By Tabassum M.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Depression is a curious disease. It splits our life into two distinct segments. In one, we’re down in the dumps and we quite forget what it felt like to be happy, or even whether we ever were happy in the first place. And in the other, we’re so happy that we don’t even remember what depression felt like. In this second phase, we find ourselves repeating the mistakes that lead to depression and heading for the next crash. In order to prevent this from happening, we need to remember the pitfalls and apply the brakes that we learned to put in place the hard way during depression.
The Prophet (sa) said: “A believer is not stung twice (by something) out of one and the same hole.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
Even after many years of battling with depression, we find it difficult not to be stung from the same hole a dozen times. Often we don’t even feel the sting until we’re bleeding to death. So here are a few things to keep in mind during times of ease to prevent this.
1. Take it easy!
When we recover from depression, we’re sometimes tempted to do too much work and other activities. This is highly risky as it increases our stress levels and tires us out. So if you find yourself taking part in three or four volunteering activities at once, planning to learn Arabic from scratch in one month, or working or studying from waking time until bedtime, then recognize the danger signs.
Why is it so hard to stop working during the high times? Perhaps one reason is that we want to ‘make up’ for the work we missed in our previous depression, or we want to ‘gather food’ like an ant for the next winter.
Whatever it is, remember what the Prophet (sa) said to Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (ra) when he wanted to pray all day and fast all night:
“Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fast) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, and your wife has a right over you.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
2. Build Your Defenses: Take Care of Yourself
In our desire to get busy and complete as much work as possible, we tend to ignore our physical, mental, and spiritual health. We hurry through our prayers because we can’t settle down and concentrate; we skip our daily exercise because we ‘just don’t have the time’; we might even neglect taking prescribed antidepressants because we’re ‘happy anyway’. This sort of neglect is almost a surefire path to disaster.
Take time out every day to take care of yourself. Exercise and improve your metabolism. Take courses and read books on improving your prayer. Take time to pray, learn the meanings of what you’re saying, and build on the obligatory prayers with the Sunnah prayers and dhikr. Strengthening your prayers will strengthen you spiritually so that you’ll become more resilient against depressive attacks, in sha’ Allah.
Read the Quran, and don’t just read it passively. Build a relationship with the Quran so strong that it gives you therapy every time you open it.
Avoid stressing your mind too much. Take plenty of breaks for leisure time—and enjoy them.
3. Build Your Defenses: Learn New Skills and Coping Mechanisms
Be in regular touch with your doctor and/or counselor; if you don’t have either, it’s high time you make contact. Save some money every month specifically for this if you have to.
Pay special attention to stress management because overstress is one of the triggers of depression. Everyone has a stress threshold: the amount of stress one can take without breaking down. For those with depression, this threshold may be lower than for others. So in order to avoid the next crash, don’t let your stress level hit the threshold.
Allah (swt) mentions: “Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” (2:286)
If Allah doesn’t burden us more than our capacity, why do we burden ourselves?
Do a lot of happiness-boosting activities. These activities help keep you afloat and stop you from hitting the bottom. Most (if not all) of these activities are also Sunnah acts. (Find out more about happiness-boosting activities in: Leading a Happy Life – In the Light of the Quran.) In short, following the Prophet (sa) and performing acts of righteousness gives you boosts of happiness.
Allah (swt) mentions: “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer—We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” (16:97)
Tabassum M is a freelance writer and a student of al-Salam Institute. She likes animals, natural beauty, reading novels and researching interesting topics. She shares her reflections at the blog sections of Understand Quran Academy, IIPH and Ibana. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
© IIPH 2016