I am laying on the floor, a make-do blanket underneath and bed cover on top. It’s 5.30am in the morning, I haven’t been able to turn on the heating (it was a fancy nest type situation) and my housemates are fast asleep. I am 24, just moved out of my Mother’s place and spent the evening in ASDA with her trying to stop her crying and reassuring her; “Of course I will still pray”, “The girls won’t make me drink wine ma'”, “I will say ‘asalamu alaikum’ every time I enter the house”.
She’s scared. Scared she’s lost me but also scared that as a young Muslim woman I have moved out of home and guess what… I am not married yet. It’s rare and she just wanted to make sure I knew it.
Back to my new ‘bed’, the noises around the house are different, everything is making me jumpy and I am a £20 taxi ride away from Mums. Somewhere deep inside I am crying, but it hasn’t reached my eyes yet. My Mum is my world but living at home was starting to get mentally too much for me. For the last 6 years she hasn’t ever told me no; or shouted at me for coming home late; or for travelling. If anything she’s never been more proud of me – so why did I move out?
I moved because mental health is a real thing. I live in a community that doesn’t see mental health as real, ‘It’s jin isn’t it’, ‘Have some zam zam water’, ‘Pray, remember God’.
These were often the words you’d hear when someone said anything to do with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health label. I have had multiple mental health labels since I was 13 – and as much as my family would try to help, they just didn’t understand it. They couldn’t grasp why I liked to walk for hours on end by myself at night, or why my plate had to be away from me as soon as I finish eating, or even why I sometimes didn’t have the energy to speak to people. It was an experience, for all of us including me.
It got better for me. So in the last few years I have been able to get better control. It never goes away but you learn to manage yourself, you know when you are about to have a panic attack and you use tactics to calm yourself down.
Moving out for me was a way to find myself, to fall in love with my family all over again, and to appreciate my Mother so much more than I currently do. I guess with me growing up, my Mother has had to too. My community has had to and my housemates too. Because everyone is learning something new and implementing it into their life.
My Mum has probably seen more of me in the last 3 weeks than she has in the rest of the entirity of 2017 – because I am actively making time, I am choosing to go rather than going home to my room.
Shoutout to my rock, my world and my Mum.
“I will always pray. I won’t drink wine because I’m too much of a control freak. I say assalamu alaikum every time I walk in the house. Last but not least, it doesn’t matter what people say – I live to make myself, you and God happy.”
Written by Amerah Saleh.
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Photography by Dorcas Sebuyange