Since lockdown, I’ve been having good days and bad days. Luckily it hasn’t been as bad as I thought. I was worried I would struggle to be indoors all the time, but it turns out that I like being at home! My husband and I are quite similar in that respect and we haven’t gotten cabin fever (yet!), thankfully. I did hit a low point a few weeks ago as I have been out of work for a while and I just couldn’t get myself to do anything. Even something as simple as doing the dishes was a struggle. I had all this time in the world yet I couldn’t spend half an hour to an hour doing basic chores.
I sat down with my husband and we had a difficult conversation about this. He had noticed but hadn’t said anything to me (which I appreciated because I was already feeling guilty). We decided to come up with a chores rota and I found an app to plug reminders in for myself. I’m the kind of person that needs everything written down or scheduled otherwise I will just procrastinate and never get to the task at hand! That made me feel better and more in control.
I was talking to my mom about the whole thing and how I have been really low-energy and struggling with getting things done. She suggested that I set outside 1 hour a day after breakfast to do some housework. I started with this and it has actually been working so far. I set a timer on my phone for an hour when I get started and some days I keep going on until all the required chores have been completed! Thanks, mom! I even cleaned out the whole fridge which has been on my to-do list for a long time…
My husband then sent me a link to 10 Days of Happiness which is “a free 10-day online coaching program that guides you through daily actions for happier living. It is designed for challenging times, based on the latest research from positive psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural science”. I don’t normally like things like this, but I am trying to keep an open mind and a positive attitude – it’s free, so what excuse do I have?!
It also sounded like good material to start a new blog off with – so here I am with Day 1! Every day for 10 days you will get an email with one task to do. This is supposed to be small acts of self-care and kindness to others to help boost your happiness and happiness in others.
ACTION: What act of kindness will you do today?
I didn’t really know where to start, but luckily there were a few suggestions. One of them was to ask a loved one how they’re feeling and really listen to them. I thought to myself: great – this is easy! I can ask my husband since he seemed kind of stressed over the last few days. He’s always been so supportive of me and has been there whenever I needed and I feel like I never do enough for him.
This is how it went:
Me: So, you know that 10 days of happiness thing you sent me? I started it and my first task is to ask a loved one how they’re feeling. I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. So, how are you?
Husband: *mumbles* Oh, no. Well, I’m having a bad day and I don’t really want to talk about it. I’m fine.
Ok, great. I should have known – my husband is one of those people that really don’t like sharing their emotions (yes, the complete opposite of the ethos of this project!). I have tried to prod him over the few years we have been married and he has shared here and there but I’ve learned not to prod him too much and respect his boundaries. It’s a sensitive point for me because Muslim men and men, in general, have been conditioned to hide their emotions and reject sensitivity, which means they often can’t process their feelings, feel isolated and won’t seek help when they need it.
I’ve seen it first hand in my brother, father, cousins and so on. In the study I linked in my previous post, it was found that Muslim men are less likely than Muslim women to get help. But this, of course, is far from a Muslim only problem. One study found that out of 1,000 men polled, 77% reported they had suffered from anxiety and/or depression and 40% said they would not talk about their mental health with others.
This is actually a worrying statistic given that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. The official Movember website confirms that globally, 6 out of 10 suicides are men. The strong stigma within the Muslim community also makes getting help even more challenging.
Another harmful consequence of men not learning to deal with their emotions is that the emotional burden of the relationship will fall on women, which in turn makes their lives more miserable too. The article by Harper’s Bazaar “Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden” really homes in on this issue and describes it excellently. The author writes about American men and women, but I would say it applies to most relationships regardless of background. I suggest to anyone who is in a relationship or plans to enter into a relationship to read it, especially if they are male.
Mental health in men is something that needs to be addressed more and our attitudes in the Muslim community need to change. I think things are improving day by day, I see the way my nephews and friends’ sons are being raised and I can feel the next generation will be a lot better. But we can always do more. Reach out to the men in your lives, let them know that their emotions are normal and valid. You are there to listen and you can help them get help. As you’ve probably heard every so often: it’s ok to not be ok!
I will continue working to raise awareness among the men in my life and I hope you will do the same. In the end, I decided that even though my husband may not have shared what was bothering him; the act of asking, accepting his response, and being present was my act of kindness for that day.
Stay tuned for Day 2!
Until next time,
If you are in crisis right now or need to speak to somebody contact NHS 111 on 111 or contact Samaritans on 116 123.
You can also contact the Muslim Community Helpline: a confidential, non-judgemental listening and emotional support service. For more information, please visit their website.