This post is going to be about how faith has helped me through bipolar.
In adolescence I always struggled between the need for Islam to feed my SPIRITUALITY – to feel connected to God – and also to put solid LAWS into my life. The Qur’an I thought, just seemed to be either just a book of irrelevant financial and social rules or a book of spiritual admonition. At the wrong times.
Then why did I yearn for the contentment that so many others seemed to have – from the same source? Initial troubles had to do with conquering pride over the concept of submission.
The word ‘Muslim’ means ‘one who submits to God.’ Submission and being a slave is something that in modern contexts has highly negative connotations around exploitation. It implies that force = compliance. However in spiritual terms, submission during prayer means forming a connection, trusting God knows best, pausing and praising. Relinquishing the burdens of life to the One entity who is capable of relieving you of them.
Much of Manic thinking may have a religious framework if the sufferers are religious. My Catholic friend’s manic ‘mission’ was to couple with an angel. I have believed in myself as some form of sacred vessel. It is important never to confirm a delusion if you can. But inasmuch as unstable thinking can be tinged with overblown religiosity: feeling special, chosen, destined for some great task… Once you’re well, it is a form of psychological therapy imbued with faith.
When very ill I begged my Dad to help me recite Ayat ul Kursi – The Verse of the Magnificent Throne, which glorifies God’s might in Surah Al Baqarah (Chapter 2 of the Qur’an): It contains phrases like: “Allah! There is no God but He… His throne extends across the Heavens and the Earth… He is the Most High… the Supreme in Glory”. The verse protects the reciter from any unseen enemy or evil on their path.
Some nights if I didn’t recite this I wasn’t able to sleep.
Prayer can lend structure too. The day of a Muslim actively traces the rising and setting of the sun to time our five daily prayers. Muslims who have been newly diagnosed with bipolar, needing structure for their day can gently implement this for security.
When I was first diagnosed, religious advice was standard: “Try to pray more. You probably were victim because your faith was weak.” For some time after reading hadiths on illness (the accounts of the ministry of the Prophet peace be upon him) I worried that my bipolar was necessary for the expiation of grave sins I had committed, which made me fear that I irredeemably had lost God’s love. Terrifying.
That fear is actually evil. It inhibits your desire to connect with your Creator by making you doubt His oft-repeated qualities of Rehman (Mercy and care for all Creation) and Raheem (Mercy, towards you personally.) It also corrodes your self-worth as a creation. Prayer is often a good place to cry without judgement.
Whenever you think God is far, He the closest: all you need do is call. Allah has many ways of addressing humanity: “Those who are righteous” or “People of the Book” or “Oh Children of Adam” but the simplest of the terms He uses is: “Oh you who Believe.” That is the core pre-requisite.
Early on, being told to pray did not help me. Since then I have been able to experience the benefits of prayer as catharsis and it has come to hold value for me.
Whether it has made me medically better, or will cure me altogether is in God’s knowledge alone. But as a fortress against suicidal thoughts in the Depression end of bipolar, knowing that suicide is a sin and that God is near (even then) is something that has sustained me very much.
Hope this helps,
~ Pola ~