addiction.

Each habit can actually be seen as a set of two intertwined habits. There is a habit of thought and a habit of action to go with it:

  • A habit of thought is a set of coupled patterns of thought and a practiced ability to switch among them appropriately and effectively.
  • A habit of action is a learned pattern of physical behavior involving sensory processing and physical movements.

Both are context-dependent. The habit of thought is dependent on one’s immediate state of mind, and the latter is dependent on one’s immediate environment.

Habits can be shaped, changed, molded, learnt and unlearnt if one understands the mechanism behind habit formation, and the power these habits hold. Charles Duhigg in his book ‘power of habit’ explains how habits are formed and how they influence our lifestyle. The following is the concept of the habit cycle, which helps one to gain an understanding of why they do certain things and how.

Every habit — good or bad — follows the same 3–step pattern, also known as the 3 R’s of Habit Formation.

  • Reminder/Cue (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
  • Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
  • Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

This framework as explained by Charles Duhigg is popularly known as the “Habit Loop” and this pattern has been proven over and over again by behavioral psychology researchers. The important thing to note about this is what pleasure or reward is one seeking because of which he repeatedly follows the same routine. Correct understanding of the reward helps in shaping a new routine resulting in the same reward.

How are habits formed?

Let’s take a habit of answering a phone call as an example to understand the mechanism behind habit formation:

  • Your phone rings (Cue/Reminder)

This is the reminder that initiates the behavior. The ring acts as a trigger or cue to tell you to answer the phone. It is the prompt that starts the behavior, and is the first step of habit formation.

  • You answer your phone (Routine)

This is the actual behavior. When your phone rings, you answer the phone.

  • You find out who is calling (Reward)

This is the reward (or punishment, depending on who is calling). The reward is the benefit gained from doing the behavior. You were curious to find out why the person on the other end was calling you and discovering that piece of information is the reward for completing the habit.

If the reward is positive, then you’ll want to repeat the routine again the next time the reminder happens. Repeat the same action enough times and it becomes a habit. Every habit follows this basic 3–step structure. So how can this structure be used to create new habits and actually stick to them?

habit

Think about something it took you a really long time to learn, like how to drive a car. At first, driving was difficult and you had to devote a lot of mental energy to it. But after you grew comfortable with driving, it became much easier — almost habitual, you could say. Now you do not have to be conscious of when to press the break, or when to press the accelerator or how much to press it. You automatically do that while driving.

Driving, gambling, exercising, brushing your teeth and every other habit-forming activity all follow the same behavioral and neurological patterns, The new York times business writer Charles Duhigg explores the science behind why we do what we do — and how companies are now working to use our habit formations to sell and market products to us.

Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which also plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions, meanwhile, are made in a different part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. But as soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into a sleep mode and the habit is then controlled by the robotic brain.

“In fact, the brain starts working less and less,” says Duhigg. “The brain can almost completely shut down. … And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else. It actually helps one to exert the brain energy onto the more complex and sophisticated actions.”You can do these complex behaviors without being mentally aware of it at all,” he says. “And that’s because of the capacity of our basal ganglia: to take a behavior and turn it into an automatic routine.”

Studies have shown that people will perform automated behaviors — like pulling out of a driveway or brushing teeth — the same way every single time, if they’re in the same environment. But if they take a vacation, it’s likely that the behavior will change. “You’ll put your shoes on in a different order without paying any attention to it,” he says, “because once the cues change, patterns are broken up.”That’s one of the reasons why taking a vacation is so relaxing: It helps break certain habits.

Going on a vacation is also a great way to break and change habits and is one of the proven most-successful ways to do it,” he says. “If you want to quit smoking, you should stop smoking while you’re on a vacation — because all your old cues and all your old rewards aren’t there anymore. So you have this ability to form a new pattern and hopefully be able to carry it over into your life.”

“With every hardship comes ease” (Al Quran 94:5)

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These days the only thing I am waiting for is the ease to accompany hardships in my and my loved ones’ lives because Allah’s word can never be wrong. If we are going through hard times, there are meant to come better days. But being impatient, and characterized by human flaws, we keep on wondering WHEN? But reflecting on life today made me understand that ease has its many forms and kinds, not always the same end to every problem.

“Surely, with every hardship there is ease” Al Quran 94:5
“In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” Al Quran 13:28

I believe these two verses have a cause and effect relationship. Even if the problems of our lives are not solved (which we may take as the only ease), we can get patience and courage to deal with what life throws at us (which is also a misunderstood form of ease), if we remember Allah as the foremost entity. For me, it is our relationship with God that determines what intensity of ease would be coming our way.

May Allah help all those in need, heal the ill, provide for the poor and help us spread love and kindness among all. Ameen.

Nobody wants to stand next to the stinker!

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This is a Ramadan inspired post, since I don’t usually go for prayers all round the year, but men do and I can somehow feel what they may go through at times.. It is sad how we Muslims do not follow our religion as it should be followed. Where as, cleanliness and purity is half our faith, we pay no heed to it. We go to our mosques (particularly Isha + taraweeh) with stinky clothes, messed up dupattas, foul breaths full of garlic and onions, and of course carry no sense of brotherhood and sensitivity for others in us.

As I stood beside a woman praying my tarweeh today, I felt suffocated and utterly disgusted. Concentrating on the tarweeh became secondary and gasping for breath became my first priority. On my right stood my mother, calmly and in serenity praying hers, whereas, all I was doing was bumping into her and bothering her with all my movements to get onto her and take more space from her to shift. After we were done, she asked me the reason for me acting so weird. All I managed to say was to hurry up and lets go home.

Dear readers, I am sharing this story so we all can feel the discomfort we maybe creating for the person standing next to us. Even before thinking of this discomfort, we should at least be fully aware of our cleanliness and state of our mouths, as being Muslims. We should not be going to pray with our mouths smelling foul and our body’s stinking. Instead we should shower, wear clean clothes, put on some perfume, brush our teeth, tie our scarves neatly and go in front of our Lord in a respectable and presentable manner. This will save other people from feeling miserable, as well as we would be adding positivity to our society where people wouldn’t want to run away from us/our mosques/our religion.

These are the little things of utmost importance, that we need to take care of. It is one of our religious obligations to represent Islam in the most beautiful way possible. And even before Islam, its a humanitarian demand.

Wish you a happy rest of the Ramadan, and pray we can make ourselves better each day.

Change is essential..

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While talking to a group of young girls all of a sudden I felt too old. I didn’t even realize how quickly time passed by, and from an O level student I went on to completing my bachelors and Mphil. It has not been easy, but it sure has been a fruitful journey. I have learned, unlearned, and relearned things. Life has thrown some unexpected adversities on my family (which we are enduring till now) simultaneously, bringing lots of happiness too. Throughout every phase of life, every process, one thing has been constant – CHANGE. Whether we want it or not, change is what we will get. We will never be in the same school forever, and the same workplace. We will not have the same friends till death, nor will we have the same stimulants for happiness and sadness. Therefore, if we are rigid in accepting change, then we are on the losing side. Change is what makes us learn. Change is what teaches us about life. Change is what keeps us going, because if we were to spend our lives as the same monotonous days, we will probably lose our sanity. We are not a tree or a mountain or a rock that we need to stick to the places we currently are in. God has given us the unique power to change. We can change our attitudes, our beliefs, our positions, our thought processes, our ability to learn and unlearn, our behaviors, and ultimately change our destinations to those we want. If we don;t highlight the areas we need to change today, we would be wasting yet another day out of our very small lives. There will never be the right time for things, we will have to step in, take decisions and make the time right.

Things change in a second…

It has been these five days that I have felt to the core, how helpless we humans are. Be it with regards to family, friends, relatives, health, wealth, marriages, past, present, or future – we humans are the slaves of The Supreme, The Divine; who controls the universe. I have realized that no matter what and how much we do or try, we can never fix things until it is right time for them to get fixed.

It send shivers down my spine, when I sometimes reflect upon and realize that we have absolutely no power upon anything. Not of any single kind. We are as dependent on Allah, as a little baby is dependent on his mother, or perhaps even more than that. From provision of food, to fulfillment of needs, to attachment and bonding,to finances; everything. Nothing is possible if HE does not order it to be.

Whenever I think about how arrogant, self sufficient, controlling, and authoritative we can become, in the end not a single leaf can move without HIS permission.
Therefore, never forget that its to Him we belong, and only to Him we shall be returned. And all arrogance, all knowledge, all healing powers, all decisions, are just for that Supreme Being.

Try to be as humble, kind, gentle, and understanding as much as possible with our fellow human beings. We never know when its our time to leave.

Let yourself remain a human being.

The problem with human beings is that they start to perceive themselves as perfect, and do not give themselves the chance of error. This is the root of all problems, when we start questioning ourselves “Why?” “How could I?” “I am so stupid” “Why did I do this?” and so on. When we desire perfection, and start to question our abilities and skills way more than expected, we tend to collapse under its weight. We cannot think clearly then, and therefore, make more blunders and the vicious cycle of getting angry at one’s own self never ends.

Realize that we cannot be God, or anywhere near Him and being perfect is only His attribute. So if we start expecting ourselves to be error free then we are causing harm to ourselves.

Accept the way you are, learn from your mistakes and forgive yourself, as well as others, in order to bring that peace of mind that we usually try to seek from the external forces.

The irony we live in..

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Its been a while since I haven’t written anything here. Today I feel the need to write, this urge in me to convey how dreadful are becoming the surroundings we live in. Its a shame for us as humans to have been left with near to no humanity. It brings me to tears when I look around and see humans killing each other for unknown reasons. How the brains are manipulated to bring about such dire consequences. Leaves me to wonder how will all this end? How will justice prevail? How will oppressors be given punishment? How will the innocent be given his rights?

Well, being a Muslim, having faith in Allah is the biggest strength we can depend on. Its the biggest relief we have for all such conditions – Allah willed and so it happened. Definitely, not even a leaf falls without  His permission. But the question remains, what have we done to ourselves that He has made us go through all this? Why have we never analyzed ourselves being the culprits of our own miseries?

Time to ponder over ourselves, instead of wasting time pointing at others.

The Science of Willpower

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“Control yourself!”

We all say it, mostly to ourselves. We say it when we ‘indulge’ in behaviors that cause short-term gain for long-term pain.  At its essence, willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. How often can we resist a plate of fresh and crumbly cookies that lie on the table staring at us with joy of being eaten?  Well answer to this depends on what cognitive tasks we have been indulging in earlier in the day. Research conducted over the last two decades by US psychologist Roy Baumeister has shown that willpower is a finite resource. It is like a reservoir that one needs to continuously refill otherwise it will lead to a state called ‘ego depletion’. This means the will power will become fatigued, and thus, will eventually make it difficult for the mind to concentrate on high cognitive and intellectual tasks. There comes a point when it loses all its energy and has no more strength left to keep itself motivated to work. The concept of ego depletion can be understood by taking will power like a muscle. For a muscle to work at its best capacity, it needs to be strengthened by practice and has to be given an equivalent amount of rest. If the muscle will be over worked, it will not be able to perform to its optimal level in tasks that require its hard work. The muscle needs to be given the right amount of rest, to increase its strength and ability to work persistently, so is the case with the will power. When you have to control yourself, there is less willpower available to you for other parts of your life. This fact is a good one to know because people who lose their will-power often do things that they would rather not. They become aggressive, sexually impulsive, and give up too early on puzzles. But this has nothing to do with being physically tired, rather it’s a sign of your mental exhaustion. It needs to be exercised regularly just as you need regular exercise for your muscle.

According to most psychological scientists, willpower can be defined as:

  • the ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals
  • the capacity to override an unwanted thought, feeling or impulse
  • the ability to employ a “cool” cognitive system of behavior rather than a “hot” emotional system
  • conscious, effortful regulation of the self by the self
  • a limited resource capable of being depleted

Many people have a myth that if they want they can be fully in control of their lives just by depending on the will power. However, that is not the case. In 2011, 27 percent of Stress in America survey respondents reported that lack of willpower was the most significant barrier to change. Most of them thought that will power is a learnt tool, and therefore, were not wrong. Lack of willpower isn’t the only reason you might fail to reach your goals. Baumeister describes three necessary components for achieving objectives: First, he says, you need to establish the motivation for change and set a clear goal. Second, you need to monitor your behavior toward that goal. The third component is willpower. Whether your goal is to lose weight, study more, or spend less time on Facebook, willpower is a critical step to achieving that outcome; but however, it’s not the only component.