I have a 30 year old brother who is often overcome by fits of rage when he is angry. There’s this time, when we were younger, he got so enraged with my other brother that he almost slashed his neck (yeah that bad!). Abbas is a grown man but his anger isn’t a grown-up problem. I’m convinced that the seed of anger was planted much earlier.
When Mum was pregnant with Abbas, Dad was a terror! He used to shout at Mum and angrily remark that the unborn baby was not his! (….plus lots of stuff which i would rather forget).
There’s a time, when Abbas was in Standard 5 or 6, one of my sisters dared to disobey my Dad. She went against his rule of not to taking part in a popular inter-school theatrical arts competition. According to Dad, it was immoral for Muslim girls to ‘parade’ themselves in public. She went participated in the competition anyway….without Dad’s permission.
Dad hit the roof. He issued a divorce to Mum on a piece of paper. His logic was that she was to blame because she supposedly was unable to control ‘her’ daughter. Mum shredded the divorce note. She did not leave but she stayed in absolute terror, always hiding behind closed doors when Dad got back home from work.
“Are you still here?” he would shout in contempt, addressing my panic-stricken mother as if she was a ghost suspended in air. He tirade against my mother continued, often dragging Abbas, the alleged bastard child, into it. My brother, 10 or 11 years, was witness to all this abuse. All he could do was watch.
During the divorce fiasco, Mum went up and down trying to seek a resolution to this domestic nightmare . She went to our local mosque to plead with the Maalim to intervene on her behalf. Maalim came home to try to reason with Dad but all Dad said he was that he had had a dream where he saw all his children lined up excluding Abbas. “The dream is enough to prove,”he adamantly insisted, “that Abbas is not my child.” Maalim told Dad that dreams can be interpreted differently, but Dad wasn’t having any of it. Maalim lectured Dad on the parent-child relationship, citing the story of Noah’s son who went against his father’s guidance and perished in the end. Each human, child included, is responsible for their own actions.
“In short,”Maalim said, “you cannot punish a parent for a child’s faults. You cannot blame your daughter’s faults on your wife.” Only then did Dad calm down…
When I went to university, I took a child psychology course and I learned that the unborn child hears (e.g dad shouting) and feels the mum’s psychological state. So therefore Abbas must have already been psychology disturbed before he was born! Many years later, I tried to tell Abbas that he needed counseling to deal with his anger issues but he brushed the suggestion off, saying that he was ok. Sadly, people are not even aware that they have mental health issues and so they will never get the help that they need.
How you bring up a child (the first 5 years of his/her life) will determine his/her mental health in the future. Mistreating a child-, ignoring, shouting, hitting, making decisions for him/her- all these things have an impact on children.
Anger is a mental health issue. Personality disorder is a mental health issue. Self esteem, loneliness, OCD are all mental health issues and in my opinion, they all have roots in childhood. A few mental health issues are random and related to particular environmental issues or genetics. Some women suffer from disorders after giving birth. Some suffer disorders during their menses (lots of anger and depression),others suffer during menopause. Some mental health issues are related to the burden of responsibility at home or at work. Others are brought on by drug abuse. Of course, there are other related to the spirit world (sihr/magic). Food can also mentally affect us and can affect the unborn baby too.
All these are factors that play into our mental health. These are my own personal experiences and therefore, my opinions, of mental illness.
Guest post by Rehema, from Mombasa, Kenya.