I am responding to an E-mail from a sufferer from NY, USA and I’ve also added an excerpt from my week long retreat in London.
I suffer from AN. Last year I was in a residential program for 80 days. We were lucky my insurance covered all this. I can’t imagine my parents ever coming up with $30,000 a month for my treatment. I never had depression but now I suffer from extreme anxiety and depression. I’m a prisoner of my own mind and I feel so trapped. I dread every day. When I think about going to college, panic starts setting in and I feel like I could die if I try it. Every assignment, task and chore becomes huge and insurmountable. It takes me days to even reply to a simple message on phone. I’m not living but just surviving. At times, I think death will be more welcoming. I can’t explain to anyone how I feel, no one really understands. I really want to function properly. I want to know if anyone has these feelings too, and if yes then how do they over come this?
According to Eating Disorders.org: “Eating disorders often go hand in hand with one or more other mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, due to the associated negative feelings and low self-esteem which are present with both conditions.”
I suffer from winter blues and as soon as Christmas Lights come down, I simply go down and under. This year, I was having panic attacks frequently and I was finding it difficult to bring them under. So last week, I took a hiatus from work, family, my own mind and went to London for a week-long retreat. The easiest thing is to cut your self off from the world and be in the miserable company of the Demon of Eating Disorder, the hardest thing is to be with people, where the Demon and your thought process are severely challenged. It was a challenge but I desperately needed this week of discernment and self reflection. The retreat is all about taking time away from the demands of everyday life, to be quiet, to pray, to do Dhikr, to learn, to challenge the ego, and to refocus our lives on what is most important to us.
From Morning Tahajjud Prayers till Night Prayers. You get blessed.
Some people come on retreat at moments of transition, when they feel the need for particular discernment. Others come on retreat to refresh and renew their spirit.
Evening Group Meditation.
Tariqatuna as-suhbah wa ‘l-khayru fi ‘l- jam`iyyah
“Our way is fellowship, and the goodness is in the gathering.” Sheikh Bahauddin Naqshbandi
What I love about retreat is Evening Meal, the simplicity and blessings of the evening meal, Soup and Bread, eating together and sharing the blessings.
The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) was once reported to have said, “There is blessing in three things: in the early morning meal, in bread and in soup.”
Meeting the Sheikh
I met the Leader of the Order of Institute of Search for Truth and the School of Sufi Teaching, Sheikh Hamid Hassan. Sheikh provides initiation and guidance to those who wish to follow the path of Sufism.
I asked him about extreme anxiety and panic and becoming a prisoner of your own mind.
According to Sheikh Hamid, our panic, anxiety and stress manifests from our desire to control our lives and not having complete tawakul trust in Allah. Eating Disorders are all about control. We try to control things because of our fear of what we think will happen if we don’t. The greatest and the most life-changing sacrifice a person can ever make is to surrender the control and to leave everything in care of Allah.
According to Hazrat Azad Rasool
” The greatest challenge an individual can undertake is self-transformation”. (Turning towards the Heart, p.21)
I learned from this meeting our thoughts make us a prisoner and that most of the times expectations and pressure come from our own selves. Each negative thought is a bar that holds us back from getting what we want, simply because we place too much expectations on ourselves to achieve certain things. The expectations we put on ourself can be the most unrealistic and hardest to meet. These unrealistic expectations are not slightly helpful, but for most people (especially those who suffer from Eating Disorders), it’s hard to resist them, even when they know they aren’t right for them. Too much pressure can cause you to burn out (ahem in my case) you risk depletion and can lose your way. Sometimes you have to allow things to happen instead of making them happen.
Being a responsible adult, I have to take ownership and responsibility for what I do and how I think. To me Sheikh Hamid’s advice and guidance is invaluable. I hope you too will learn from his advice.
Whatever you do, whatever the task, the chore, do your best and then pray to Allah and leave it with Him.
Don’t try to achieve too much in one day, break down your goals in smaller manageable steps.
Break free from the shackles of past and don’t reflect too much on your past mistakes, repent and leave it with Allah.
Don’t look too much into future. ( Reflecting on the past and worries about the future often leave us exhausted and disenchanted).
Keep Life Simple.