Recently, I have begun to wonder what it is in my personal life that I feel needs protecting the most. Instinctively, as a mother and wife, I am always drawn to the thought of protecting my family: Protecting my loved ones by creating a comfort zone; by being there for them when they need me; by making them feel loved and special, taken care of; by respecting the closeness and keeping our matters in the house, and not sharing everything we do and say with the outside world…and the list goes on.
And as much as it is important to prioritise our families, and as much as it is inline with our faith which teaches us how to live peacefully covering all aspects of our everyday life, I discovered that there is something more important to protect than our families; something which I must admit took me good few years to learn and accept. This very special and precious thing is… me and my sanity, so if I am asked what I need to protect the most, that would be my answer.
I am one of those people who- if I could- would carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, and I’m sure there are many of us like this- we would surely take everyone’s pain, tests, sorrow…anything and everything to ease their load, if it was possible. We always put others before ourselves, whether or not it is noticed or appreciated – leaving our own needs and priorities aside to make sure our close ones or even anyone we know who is struggling, are all okay. Maybe that makes it seem like we are just a lovely bunch of people, right, and what could be wrong with that?Well, it’s not really that simple. Because the world isn’t just for either egocentrics and give-it-all people. Nothing is just black or white. Those of us who want to fix and nurture the entire world need to be told, taught and reminded, to take care of ourselves. It’s nice and good to help and sacrifice. But not at the price of your mental health. Not at the cost of yourself.
So Lesson 1 is: Don’t bury your feelings, address them.
You have feelings too. It is lovely you want to help everyone but you have to pay attention to your own heart. Don’t bury your feelings, address them. Do something about the way you feel, because it’s not ok to hurt forever.
It took me more than ten years on a long road of many internal ups and downs to learn that no matter how much I try, I will never please everyone. And when I am not taking my own feelings into the account, no matter how much I sacrifice, things can never work. Because once I reach the point of being drained and over-stressed, the anxiety and tears that I would try to hide behind a smile, would always leave me wondering, ‘what is the point of all of this? Why can’t I get as much as I give?‘
But then I would often suffer because at the same time I wouldn’t ever let anyone give, feeling the sense of failure when it was not me giving my 100% to everyone at all times. Ten years later I’d tell my younger self and any other caring person out there: it’s okay to not be the only one who gives. Give others a chance for reward too. Accept the help that Allaah sends you, and instead of shunning it, take it with an open heart and be grateful for it!
Lesson 2: Before you give your entire heart to other people, make sure you have first given it to yourself
If you don’t rest enough and don’t take it easy when you need to, anxiety will become your companion. Shaytan just waits to torture you. When you are exhausted it makes his job much easier.
Protecting your sanity is based mainly on your connection with Allah, on the time you give to lift your imaan, whether through prayer, reading or listening to the Qur’an, dhikr, lectures, reading. If your imaan is stable, so are, more or less, your thoughts. But there is another part to it which a few are beginning to speak about…
It is you.
Your needs and feelings. Your hurt, disappointments, tiredness, needs to be appreciated, comforted, to feel accepted and loved. All this waits unnoticed, overburdened, pressed together at the back of your mind so preoccupied with making everyone else happy. Until you reach the point when you snap and burn out. Most of people I know have suffered from anxiety at some point of their life. We put so much pressure on ourselves and we don’t take time to heal, be it physically or emotionally. We all need to slow down. Only when feeling good about ourselves can we truly be at the service of others. We wear ourselves out whilst not realizing that the world will not stop and collapse if, from time to time, we’d let ourselves be the ones looked after and taken care of. We want good for others thinking it is only us who can give, whilst at the same time not allowing others to do it and then feeling frustrated with our own tiredness. No one is made of steel, yet somehow we treat our natural needs as weaknesses. So next time, before you give your entire heart to other people, make sure you have first given it to yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, and you’ll be much better to others.
…No one is made of steel, yet somehow we treat our natural needs as though they are weaknesses…
Lesson 3: Communicate
To have sabr does not mean you act like everything is okay when it isn’t and it could be sorted out. Speak your heart. Your close ones want you to be happy too. If you act like you are ok and never speak, they can’t fix things the that hurt you.
When we burn out, have had enough, there awaits us a very dark place. And Shaytan would never let the occasion go, or miss the opportunity to make things seem much worse than they actually are. This is when our entire universe suffers, we feel worthless, not deserving, not loved. We need to stop expecting perfection from both ourselves and others. Treat yourself with care even when no one else does. This could be your way of expressing it to the people around you that inside you aren’t smiling. They often have no idea of what kind of a painful battle is going on behind your smile and service to them.
Lesson 4: You are not and never will be perfect because you weren’t created to be perfect.
“…and man was created weak..”
My message to you, after years of putting myself aside is: be kind to yourself. It will allow you to protect your sanity. Know that you will make mistakes, as even the Messengers of God did. You will fail, you will fall, you may even shatter and seem broken beyond repair at times. But the beauty of knowing that you are nothing except a slave of Allaah teaches you that you don’t have to be perfect, you just need to acknowledge that you’re not and keep getting up after the falls.
About the author:
I am Silesian, ex-language support worker, mother, revert, blogger. They call me a migrant but I disagree: I belong nowhere, interested in a never ending journey. Because a home is where the heart is.