“I Heard More About Men Studying Religion, Than People Studying the Human Brain and Mental Illnesses”

As an Egyptian Muslim middle class girl, I didn’t know much about mental health and mental illness growing up. I’ve seen homeless people showing symptoms of mental illness but I didn’t really give much thought to it at the time. As a teenager I kept hearing men who spent their lives studying religion, but never studied how the human brain and emotions work, claiming with a disturbing amount of certainty that mental illness is itself a symptom of another illness called “lack of faith”, and I believed them because I didn’t know better about the topic or myself.

Knowing Better

My heart spoke against condemning and judging the mentally ill before my mind, I was sympathetic and compassionate and something inside of me just knew that there was something wrong with the way mental illness is talked about in our society. My mind followed soon after when I discovered Wikipedia and documentary films (I was already a hungry reader but psychology books weren’t on my radar back then). Very soon I learned that sometimes parts of the brain are responsible for things like happiness and relaxation.

Figuring myself out

Having educated and more-aware-than-average parents also helped because by the time I was thirteen years old it was very clear that I needed help. I was a quiet, polite and smart girl, but I was socially awkward, had very few fiends and had a hard time focusing on school work, while reading anything that wasn’t school related was a joy to me. They had no idea which of the things I’ve just mentioned were normal (red: as seen by society) and which are not, it took a few tries and more importantly it took for me to grow up, read, research and go to a therapist of my choice to get a clear picture and here it is: my name is Aya, I’m an introvert, I have Attention Deficit Disorder and I was diagnosed a day after my 29th birthday.

My journey with ADD didn’t start and isn’t ending with the diagnosis and I would like to share it with whoever made it this far into the article hoping that it would help us both.

Ref: Sahih Muslim, the Book of Virtue, Chapter: The Obligation to Obey What He Says With Regard To Matters of Religion, But Not What He Says With Regard To Worldly Matters.
Picture: Eric Rosati / Getty

Written by Aya Mahmoud

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