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Let’s see, I met my wife, Jessica, in January, moved out of my parent’s house and into my first apartment in April, celebrated my 22nd birthday in July, lost my Mother and Father in an apparent murder-suicide in September, became a registered member of The Nation of Islam in November, and got married in December.
The same way I just casually mentioned that great tragedy in the previous sentence is the same way I tried to deal with it in real life. I mean it was a horrible thing, but I kept telling myself, there is no God but Allah (God) and Muhammad is His Messenger. My good friend and companion in struggle, Brother Jameil approached me at my parents’ funeral and asked how I was doing, and I repeated those words to him and he’s thinking to himself, “Damn this brother is strong!” While I believe those words, which are the standard declaration of faith of all Muslims, I believe to be the absolute truth; I was using them to shield how I was really feeling; confused, hurt, sad, and empty.
I didn’t grieve about it. I would acknowledge how tragic it was but I was in extreme denial about my feeling about it. I was a new husband, an active follower of the man I have been looking for my whole life (The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan), and now an expecting father.
The following year (2000) at the historic Million Family March, I got so sick that I thought I had an ulcer. The next day I went to a clinic and saw a doctor who said anxiety was causing my stomach pain and prescribed me Prozac. I told my older sister, Tonja (who is very knowledgeable about medicine) strongly objected to me taking it, so I listened to her advice. I then went to a second doctor who prescribed me the popular anti-depressant drug Paxil, which I did take. Although this drug put me in a better mood, I hated the idea of me, a so-called spiritual brother, having to rely on a pill for my mental well –being. So I would take it for a while, start feeling better, stop taking it, get depressed again, crash mentally, bottom out until I would eventually begin contemplating suicide, go back to the doctor, and get back on the medicine and start all over.
I would repeat this tumultuous cycle for the next several years, taking my wife, children and close friends on this emotional carousel with me. Those who cared about me could empathize, but they did not know how to help me get through this, for I would be doing just fine and then all of a sudden start spiraling down.
During this time I also decided to seek the professional help of a psychologist. After my first two counselors didn’t work out, I was referred by my wife’s stepmother to a young woman. Dr. Stern was very professional and didn’t allow my “intellect” to keep her from doing her job. She was the first counselor to “call me out” when I started trying to intellectualize my feelings instead of expressing my feelings, and she would remind me of the things I said to her in previous session and would not hesitate to point out to me when I contradicted myself.
Then something major happened. Whenever I would get very depressed, I would stop praying, stop studying and pretty much fill my mind with so many negative thoughts about myself and others. I began to develop the Will to pray, and study again. One day I went to a session with her and she mentioned to me that I looked and sounded much better than I did in previous sessions. She asked what had I been doing different. I told her I have gone back to making my prayers. She then asked, “Well, what is it about saying your prayers that make you feel better”? I said, “Doctor, I cannot intellectually explain prayer to you. All I know is that it works.”
There is a verse in the Holy Quran (25: 77) that states, “Say: My Lord would not care for you, were it not for your prayer…” I now know that no matter how many books I read or how many wise words I can quote from my Teacher, I have to do certain things (pray, fast, give in charity) consistently in order to not fall into despair. I must not just be a good at repeating the words of the Minister or the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but I have to follow their example.
I haven’t taken any antidepressants or had professional counseling since 2006. I would like to thank my wife for taking charge and not letting me or our family crash whenever I would fall into despair. I now realize that I am a very blessed man. Allah (God) has always put the right people around me and I am learning to be more appreciative. I am finally learning not to isolate myself when I face these feelings but to open my heart and mind to receive Allah’s (God’s) love, which has been deposited in the people He has put around me.