I measure my life in Ramadans: How I see myself before Ramadan, and how I am after Ramadan. Who I am closer to, what directions do I get pulled into?
Last year, I had a health scare. I felt a knot in my chest and the doctors thought they found something abnormal, but couldn’t give me consistent answers. I was crying all the time; so scared as each day went by. With every breath, I felt my chest getting tighter and tighter. I felt so terrified, and just wanted to hide in my bed. I had been through enough struggle in my life, and the thought of this unclear mass in me broke me in a way I haven’t felt since my papa’s death.
I didn’t even want to celebrate my 30th birthday. I lost 34 pounds in months. I was so scared about every new test, going to doctor after doctor wanting a clear cut answer re-re-re-confirmed with full certainty. It is hard sharing something so personal and terrifying with people close to you. How they respond determines if they have a spot in your future. Trust is a scary thing – I knew I couldn’t handle the health stress plus social expectations, and my family told me I really needed to separate myself from people who were making my health worse.
Alhamdulillah, after a few months and annoying insurance procedures, I was checked many times by different doctors, and it was confirmed that it was not the “C” word – cancer. Alhamdulillah. I slowly felt safer with my breathing patterns, and the tightness fading away, but those heavy emotions don’t just disappear. I never really became the same person after the whole scare, and I needed to figure out who this new person – me – was in my life. My therapist guided me through everything.
At first glance, seeing me in the professional or academic world, you would never be able to guess what was happening beneath the surface. I was presenting my trauma research at national conferences, leading domestic violence and mental health talks in nonprofits, and perfectly put together, never missing a mani/pedi appointment.
I needed Ramadan to come. I wanted the year to restart and feel recharged…I wanted to help more people who felt alone and had the world falling on them, but needed to figure out the best avenue. When Ramadan came around, I went to a different mosque every other week, sometimes two or three in one week. While rebuilding my health, I wasn’t able to fully fast, but I know I didn’t want to have just a “social Ramadan.”
I was reminded of how little we really control our future as it is already written by the most Merciful. As Ramadan ended, I still felt I could do more for our Ummah and the concept of Eid alone felt very different than before.
When Eid came, I kept thinking “If it is written for me to leave this world tomorrow, how many people can I help today?”
As a trauma therapist, my life has been devoted to helping people take back their lives. I never thought I would find myself needing so much support. I came abroad to help those not just needing compassion and support during Ramadan, but every day of their lives. I serve as a compassionate ear hearing stories, reminding them of their resilience, and helping give them the tools to take back their lives.
It’s not about New Year’s Resolutions, or birthday resolutions, it’s Eid resolutions.
Ramadan is like moving through life with training wheels. It’s our chance to practice our good deeds and efforts. Eid is when the training wheels come off, and now it’s time to be who He expects of us to be – who He knows we are capable of being.