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Preparing for Ramadan

 

Shiza Khan is back with more advice on how to do your Ramadan prep like a boss! In part 1 of this series she advises that you keep up with your workout routine whilst introducing nutritious foods! Watch out for part 2.

Ramadan is the month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims all over the world, fast from dawn to dusk. Fasting during this month not only entails abstaining from food for the prescribed time, but having control over one’s thoughts, actions, and words. It teaches us not only the obvious, which is the value of food and water, but also tolerance and patience. It makes us sensitive to the issues of hunger, unavailability of clean water, and other blessings we take for granted and waste just because. Ramadan teaches us gratefulness, not only to towards God Almighty but also towards other people.

Fasting for a period of 17-19 hours, 30 days in a row however, is no child’s play. Add to the mix going to school, colleges or work makes it even more challenging. And it’s not only because fasting  in this heat wears you out,but also because the body now has to follow a renewed time-table which it isn’t used to and affects all your day’s activities. In my quest to adjusting in another country, along with making sure I do not fail in my duties as a Muslim or as a student, I juggled through many schedules, trying to make one that fit best and eventually I found one. As a college student then, I found that it worked for me incredibly well, and I was able to use my available time to its maximum capacity. Life after all, is all about balance, isn’t it? And that was exactly why I started this series, where I shall try to dish out tips that will help maximize our time to do all that Ramadan seeks from us in addition to doing the chores that well, must be done.

1. PREPARE YOUR BODY PHYSICALLY

From eating 3 main meals and maybe 2 smaller ones in a day to 2 meals considerably smaller in portion, is a transition that our body needs time adjusting to. Which is why some people get comfortable with fasting only halfway through the month, and that makes it increasingly necessary to train our bodies so as to ease it into the transition. I find the best time to begin is at least a week before Ramadan starts if not more. Reducing the portion size is a very effective method to achieve this. It is a durable way to train the body instead of  just cutting down an entire meal as the body recognizes meal timings more efficiently as opposed to size. As the days go by, the body starts to use the available quantity of food for maximum energy release.

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2. CHANGE THE INGREDIENTS

Opt for lighter ingredients in your meals that won’t cause Gastric issues like heartburn, acidity or reflux conditions. Decreasing the amount of spices used is a very effective way of making meals lighter.  Add plenty of vegetables and fruits to your diet and choose high fibre whole cereals wherever possible. Gradually start decrease the sugar content in your meals, as this is the most easy source of energy, and during abstinence of food, the body’s demand for an easy and quick energy source may cause lack of concentration and will leave you craving sugar the entire day.

3. DON’T FORGET THE WATER

Or any other fluid for that matter. Staying hydrated is the key. Make sure you get in a minimum of 8 glasses of water in you through out the day. Your body needs that water to clean itself of the toxic metabolites and to keep functioning efficiently. Also the heat is going nowhere and will only increase as the days pass, increasing the body’s demand for water as losses occur in the form of sweat.

4. KEEP THE WORKOUT ON

Lastly, there is no need for you to stop you fitness routine if you are on one, definitely not during the preparatory stage. If you eat well and drink plenty water, your body will be able to carry out its regular functions with ease.

**DISCLAIMERS**

Readers with any medical condition that need constant medication are to refer to their doctors before making any changes in their diets and routines. Please DO NOT on any account stop medications on your own accord. Introduction of any new ingredient must be done keeping in mind allergic and clinical conditions, if any.

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With that said, I shall also add that this practice worked pretty well for me personally, and as a nutritionist I shall recommend it for healthy individuals, who find it difficult to change their routines. You are however free to mix and match and create your own way that you may find useful, as these are just guidelines. Remember, if you have a control over your diet, you have a control over your life, and it becomes much easier than to concentrate  on praying, study, work or any other job that you do.

I hope this helps, and hope you come back to check the part 2. Till then Stay Healthy, Stay Happy!!

By Shiza Khan

Shiza Khan is an Indian Muslim Clinical Dietitian with a penchant for health foods, I believe the right food can heal the body, mind and the soul. On a mission to making holistic health a possibility, I can be found devouring books in my free time and sharing my ideas on a little corner of the internet. If you want to read more of her ideas and recipes, visit her blog and follow her on Instagram @cal.conn 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.


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5 Foods Dieticians Swear By

In the run up to Ramadan  our Shiza Khan has 5 top nutritional tips for key foods to include in your diet. 

Have you ever so often looked at the shelves in the supermarkets and marvelled at all the pricey, probably hyped “health products” and wondered if they really do what their claims say?  Quinoa, Amaranth grains, gluten free flours, wheatgrass powders are just the tip of the iceberg. So what is so special about these items that every fitness expert and any person with even a little money to spare will splurge in?

Well for one, they are all packed with nutrients and are beneficial for more than one health condition, so most of those health claims are quite true. Some of these are bursting with antioxidants that have become of primary importance considering the toxins we ingest daily, be it through food or just by breathing. The thing is, that nature is so kind to us that it has spread out these benefits in a lot of other foods that have always been traditionally used, but over time forgotten.

Being a clinical dietitian, I come across clinical conditions that can either completely be healed by nutrition, or need nutrition therapy as an adjunct to medical treatment. Through the process of learning, I’ve discovered a pattern of repeating ingredients that we collectively use over and over. Looking into those individually I’ve found why we do so. So, after much thought, I’ve decided to uncover our trade secrets. Moving on, here are five ingredients we all swear by.

1. FLAXSEEDS

Also called linseeds, these tiny beasts are packed with omega- 3, which are suggested for most conditions like diabetes, liver diseases, renal problems and generally for good health. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties which is helpful in reducing symptoms of compromising health conditions. It is found to be beneficial for people trying to lose weight. Along with the good fats, flaxseed also is a good source fibre, when coarsely ground and consumed in either milkshakes, smoothies, protein drinks, or layered in a parfait. It can be ground to a fine powder and mixed with flours.

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Before you jump up to consume it though, note that flaxseed once ground spoils quickly. It is advisable to grind it just before consumption.

2. SOYBEAN

This legume of oriental origin has lately come into the limelight, thanks to all the resources gone into exploring its health benefits. Soybean is available in the market either as the legume, or processed and de-fatted in the form of granules and chunks or as soy milk and tofu. The protein content of Soy with the absence of saturated fats like in meat and other non-vegetarian sources, makes it highly sought out. In fact soybean scores a position among the top five in protein digestibility ratios, and provides all the 9 essential amino acids, which is rare in a plant food, quinoa being the other to do so.

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Apart from its very attractive protein content, soy is also rich in isoflavones, a type of phytochemical that has protective effects for the body. Studies done on Asian populations have shown a positive correlation among women eating soy and the reduction of breast cancer risk (Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study).

Soy isoflavones are also phytoestrogens, that the body can use to mimic the functions of oestrogen, and thereby helpful in reducing the symptoms of menopause.

Soybean is versatile in its use, from being ground and used mixed with flour to make multi-grain flour, to being used in desserts. The commercially available chunks and granules are just as versatile as their parent legume.

3. GREENS

Once upon a time mothers used to literally run behind their children, forcing them to eat those greens, and now those children grew up and add raw spinach and kale to their drinks and tonics. Greens have taken a dip and have emerged with a fury back on the health front.

Green Leafies

Now generally, spinach is celebrated for its iron content. Thank Popeye for that! The truth however is, that spinach is actually a very poor source of it. Dill leaves on the other hand have the highest iron content amongst the commonly consumed greens.

Green leafy vegetables however are abundantly rich in fibre, which makes it perfectly suitable for diabetics and beta carotene, making the leafies not only a good source of vitamin A, but also aids as an antioxidant in the biological system.

4. OATS

I know, I know. There’s enough said about oats on the internet, in person, in magazines and books and every possible source of diet inspiration, that is because oats are that multi-functional and are effective as a part of the diet for more than one condition.

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Oats are mostly rich in beta glucans, which is a type of soluble fibre. That is its singular feature that gives it it’s benefit. It helps patients with lipidaemia (abnormal lipid levels in the body), chelates cholesterol (binds to it) and reduces it, aids weight loss, has a low GI and therefore can be included in a diabetic diet, can be used in a variety of recipes and is cost effective. Phew! *grabs a bowl of oatmeal*

5. BERRIES

Berries

Okay, berries are my personal favourite. Just like oats, these are well advocated for their antioxidant content. they protect the body’s cells against damage by toxins and chemical toxins produced during metabolism. Being anti-ageing, cardio protective, great for weight loss and a healthy drink, quirky ingredient for desserts and just an overall package, berries sure will feature on the our foods most picked list.

**DISCLAIMERS**

– Even though the foods have the said benefits, if you have a medical condition, it is highly advised that you consult a doctor or a dietitian before you consume any of these foods.

By Shiza Khan

Shiza Khan is an Indian Muslim Clinical Dietitian with a penchant for health foods, I believe the right food can heal the body, mind and the soul. On a mission to making holistic health a possibility, I can be found devouring books in my free time and sharing my ideas on a little corner of the internet. If you want to read more of her ideas and recipes, visit her blog and follow her on Instagram @cal.conn 

Images credit: Shiza Khan

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.


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Veganuary: vegetarianism and Islam

There is almost always an ongoing debate as to which dietary choice reaps the most benefits. While vegans argue that their lifestyle is of value and is environment friendly, non-vegetarians strike back with the argument that it is severely lacking in a lot of nutrients.

Islam, as we all know, isn’t merely a religion. It is a way of life. What do I mean by that? Simply that there are clear guidelines already set for us. What to eat, how to eat, what to wear, what not to, what is considered healthy (physically and spiritually) and the list goes on. Seriously, if you ever have any doubt about how to do a certain thing, or whether or not to do it at all, rest assure that it’s already been made clear.

Moreover, if animals are to be considered as communities just like ours, is it then fair for us to raise and breed them for the sole purpose of commercializing them?

 

With regards to food, most people believe, and I know this for I’ve been told many a times, that if you’re a Muslim, you MUST be eating meat everyday right? I mean come on, are you really taking full benefit of the fact that you’re actually prescribed to eating non veg? So let me burst all your bubbles. We are actually advised AGAINST eating meat on regular basis. (Collective gasps.) It’s true. In the Quran it is said,

“And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you”….. (6:38)

and at another place it is mentioned:

“Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.”… (2:60)

To anyone unfamiliar with the meanings of these verses, it indicates towards wasteful consumption, which frankly is what the meat industry has become today. Moreover, if animals are to be considered as communities just like ours, is it then fair for us to raise and breed them for the sole purpose of commercializing them? Of course the meaning of “Eating and drinking from the provisions of Allah” denotes that while it isn’t absolutely wrong to consume meats and such, it is definitely not within the principles of Islam to abuse the animals and overkill them.

There are plenty of Ahadith that point towards the tradition of the prophet and his companions following a semi vegetarian diet and treating meat as a luxury as opposed to a necessity. In fact when Umar Ibn Al Khattab (RA) became caliph, he prohibited people from eating meat two days in a row, stating that “meat has an addiction like wine”. Science point of view, meat is definitely more difficult to digest as compared to eating other vegetarian foods, this causes increased lethargy to perform any duties, which was severely disliked. It had also been discovered only in these past few years, that eating fewer calories not only helps the body function better, but improves quality of life and improves longevity.

It is mentioned that the Prophet (pbuh) has been reported saying “Man does not fill a container more evil than his belly. It is sufficient for man to eat that amount which straightens his back [i.e. a few morsels to gain some energy]. If this is not possible then a third for food, a third for drink and a third for air” (Sunan Tirmidhi, Hadith: 2380 and Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith: 3349)

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Therefore it is evident that while it is not been forbidden to eat meat, over consumption doesn’t particularly fit in with the ethics of Islam either. Of course, I am not trying to establish that one MUST become a vegetarian, however, it very essential to revive the sunnah of our beloved Prophet in order to lead a righteous lifestyle in accordance with Islamic principles. Making sure the food we eat is Halal tayyib should be of primary importance to every Muslim, as should abstaining from things that have been prohibited or disliked by Allah and our beloved Prophet (pbuh).

So, if you feel like it makes sense to adopt a vegan lifestyle (and I mean not just in terms of food, but otherwise ethically as well), then you should totally go ahead with it. Even if it is for a few days. However, nutritionally speaking, do make sure you do adequate research before you jump on the bandwagon, if only to avoid the nutritional deficiencies that might easily occur.

I have tried my best to authentic as best as I can all the sources of the Ahadith, as well as the translation of the verses. If however, I have made any error in my interpretation, feel free to correct it.

By Shiza Khan

Shiza Khan is an Indian Muslim Clinical Dietitian with a penchant for health foods, I believe the right food can heal the body, mind and the soul. On a mission to making holistic health a possibility, I can be found devouring books in my free time and sharing my ideas on a little corner of the internet. If you want to read more of her ideas and recipes, visit her blog and follow her on Instagram @cal.conn 
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.
Images credit: Veganuary.com and @cal.conn 


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Impact of hate crimes on mental health

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In the UK the rates of depression and suicide are on the rise, with the last known statistic suggesting 1 in 4 adults experience a diagnosed mental health issue. The statistics suggest that 1 in 10 children and young people have a mental health problem including depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, with 70% of children and young people not having had an appropriate intervention at a sufficiently early age. This is worrying. What is more worrying is the constraints and challenges faced when attempting to access mental health services.

Having spent a decade working in the mental health field with children, young people and adults I have heard one too many narratives of how our community struggles to overcome the barriers and challenges which prevent people from accessing statutory mental health services. And for those who access services, the challenges they face are numerous.

Following the brutal austerity measures and financial crises here in the UK, as well as an increase in racist and Islamophobic hate crimes in a post Brexit society I question if we are experiencing further mental health distress. How does race intersect with the crisis people of colour experience at being disproportionately affected and diagnosed with the label of a mental health problem?

In July, several colleagues and I went to the streets of London and took part in a Black Lives Matter protest. Many of us were and still are outraged at the racial injustices towards our brothers and sisters. During the protest I felt at home with many of my black brothers and sisters and it reminded me of some of my driving forces. One of which is knowing that our mental health system has many flaws. More often than not, members of our community fall through the cracks or do not receive appropriate support. One way we have tried to tackle this issue is with the rise of grassroots community organisations.

With an awareness that our National Health Service continues to experience cuts, and staff are continually stretched I remain optimistic, although some might call me disillusioned. When we compare our mental health system with America for example, I consider the benefits of receiving therapy on the NHS. Many of my clients have often come from a lower socio-economic background which has meant that they would not be able to access therapeutic services if it was not for the NHS.

That said, people of colour face many challenges in accessing appropriate mental health support. We need a mental health system that acknowledges different knowledge systems and ontologies in order to better meet the needs of these communities. I believe that this can be achieved by inciting structural change within the systems which at times perpetuate the disparity of mental health care our cultural groups receive.

I have been fortunate to meet several psychologists and psychotherapists employed within the NHS tackling some of these concerns and encouraging a shift in white Western paradigms that are not always functional for people of colour. As well as working in the NHS, I also engage in independent work and through this avenue I am passionate for us to build safe spaces where we can have open and honest discussions about the difficulties and distress we experience as people of colour in Luton and Birmingham. If you are interested in self-care and taking care of your mental health please get in touch (author contact details below).

 

About the author

Dr Amirah Iqbal is a womanist, an advocate for equality, a counselling psychologist, a writer and an activist. She has worked with many disenfranchised groups in Birmingham, and more recently Bedfordshire, notably Black (African, Caribbean and Asian) communities. In her spare time she enjoys reading, travelling, painting (the key word being abstract), exploring, writing, meditation and prayer. She can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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

Image credit:  Jon Grainger


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Jamilla’s tips on dealing with anxiety around exam time (Part 2)

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Read Part 1 here.

In addition to depression, I was diagnosed with anxiety, which tends to worsen during exams. Even though I take medication for depression and anxiety, I still experience panic attacks before, during and after exams. I wanted to share with you a few things that help me get through exams without letting my depression and anxiety overwhelm me.
1. If, like me, you don’t really get nervous until right before the exam, then consider waking up as late as you possibly can (whilst still making it in time to the exam of course). This is because waking up hours beforehand will give you more time to stress yourself out. If you’re unoccupied, it gives your mind a chance to wander, to think bad thoughts or just play up your anxieties.
2. Make dua, lots of dua. When I don’t know what to do or if I’m scared and just need my mind to stop from wandering, I recite any dua or Surah that I can think of. The idea is to try something that helps you feel calm.
3. Don’t sit still. Go for a walk, pace up and down or even just move your legs up and down. I always find that movements distract me from my anxiety.

 

About the author: Jamilla recently graduated with a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies and is VP of the Islamic Society at the University of Exeter. Follow her on Twitter@JamillaTweets.

Image credit: Photo by PracticalCures.com.
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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Jamilla’s story of dealing with Depression and Anxiety (Part 1)

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If you’ve met me, just like everyone else does, you wouldn’t expect me to be dealing with a mental illness, especially of this severity. I’m in my final year of university, expected to graduate with a 2:1 (Inshallah), VP of a society and always up for hanging out with my friends or getting involved in extracurricular activities. When people discover that I have depression, and that I’m on strong medication to help me with it, they act shocked, almost as though they think it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be.

It is a daily struggle, from waking up each morning to completing my university tasks as well as my basic duties as a Muslim, all the while dealing with sporadic suicidal thoughts. And that’s the reason I want this series of posts to be able to reach out to those who are going through the same or similar things. For those who have been told their mental health is caused of lack of imaan (faith), or that it is taboo to talk about it.

Depression, anxiety and all other mental health issues are real illnesses, ones that need to be dealt with appropriately, and ones that require support which we, in Muslim communities, have not really acknowledged. Sometimes, people don’t understand why we’re finding it hard to pray, or fast, or read Qu’ran. I want this blog to help myself and you, not only to deal with your mental health, and for you to know that you’re not alone, but to increase our faith in Allah slowly, so that step by step we can build ourselves back up. Inshallah.

Whilst depression symptoms can vary from person to person (I, for example have depression and anxiety, so I won’t have the exact symptoms as someone with only depression or only anxiety), there is lots of misunderstanding surrounding depression. I hope to clear that up from my own experience.

1. There is often no direct cause. Whilst someone can have many triggers, for example, with anxiety it can often be triggered by loud noises or being around too many people, there isn’t one thing that causes it all. It’s often not one thing that can be the reason for depression, but a series of things that build up over time. For me, symptoms of depression and anxiety have been building up over a few years, and it was only 6 months ago (when I went through a week of not being able to eat or sleep) that I chose to get help.
2. Depression and Sadness are not the same thing. “That’s so depressing”, “That’s made me so depressed”. We’re all guilty of using these expressions wrongly – I know I am, but depression is so much more than one thing making you sad. Depression is not a mood that you can simply “snap out of”, it comprises of good days and bad days, some days you might feel totally fine, other days you might not want to leave the house, but these last over long periods of time.

3. Depression can be easy to hide, so just because someone looks fine, doesn’t mean their depression isn’t bad. When I tell people I have depression they are often surprised. This is because I am usually walking around with a big smile on my face, not looking like anything is wrong. Just because someone is smiling doesn’t make their depression any less valid; you’d be surprised at how well people can hide these things.

4. Depression isn’t a weakness of imaan. Depression can stop someone from fulfilling basic Islamic duties, but this isn’t because a person doesn’t have faith or because there is something wrong with their imaan, it’s because maybe they are finding it hard enough to wake up in the morning, or just keep themselves alive. Maybe they don’t want to pray because they feel so guilty that they’ve let their illness get the better of them, even though it is not their own fault. Depression is an illness like any other, and it needs to be seen as such from the Muslim community.

The best description of depression I have seen comes from a Reddit post which said: “Depression, when it is present, is more like the force of gravity. It is there, pulling down on you under all circumstances. Though I’m depressed I am often very happy – but still there is the unfeeling wet blanket of muddled confusion and writhing frustration seething under it all. Waiting.
A creeping numbness that insidiously degrades and diminishes every aspect of conscious life. A storm of screaming and hatred in dreams. A dull apathy in waking. A sinking stomach in the face of joy and a faithless lassitude in the face of hope.
Depression isn’t an emotion. Depression is a contradiction to every worthy aspect of life.”

I hope this post helps give people a better understanding of what depression is and what it isn’t.

About the author: Jamilla recently graduated with a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies and is VP of the Islamic Society at the University of Exeter. Follow her on Twitter @JamillaTweets.

Image credit: Photo by Amen Clinics.
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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A personal rant about Ramadan: Fasting with Depression

by Zara

Image credit: Sadi_M, https://m.flickr.com/photos/lilion/3866584954/in/search?q=Ramadan

Image credit: Sadi_M, https://flic.kr/p/5hGPAb

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.