5th March 2016

My head aches badly, feels heavy and woozy like it would explode.  Sometimes the pain gets so much at the top of my head like a hot metal plate is placed on it.

I feel a constriction around my neck and sharp pain around my eyes.

Intermittently, a sharp pain pierces all over my body.  Tingly cramps in my palm and feet are not an exception, and when I close my eyes to sleep, I find my eyeballs shaky and unsettled coupled with flashing images like an old black and white TV searching for reception.

I feel chills all over like I do when I’m Pregnant, but this time I’m not, I put to bed precisely five months ago. One day in the middle of the night, I woke up and wondered to whom the child on my bed was for- I couldn’t even recognise my child. Is this what is called a temporary memory loss?

An image flashes across the room, but I can’t discern what it is exactly.  To make things worse, no one has ever seen what I think I have just seen.  Am I beginning to hallucinate too?

This is my story.

My name is Ruqeeyah. I have just been diagnosed with a Mental/Nervous breakdown.

My Routine: every day is a busy day in my life, but Saturdays are the most working days of all.  I wake up as early as 5 am to say my prayers first, and house cleaning comes almost immediately after. I sweep, clean, mop, cook, attend to the kids then go out shopping for groceries for the following week. Although my hubby is very helpful, I was, unfortunately, a perfectionist who wouldn’t rest until all my tasks for the day is complete.

My Addiction: Sometimes, I remind myself of the character in the TV series called “Monk”.  Mr. Monk was a private detective who also has an obsessive-compulsive disorder and overly conscious of dirt.  With my first child, I was such a neat freak that if his napkin fell on a clean floor, I would either discard it or soak it in warm water mixed with household disinfectants.

Extra task: I am also a cheerful giver which means I could decide to make a cake or anything useful with my hands as a gift to a friend or family.  I’ve always believed that giving to others breeds love and whatever you give doesn’t have to be expensive. It must just come from the heart. All of these just made my life a bit more stressful, but I kept forging ahead because I loved what I was doing. Many times I’m told to slow down, but I wouldn’t listen because the job has to be done. Being ill never stopped me from working, It just slowed me down. 

Obsessively unpredictable: Often I confused my hubby of my state of health.  He leaves me at home sick and comes back home to find the house tidy and dinner ready.  I never stopped breastfeeding even when my Doctor advises against it and still, I breastfeed my kids for two years straight.  Exclusive breastfeeding and accomplishing all tasks was part of my obsession; I was always determined to finish whatever I start at all cost. 

Jan 5, 2016
The Reality Shock: I was in bed, but instead of sleeping, I was browsing the internet till the early hours of the night.  I have often thought food and sleep were overrated and we only need just about 4 hours of sleep to survive.  Yes!  For many nights I solely rested for four hours or less.. I never knew I was harming my body, risking my life. On this very night, I slept off as usual with my phone in my hands and suddenly woke up feeling negative about my health. I felt a strange feeling in me that I was going to be Ill, but I prayed against it.

Suddenly, I started to feel a tingly feeling in my feet.  I tried to ignore and go back to sleep but I couldn’t.  Sleeping at that time may have helped, but I panicked and ran back to the internet, surfing and searching for the reason for the tingling in my feet.  After some time I slept off again but my sleep, as usual, was tampered by the need to breastfeed my baby who was on exclusive breastfeeding for six months (and he was just five months at the time), and in a couple of hours after, I was up for my morning prayers again.  That is usually the end of sleep for me.

 By morning my condition had worsened, and I did not only feel a tingly feeling in my feet but also my palm.  I started to get worried, and before I knew it, I panicked.

The internet didn’t help matters at all as most of the results I got ranged from cancer to kidney or liver issues- I guess I didn’t search properly. The more I read this negative diagnoses, the more I panicked and entered self-destruct mode.

My Illusion: My emotional side is another problem to consider.  I have a terrible habit of recreating and correcting bad or annoying experiences many days after it has happened.  I would spend many sleepless night recounting issues and setting things straight. I become the accused, the defendant, their lawyers and the judge all in one.  So all I need is to have a bad day, and I launch into the self-destructive mode thus adding more to my stress load and harming myself. I called it my defence mechanism, but in reality, it was an attack mechanism.

My fears: my best friend in high school had just died of breast cancer a year before. That was my first time of thoroughly realising that death had no age category, it could happen to anyone at any age. My friend’s death too added to my panic attack as I envisioned my friend in her deathbed constantly.

I was afraid; I was so scared. I was married with two kids, and I didn’t want to leave this world.  I think the concept of fear or death for adults come when we start having kids of our own who still depend on us.  I worry about my children and wonder  how they would cope without me. The more I feared,  the more I panicked, and the more my condition grew worse.

18th March 2016
My diagnosis: I visited a renowned neurologist at Obalende who after listening to all my complaints said “young lady, all your symptoms are not correlated and can’t point to any known physical ailment so what you have is called a mental or nervous breakdown.

You are not mad or crazy, and it is not a death sentence; therefore it can’t kill you. Naturally, your nervous system is at war. You have this condition because your biological makeup can’t handle the amount of stress load (emotional and physical) you put on it. Someone else might be like you but won’t breakdown. Unfortunately, we all don’t know the biological make up we have until we push its limits.

 I sat down there, happy that finally, I got a diagnosis and well, it’s not a terminal illness. A problem known is a problem half solved.  Before now, I’ve been to two different hospitals and a high tech laboratory for a full body checkup. I Spent over 200,000 Naira only to be told by Doctors that they couldn’t find any underlying physical condition.  All these even made me feel worse and not knowing what’s wrong with you is a problem on its own. 

Eventually, on a second visit, one of the Doctors I met told me that my condition was psychosomatic. From my layman’s understanding, the psycho has to do with the mind and somatic the body. Therefore, it’s like my mind controlling my body.  That’s how I understood it, and I stared at the doctor with a blank face wondering if he knew what he just said.  I asked him, are you suggesting that it’s just my mind that is sick and not indeed my body?  He said yes.  I disregarded his words and left until a third doctor confirmed it as well. That’s how I got referred to a Neurologist.


A nervous breakdown is a commonly used term but in reality, is a crisis for many. It is not technically a mental health condition but should be treated as one.  Generally, it is the product of too much stress and no way to manage it or microscopic coping mechanism. This stress may be building up over time or might have been a short one with a massive impact but all in all, the effect is that it causes the patient not to function normally anymore.  Ordinary things we used to do becomes complicated for us to do again.

Unfortunately, a mental breakdown is not a regular fever-causing illness that could quickly get one a sick leave.  Most people would term you lazy or a pretender but only you or a trusted partner, friend or family may believe what you are going through.
A mental breakdown usually falls under one of the following three conditions,
-a psychotic breakdown (such as hallucinations and delusions)
-the result of a burnout syndrome or a work-related breakdown
-a result of a panic attack, anxiety or depression.

At this trying time, I remembered a hadith in which the Prophet SAW said to Abdullah Bin ‘Amr Bin As:

“..For your eyes have a right over you, your body has a right over you, your body has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your guest has a right over you, and your friend has a right over you.” (Sunan al-Nasa’i, #2391)

Rasulullah (SAW) also said “take advantage of five matters before other matters:

Your youth before old age
Your health before sickness
Your free time before you get very busy
Your richness before poverty and.
Your life before death”.

I realised that I didn’t take good care of my body and it’s having a significant toll on my productivity.  Yes, I offered my five daily prayers and more, I fasted and offered sadaqa, but now I feel so terrible that I had to sit to perform salat.  I used to ditch the bus for a stroll, but now I can’t just bend my head for fear of it falling off. I started to ask myself if I’d done enough when I was very healthy if getting married and having kids have not reduced my commitment to my deen (religion).

If you are a professional busy bee like me, please note that It is essential that we provide time for our bodies and not do anything in excess- Moderation is always key. If we feel the need to rest, please rest. Leave that job for the time being until you feel secure to get back to it.  If you don’t, then you might never be available to do it again.
Having much sleep is very important and repairs the body.  The average number of hours an adult should spend sleeping in a day is 8 hours. It’s best if you achieve this at night. 

Raising kids can be very strenuous, so if you can get some assistance, please do. 

Eating a balanced meal with fruits and vegetables daily is also very important.  With our daily stressful routine, our bodies get short of valuable vitamin B Complex and iron.  This alone could result in a constantly sick feeling, tingly feet and hands. Also, fortify your immune system with a good brand of multivitamins or better still Habbat Sauda (the Black Seed Oil)- The Prophet SAW recommended it a remedy for all ailments.

Find time to pamper yourself.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive retreat, merely hanging out with friends and family for a good laugh or a pedicure could do wonders.

If you have any of the symptoms analysed above, or you suspect a nervous breakdown, Please see a professional for a proper diagnosis, counselling and treatment. You would never be judged or led astray. Lastly, never forget your creator for He would be there to guard you when you trip and raise you up again.

Don’t despair; It would only get better ✌🏽


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