In the beginning, it’s hard to talk about your pain without sounding like you’re complaining. No one wants to sound like a broken record, so after a while you decide to stop talking about your problems, and pretend like absolutely nothing happened yesterday.
Yesterday, you were in bed holding yourself and your heart together with your blanket. Yesterday, you abandoned your grocery cart in the middle of the aisle at the store and went home because the pain just kept coming. Yesterday, you crawled on the floor to get into bed because coping was exhausting. Yesterday, you found yourself dunking your head in a bowl of ice water to feel okay. Yesterday, nothing was cooked, folded, read, or done. Dreams and aspirations? They’ll have to wait until this roller coaster is over. At least, that’s what I thought….
After becoming a mother, I developed auto immune inflammation. The only part of my body that people could see–my face, was covered in red blotches. It hurt. I’ll spare you the details, but the thing about pain is that it radiates to other parts of your body, and the effects undoubtedly radiate to your kids and your spouse.
Most of the time, I felt nauseated, exhausted, and irritated. It got so severe that I flew to Texas to stay with my parents to start a new diet with hopes that it would all disappear—it didn’t.
In fact, I felt a new sadness at my third bowl of unspiced lamb the doctor said I was allowed to eat. Spices were not allowed, nor any meat except lamb, nor any sort of carbohydrate, I was limited to three to four types of vegetables and —the highlight of my day, one green apple.
I did not want to see anyone. Sometimes, the inflammation went away and I thought I was finally cured, but it came back, and it has continued this way (coming and going) until now. It’s been 12 years and I’ve learned some new ways to find pain relief.
Imam Shafi’i (r) said, “Health is a crown that the healthy wear on their heads, but only the sick can see it.” Oh, I saw the crowns alright! Everyday I was surrounded by them. Everyone had a crown except me. I wondered why, with my healthy new diet, I was not getting my crown.
The crown of waking up in the morning and getting out of bed. The crown of putting on my hijab and going out. The crown of taking my children to the playground without a 15-minute time limit. The crown of chicken, rice, and potatoes. The crown of quality of life. Finally, after hitting 91 pounds on the scale, I had to quit my diet. I started some new ones but couldn’t keep up.
So, what does a person like me, who has dreams, do with them while they feel sick? Nothing. That’s what I did for an extended period of time because I thought it was safest not to disappoint myself, or stress my body out.
I was generally happy with my life, coping all the ways that I could, but in the back of my mind, a sadness kept reappearing because of those unmanifested dreams. It was a weekly let down and it was especially unnecessary.
I’m here to tell you that my perspective on dreams was wrong. You can still accomplish things when you’re sick or in pain. There’s an art to it. A coming and going of waves you could say.
After seven years of doing nothing, something miraculous happened. I started to make dua, but not my everyday duas. I made duas about my aspirations, and at first, it felt weird. So weird, and a little fake.
I left the shallows of dua and stumbled into the deep waters of the true nature of supplication. Only after this did my sparkly words start to feel kind of real, and then really real.
Shortly after I started new dua habits, I started Tawheed Treasures. I didn’t tell anyone. I did it for fun, sitting in my Michigan apartment, bored from being kept in by the deep, packed snow. It was a little hideaway on the internet. My second child was three years old at this point. She’s now 8 years old and Tawheed Treasures has just got on its feet.
Tawheed Treasures is a small business that designs handmade home decor with intention. Designs and wood signs are made to remind us of Allah when we’ve forgotten His words, and to brighten our souls and our homes.
I went from making designs on paper and crafts to making them on wood. Seems like an easy transition but it wasn’t for me. My duas took a long while to happen, but I’m not complaining. I’ll take slow over never.
Over the years, I’ve formulated a mental list of things I tell myself to help me reach my aspirations while experiencing chronic pain. I hope at least one thing can help someone else out there who feels any heartache or pain in life.
- Go slow if you need to, girl. Your dreams will wait for you. Your ambitions don’t have wings. You do. You fashion your dreams so you have control over where they go. We live in a fast-paced world, obsessed with productivity, but you, my sister, have a different path.
- It’s not against the law to change your dreams along the way. In my journey, I find that I cannot do certain things as I wanted. It’s always disappointing, but I always find something else that equally brings me joy, while keeping in mind that I may have to let go of something old, and hold on to something new in the future more than once.
- People might judge you if you ask for help. Do it. I was very hesitant for a long time to ask friends and family to watch my kids, but then I started doing it. There may have been some judging, but guess what, I got things done, fam!
- Other people will be flying faster than you. It’s fine. Wave at them as they go by, and drink a pina colada (virgin and preferably sweetened by natural pineapple juices) while Allah opens your door at the right time. Make dua for them to continue to succeed. The ummah is one body.
- Make more dua. Write your duas down. Use Allah’s revealed names. Al-Fattah, Al-Karim, Al Wadud are a few. Allah has so many names, so call Him by them. Along the way, you will find the perfect names of Allah that literally wipe all your worries away. For me, it was Al-Fattah, the Opener. Allah is going to open and close doors for you, and better Him than anyone else, including yourself.
- Take a break. It won’t break you. With chronic illness, people mostly see the side of me in good times because I’ll be at home during the bad times resting, being silent, and healing. These breaks need to happen for the good times to come again. So take them. When you feel ready to go out again, it’ll be grand.
- Use your coping methods. Over the years, I’ve used mindful breathing methods, travel ice packs, arctic breeze neck fans, the patience of my husband, expressive writing, etc. Everyone’s pain is different. The key is having your coping methods readily available. If you’re like me, and suffer from flares from inflammation, send me an email and I’ll be happy to share my coping techniques with you. Even more so, if you have any tips for me, I’d love to know them.
Over this time, Allah has healed me partially and continues to do so slowly out of His perfect wisdom. I can go outside longer than 15 minutes. I can eat rice, chicken, and potatoes. I use power tools. I make incredible wood signs for incredible people every day.
Hannah is the owner and creative director of Tawheed Treasures, a design company offering Muslims modern & rustic decor, handmade to establish dhikr and dua back into our homes. She is a mother of three who loves cinematography, science, and the art of relaxing. She’s a big fan of Visionaire with DiscoverU’s Muhammad Alshareef, which helped her renew her conviction in dua and tawakkul. You can find her @tawheedtreasures or www.tawheedtreasures.com.