During Mental Health Awareness Week back in October, I asked Life in My Days founder Ahmad Abojaradeh to share his story as to why mental health awareness is important. After one successful year since the launch of his website, LifeinMyDays.com, he has recently spearheaded a campaign. I got to interview him again to see what’s new.
Muslim Girl: What is Life in My Days all about, and what inspired you to start it?
Ahmad Abojaradeh: Life in My Days is a social change platform where individuals can share their personal experiences and connect with individuals all around the world in a way that celebrates our intersectionality, promotes healing and growth and allows us to belong.
I have talked about my mental health work on Muslim Girl in the past, what I don’t normally mention is how alone you feel when you don’t know a single person going through what you’re going through. I remember Googling symptoms and different characteristics of abuse in hopes of finding someone that understood, but I never had the right language, and nobody shared my intersectionality.
For 18 years, I felt something was wrong with me, and I was unique in my pain. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I finally found others that also dealt with mental illnesses. I had finally found another Muslim willing to say that they also lived with my challenges. This was a life-changing moment for me, and regardless of what I’ve gone through after, I have known that I am not alone.
As a Peer Support Specialist, having worked with tens of individuals in supporting them with all kinds of challenges, I can honestly say that the most common thing I hear is: “I am alone.” We have stigmatized our challenges so much that we have barricaded ourselves from one another despite the similarities of the challenges we face every day. This is why I created Life in My Days, as a safe place for individuals from any and all communities, where we can share our experiences, grow and heal and learn from one another.
What’s your new campaign about?
I didn’t realize just how big of a need there was for it until we had close to 50,000 followers from all around the world within just a couple of months of launching the Facebook page. Since then, I’ve put together a team and decided to launch the site as a non-profit so that we may make it more sustainable and reach an even larger audience. This will allow us to grow our programming, reach individuals in areas we haven’t reached yet and expand our scope for the type of services we offer.
A few weeks ago, we launched a LaunchGood campaign to raise funds to get the non-profit off the ground. Our goal is to raise $5,000 dollars which will cover the application fees to transfer to a non-profit, allow us to build a more accessible and user-friendly website, professionalize and even begin some initial programs and applying for funding. We wanted to allow the community to have a stake in the creation of Life in My Days, because it’s really not about us.
It’s about the communities out there, and by supporting this campaign each one of us can take ownership and say that they helped build this. I think there’s a lot of good that we can do with this, and this is a great way for others to be involved in building something that’ll help thousands. No gift is too small, everything will help us help others heal and grow. We’re also asking individuals to share their experiences and become part of our community. We’re looking for anyone that’s willing to be vulnerable, regardless of their background, that wants to share some of the things they’ve gone through or are going through, and giving others hope that they are not alone.
Why do you think it’s important to raise awareness of mental health in the Muslim community?
Every day, Muslims in the United States are dealing with emotional and psychological warfare in every avenue of life. Not only are things really bad, but our perception of how bad things really are is through the roof. All of this affects our mental health. It is proven that living with constant microaggressions puts us in a similar anxiety-induced state as being in a war zone. Today, more than ever, our intersectionality is tearing away from mainstream society and if we don’t support one another, we might not be able to find support elsewhere.
Through my work, I have seen Muslims shying away from treatment and getting help because they don’t believe that their problems will be understood and they don’t feel that their communities are supporting them. This is extremely dangerous. We all need support and we all need places to belong. These are things that we want to address with Life in My Days. Not only are we a social change platform where individuals can belong, but we’ll also work with communities to create spaces of healing through story sharing and connection.
What does the future of Life in My Days look like?
The future of Life in My Days is belonging and connection. Recently, I was talking to a friend about the hierarchy within the disabled community and how certain disabilities are viewed as worse than others. I remember saying that this is the vision of Life in My Days, because someone from another community, let’s say the Muslim community, that is not a part of the disabled community, can read that and connect it to the hierarchy within the Muslim community.
We want to support people from all communities, and give them a space that’s unfortunately rarely offered in our societies, where they can share safely, and at the same time heal and grow through sharing their experience. To do this, we’re going to create writing programs, workshops, retreats, and at the same time partner with other groups that are doing this work to support them and help them create safe spaces. We don’t aim to be the only place where individuals share their experiences and gain these benefits, but we aim to be a part of a larger network where no matter what you’ve gone through, you will find others that have had similar experiences, and more important, have gone through similar emotions.
We are also planning a program to address community trauma in the wake of hate crimes or bias-motivated incidents due to race, ethnicity, religion, disability or sexuality. There is so much hate ongoing in the U.S. right now and, while there are programs that address prevention of hate crimes, not many people are working on dealing with the mental health of the community that has experienced this trauma. There’s a lot of healing in taking charge of our experiences and feeling that we have ownership of our lives.
Hate crimes and microaggressions throw us into a world of uncertainty, a place where you can’t guarantee your safety, which is very similar to what individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) live with. Recently, everyone I’ve worked with that has had PTSD has had it re-triggered due to the current climate. We need to start addressing mental health not only on the individual level but also on the community level.