“Bipolar disorder can be a great teacher. It’s a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything else in your life.” ~ Carrie Fisher

Guest Post:  Inshirah Aleem

You could have hit me upside my head a 1000 times and I would have been unaware of it all. My mind was detached from consciousness leaving my body unable to function. I could not eat on my own, walk on my own and I was verbally unresponsive. I was comatose and for a month’s time I have no memories of my own. You might be wondering what could cause such a state? A severe case of Bipolar Disorder. There is a dark angle to this story yet I must share it with you, and when the story is finished I pray you will be enlightened.

At the age of fourteen, my future was bright. I was a straight A student, a well-liked president of my class and a participant in a plethora of after-school activities. I was confident, determined and, in my mind, headed straight to Harvard in four years. Allah had different plans for me. Sophomore year, I had to leave private school and transfer to a public school that was three times the size of my precious former school. I was unprepared for how it would, by design, chew me up and spit me out.   I was ostracized at my new school. I was the “know it all” black girl who came from an uppity private school and I was not received well. I tried to fit in, but was unable to fit into a place that was not made to fit me. I was swallowed up by the rejection of my peers. I found myself very alone in a state of cultural shock. I didn’t have any friends and would spend the majority of the school day talking to no one. I quickly became depressed and things spiraled out of control.

In order to cope, I started acting out. I found a home in the “bad crowd”. I started skipping school, doing drugs, stealing and lying incessantly. I experienced many sleepless nights and my thoughts would race in an uncontrollable battle. I didn’t want to keep doing the things I was doing; the things I knew Allah didn’t want me to do, but I couldn’t stop. I was a tortured soul. I didn’t know the erratic state I was experiencing had a name. It was Mania. The state of mind that accompanies the Depression found in the Bipolar illness. My parents thought something was wrong with me and sent me to the therapist, but it was useless. I was so confused and couldn’t voice the currents of inner turmoil that were afflicting me. It was a turmoil I saw eating away at my soul; a turmoil no one else could see.

Towards the end of my breakdown period, I started running away habitually. The last time I ran away the police became involved and I had to go to court. In court, I declared that I wanted to divorce my family and live as a ward of the state in foster care. My parents were disgusted with me, but they had no idea how disgusted I was by me. I wanted to leave my family because I felt like I didn’t deserve their love. So in the end they let me go to teach me a lesson. I regrettably went.

I stayed in foster care for about a month . It wasn’t the worst of places or the best of places. In my tortured state, I would cry to go home every day and when I arrived home I felt like the lesson was learned.   I felt like I could miraculously do better this time, but once again Allah had different plans for me. In no time, I experienced scary hallucinations. I would see animals (snakes and alligators) in me and feel them move in serpent like patterns. My parents told me I was talking about being dead and in Hell along with the hallucinations for about two weeks before my mind and body shut down.   In the hospital, it took the doctors some time to reach a proper diagnosis. In the early nineties, hallucinations with Bipolar Disorder were very rare. The comatose state troubled the doctors as well. They had never seen a case so severe in a person so young.   They pumped my body with thirty pills a day in order to bring me out of the comatose state. I stayed on thirty pills for about five years too long. I was overmedicated and the medications had devastating side effects that worsened with time. I suffered from hair loss, 100 pound weight gain, hand tremors and eye seizures; returning to life was just the beginning…

Despite everything, I always knew I came back for a reason, Allah’s reason. I experienced my darkest days to share the promise of light given to us every day.   I never forgot Allah and his promise to us all. His promise that with every difficulty there is relief ( Qu’ran Sura 94), and He gives us no burden greater than what our hearts can bear (Qur‘an Sura 2). Today, I am no longer on thirty pills. I am a mother of a beautiful four year old, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, and an author, Al-Hamdulillah. My memoir, She Smiles and Cries, utilizes poetry and prose to highlight my teenage breakdown and critical aspects of recovery. I have shared my journey with mental illness to inspire others. I pray all who reads this article will feel inspired.

Inshirah Aleem was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. She currently resides in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Inshirah has been writing since childhood. Poetry and prose have carried her through dark times. At the age of 15, she was diagnosed with a severe form of Bipolar Disorder. She writes to educate, inspire and challenge the stigma attached to mental illness. She is a spokeswoman for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness),”In Our Own Voice”, which is a program that provides a platform for individuals with mental illness to share their stories and educate people about mental illness.  Please visit her website www.inshirahaleem.com and purchase her book to learn more about her journey. Nearly twenty years post-diagnosis, she has acquired a true appreciation for life and the humility to embrace her journey. She has been courageous in attaining high academic achievements and pursuing loving, stable family relationships.




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4 comments

  1. Abdulrahaman 13 August, 2019 at 02:50 Reply

    Assalaamualaikum madam.I am going through diagnosis for OCD since many years and always I get thought that I am having bipolar but not OCD and I have asked my psychiatrist whether I am having BI polar and he said no.
    But I can feel changes in mood that something chemical change is occurring in my body muscles.
    What’s your opinion ma’am?

    • Dr. Nafisa Sekandari 14 August, 2019 at 15:50 Reply

      W.S. I don’t diagnose anyone online but instead focusing on the diagnosis, you should focus on the symptoms and treat those. You may have OCD and have mood changes depending on what is going on with the chemical balance in your brain. If your Serotonin levels are low in your brain, your brain will get stuck on negative and irrational thoughts and beliefs, which could lead to a mood change.

  2. Abdulrahaman 23 August, 2019 at 01:07 Reply

    Madam. I have been treating for OCD since many years and I have not get medicated since 4 months and I am getting feelings of my problem as I said in above and my friend is very good to me but I feel jealous about him and this thing eats me and I get too jealous about other roommates.and I know jealousy is bad and at present there are job recruitment in our college and i feel happy at night before sleep as I have a tablet and when it becomes morning I feel pressure of the day and when I try to listen to class I get drowsy because of my thinking and worrying and if some one touches me it is like I woke up or if sir asks me then I would say something related to topic ma’am. I feel like bipolar as in past when I would feel pain I used to feel like laugh and cry ,it means I felt like that.(only twice it happened)this thought that I had a bipolar like symptoms still finds to over power me and cancel all the treatment I had with my psychiatrist.
    Hope you would reply ma’am as I never thought you would reply for my above question but when you replied I had to say this again and I feel like OCD now as I know from your article that giving options on questions to answers would fuel OCD thinking.

    And ma’am some times I try to keep something visible to my eyes to control my thoughts .I am a Muslim and live in India and since here idol worship is done, I would keep a feeling of idol picture in my mind and when I see it I get the thought of God. I know that it is not God but due to childhood development I get the feeling of GOD and I quit any wrong doing and I keep something fixed for my thought change be it be a piece of thread tied to my hand and I see that thread and says to me control, control like that….am I doing idol worship?and can something be like keeping a thing fixed in mind to control it?

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