Health Mental Health

A personal rant about Ramadan: Fasting with Depression

by Zara

Image credit: Sadi_M,
Image credit: Sadi_M,

Random personal rant about Ramadan

So, some of you may or may not know that I am a Muslim. Not a good one, but a Muslim nevertheless. A little info is that in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, we fast from dawn to dusk (no food or water, no smoking, ingesting of any substances).

For a few years, my psychiatrists deemed me unfit to fast. Last year I started again, this time in full knowledge of the illnesses I carry. Before then, fasting was still hard, but I was in enough denial and enough emotional pain to be completely fine with not eating or drinking, it was almost another form of self harm. Now, fasts are longer, I smoke, and instead of just being ill, I’m fighting my mental health.

Last year I managed to fast roughly half the month, and this year I’m aiming to complete the month. But my dear lord it is hard. I’ve had to rearrange my time so that I take my medication at 2am before the fast begins. And it is like all my emotions and feelings are so much more heightened during fasting. There are tidal waves of anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness and a range of many other feelings that all hit at once and are so overwhelming all I want to do is find a rock to cry under, to cut those feelings out, to make it go away. But I can’t, and I sit there with those feelings, with hunger and thirst also, in my bed waiting for dusk so I can eat something and smoke and calm down. Only to do it all again. Everyone keeps telling me if I find it too much, it is acceptable to break my fast. While I am grateful for the understanding that fasting when you have mental health difficulties is harder than fasting without, I don’t think anyone understands that breaking the fast is not helpful either. I end up feeling guilty, like I’m such a shit person for not being able to finish it. I know that may not be reality, but it’s how I feel. Like I’m stuck in a black hole.

I don’t know why I’m posting this, but what I do know is that I feel a little bit better for putting some of my thoughts into words. Anyway, another fast begins, wish me luck.

Zara wishes to remain anonymous, and is not using her real name.

Image credit Sadi_M from Flickr Creative Commons 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

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  1. A number of religious authorities say that you can take vital medication during Ramadan and still fast. Obviously someone who is too ill to fast shouldn’t fast at all.

    Remember Allah is not trying to make you suffer and you’re not taking the medication as a nutritional supplement. If taking the tablet is the difference between you fasting or not then take the tablet, I have full confidence that Allah will not have an issue with that. He loves you 70 times more than any mother loves their child! He only asks you to fast for your own benefit – that benefit will not be lost by you taking some vital meds. Allah (God) has so much love for us, it transcends everything. He knows all of your circumstances and everything you intend. Too many Muslims see him as some sort of inflexible imposer of rules, he’s far beyond that – beneficent and merciful.

    Now as for the smoking I’m afraid you’re on on your own there but that is for your benefit….!

    1. Thank you for posting your comment. I hope it will be reassuring for others who are in a similar situation and facing this dilemma. I know many feel they are doing something wrong when they fast and take medication. But you are right Allah’s love transcends all.

  2. I am Jewish and while there is no fasting cycle that even remotely resembles the duration or intensity of Ramadan, I made a resolve a decade ago in regard to Yom Kippur (one of two sundown to sundown fasts; there are a couple of lighter twilight to sundown fasts, too). I drink water if I need to and, if push comes to shove, will also have a cup of coffee. According to religious law, I might as well eat a banquet full of food too since abstention is supposed to be complete (as in Ramadan). But, you see, I got so, so, so violently ill one year that I swore I wouldn’t do myself physical harm again. With some water and coffee I feel the hunger pangs all right, but I am focused on my spiritual and moral accounting, immersed in prayer in a way that I would’t be otherwise (would just be desperate for the day to end). I try my best and reached this compromise with myself rather than all or nothing. I don’t think the heavens are too upset since I, too, need mercy.

  3. Muhammad says:

    Hi there,

    I am a muslim too, not extremely good one, but good enough. I am also struggling with depression and find that fasting makes it much much worse. I’ve decided to try to fast only on days when I feel I can do it. If not, I’ll let it go.
    I also have trouble letting go, so I understand the guilt that you’re talking about.
    I’m also discouraged with the lack of resource in the Web, or how people don’t understand what I’m going through.

    I hope this helps you to know that you are not alone.

    1. Thank you for your comment of support!

  4. anonygirl says:

    Hey. I struggle with my mental health (Depression and Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder) and haven’t fasted for a few years because fasting simply makes me super depressed. You are not alone. This year, I am on medication and feel like I will end up in a psych hospital because of suicidality if I fast so I am going to refrain.

    1. Thank you for sharing. Your health comes first so it would be impermissible for you to fast.

  5. Tia says:

    Is Ramadan 2018 and I am currently struggling with my fasting and grateful to be in the last 10 days. I have never faced a Ramadan when my depression has sapped my energy and enthusiasm for all religious practices that I used to enjoy. But this year I’m sad to say but I’ll be glad when Ramadan is over so I can get back to manage my depression without the added stress of not being able to eat and drink for the Comfort factors alone. Of course people will say you’re not healthy enough to fast but I would rather struggle through then not fast because I’ve always considered fasting to be one of the acts of worship that I’m really great at and I can’t bear to give it up even if I may not be benefiting because my intentions are not as they should be in my opinion. Anyway thank you for posting and sharing I don’t feel totally alone in my Ramadan struggle.

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