This participant shared her academic struggles that led to her burnout. For example, she needed to make up for her absence from school with an MC letter. She asked: How am I supposed to go to the clinic when I can’t get out of bed? Her school didn’t offer her the support she needed which eventually led to her quitting school.
What does burnout look like to you?
This participant shared that in her work industry, interpersonal and time #boundaries aren’t often practiced as they have to meet strangers all the time and are expected to be at their team’s beck and call by reply to text messages after work hours.
What type of boundaries have been crossed that led to your burnout?
This participant shared that she works too much and doesn’t focus on other life aspects. Because of that, she relied heavily on her bosses’ validation for her work performance. When she doesn’t receive it, it makes her feel inadequate to the point she breaks down but would push herself through and go numb.
Where are we getting our validation from?
[Content Warning: Mention of suicide] This participant shared that her school and teachers didn’t acknowledge suicide as a mental health issue and downplayed those with mental health struggles.
This participant shared an instance of her teachers projecting big expectations onto her. Her teachers encouraged her to attend different events that were happening at the same time. She explained that they’re used to having hectic schedules and thought it would be okay for her. She drew the line with them by saying no because they were expecting her to be just like them.
For students, how do you deal with huge expectations? Do you draw boundaries, and how?
Our participant shared how Muslims are more divisive during Ramadan. There’s a clear divide between who fasts and who does not, who goes to terawih prayers and who does not. In spite of that, she enjoys Ramadan as it allows her the time and the space to reconnect to God.
Our participant shared how during Ramadan, there are potential dangers lurking, waiting to jump out at her. She doesn’t know if at any moment, it would cause her to crumble. At the same time, like being caught in a dark forest, it is isolating and thus grants her time alone to contemplate and it makes her feel safe.
This participant has been encountering a series of hardships with her family. However, she feels that Ramadan allows her to sit down and eat together, a practice which they don’t often get to do. Because of that, she feels that Ramadan is a special time for them.
[Content Warning: Eating Disorder mention] For our participant with an eating disorder, Ramadan is difficult and potentially triggering. The practice of restricting food, which is a symptom of her eating disorder, makes her feel as though she’s falling into old habits. She also cited that Ramadan has the ability to inhibit your recovery process, by not allowing you to stick to your eating schedule, which is essential for recovery.
Our participant shared they’re having a hard time living authentically as an ex-Muslim during Ramadan, and that hiding from their Muslim household that they’re no longer practising and fasting takes a toll on them.
They also shared that another part of their identity is being non-binary (not fitting into the societal standard of only 2 genders i.e. men & women), and that it bothers them when their family members impose ideas of womanhood onto them such as the way to dress. This is intensified during Ramadan due to the expectation of performing “better as a Muslim woman.”
[Content Warning: Mention of Social Anxiety] For our participant, Ramadan reminds her of crowds and noise. For someone with social anxiety, crowded places are triggering because people are looking at you and you always have to decipher what they think about you. This problem is prevalent in Ramadan due to the nature of communal events like Terawih or Bazaar Ramadan, or even iftar sessions.
On one occasion, a terawih-goer pointed out that she wasn’t sitting on her knees, feet tucked in the “proper” way (one of the prayer positions). Although she was feeling overwhelmed by this, her mother joked that that Makcik herself wasn’t engrossed in their own prayers, as a way to make her feel better despite the religious policing she experienced.
This participant shares how it’s actually tough to find the right therapy form, therapist, and the fees. Some mental health professionals are more interested in profiting than in actually listening to her needs and addressing them. For instance, they ask her “do you really want to recover?” when she tells them that she doesn’t need more drugs or psychotherapy sessions. A doctor even took opportunity to profit off her by hospitalizing her. Due to this, it’s tough for her to find the right healthcare professional, whom she could truly trust to make her feel better.
[Content Warning: Suicide mention] This participant shares how Ramadan brings unpleasant memories for her. It was the first time she had a failed suicide attempt. For her, once the Azan rang and people left for terawih, she felt more isolated than ever. And that others prioritised the communal prayers more than her well-being. She felt left alone and not cared for. Because of that, she tried ending her life.
This participant shared how it is important to sometimes have your medication around to cope. Without her medicine while on her holiday, she couldn’t sleep and became desperate for the medication. She even resorted to asking her sister for her anti-depressants to make it all go away.
Our participant shares that it takes a toll on her mental health as she grapples with trying to be understanding of her brothers’ mental health issues, and when to draw the line when her brothers are crossing the line.
We don’t give a lot of thought about the caregivers and how we can support them as a community. Often times, the idea is that the responsibility is on you to solve your own problems as a caregiver.
Most participants (who are the eldest child themselves) could agree how the eldest child are expected to be more nurturing. Often times, they were also expected to mengalah, or to give in to their younger siblings. Some added they play the role of the ‘referee’, by appeasing their parents when their younger siblings rebel.
What expectations or ideas of womanhood have you heard from the community?
This participant shares how she’s seen as a failure in her family due to her decision to pursue education instead of settling down like the other women in her family. She also shared how her family only felt secure after she wore the Hijab, a decision which made them allow her to continue pursuing her studies as well. Since then, she always wears the Hijab around them as she feels that it is the last bastion that justifies that she’s being a good daughter to her parents.
This participant brought up how during her time, there was something called a part-time hijab, and that she was considered one as she struggled between wanting to wear it and not wearing it at times. Eventually, people told her that she can't wear it as and when she likes and some even called her a hypocrite.
This leads us to our question: Is there room for individuality as Muslim women?
This participant talks about how as Muslim women, we have our agencies stripped from us after noting that we are often criticised in every aspect - from our behaviours, our way of thinking and most obviously on our physical appearance.
This is based on what the other participants shared about there is always something inherently wrong about the way a woman presents herself.
This participant responded to another participant sharing how her mother still polices the way she dress. That sometimes it’s not even about religion or aurat, but about exerting control. Parents have a hard time letting go of the fact that their child is no longer a child.
This participant shares how she sees her multiple selves as her true selves, and that she’s not necessarily being dishonest about how she is. Others added another strategy is to tell our parents what we think they can take. That it’s okay for them to not know everything so long as you can survive. So, that can be in the form of having separate social media accounts where you can share what is safe for you.
What strategies do you use to negotiate with being authentic?