"....Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our protector; help us against those who stand against faith.” (2:286)
The Emergent Challenge
This article is based on real events, and is also aimed at encouraging fellow Muslims to continue their quest for greater autonomy in empowering themselves. From time to time, we are confronted with personal and collective matters. How we respond to our problems makes a tremendous difference in solving the issues, and it also has a dramatic impact upon our lives. The name of my family member is purposely excluded (and is referred to as “our family member”), although those who are aware or know our family will understand the nature of the intimate details.
An emergent crisis in our family began over a sustained number of days; we were on high alert! We knew to contact assistance and advice through the direct help line, and (MSSN) Muslim Support Services Network. The direct Help-line Number is 224-4324 or 244-3242; there are also alternate numbers that can be reached from any area code, including international connections. It is a vast service that avails help for any and all circumstances with a highly receptive, accommodating listener / advisor, and a100% response rate.
During emergencies, whether large or small, it is important that those being affected have reassurance, guidance, and attention. The family that experiences crisis must also know how to respond, and not panic although the situation can be emotionally exhausting, tense, and stressful. This is why real help and support services are extremely important in the step-by-step process toward stability, and /or resolution of the problem.
Our family member was experiencing specific health challenges; we had to make a consultative family pro-active decision in order to get immediate assistance. Our former family experience, including our professional background shaped our decision and course of action. The days that ensued were filled with sleepless nights, very long hours at the hospital (Sinai Hospital, NW Baltimore- where our family member was already affiliated with out-patient services), constant traveling back and forth, shifts of visitation, consultation with medical professionals, and support agencies. In as many days, another Muslim family didn’t hesitate to assist us, while we endeavored to seek much needed help.
Primarily, we used the above Direct Help-Line: 224-4324 etc., others that knew what we were going through also said they would seek the action line in our behalf, and they did. So, what is this “Help-Line” and number? It is the formulary number of salah (prayers, which Believers make each day from the rise at morn (Al-fajr), until the retirement before bed (Al-ishaa), and then some in the latter third of the night (including: Qiyam-ul-Layl and Tahajjud).
With such a support network, and constant determination the resolution process in our case became more defined. It required persistence, inquiry, review, and finally a reasonable treatment plan. Unfortunately, the mundane aspect of fulfilling the needs of our family member was fraught with obstacles, uncertainty, and frustration. During the week of the impending tribulation, our family immediately assumed the first responders’ mode. We were already predisposed to the initial course of action we had to take...
Prior Knowledge And Preparedness: Keeping Spiritual, Intellectual, Psychological, And Cognitive Health
What was the problem that led to the crisis? In the previous years, our family member experienced extreme anxiety challenges, which led to certain levels of disorientation, discomfort, introversion, and a sense of social instability. Sometimes symptoms can manifest in the form of extreme moods swings, anxiety, phobia, paranoia, depression, fits of crying, aggressive behavior, suicidal tendencies, hallucination, hearing voices, insomnia, experiencing nightmares, schizophrenia, hysteria, or bipolar disorders. It depends on given circumstances, thus an individual can manifest isolated symptoms, only one, or a combination of them. Additionally, certain other forms of physiological and psychological disorder will also affect a person’s ability to rationalize properly, complete analytical tasks, articulate, or process simple and more complex information. Nevertheless, none of these symptomatic behaviors can be properly assessed or evaluated without proper diagnosis, by a trained professional. Once a diagnosis is properly made, and symptoms well-defined, a course of action along with a treatment plan can be implemented.
Part of the regimen of treatment will often be centered on administering medication when applicable, non-drug counseling, check-up, on-going therapy, continued education concerning personal experiences with the disorder, in-patient or out-patient clinical care, and personal management. Respectively, professionals in the field of psychiatry, psychology, social work, care-giving, along with additional medically trained individuals work together to establish a more holistically-centered, individualized needs assessment. This will help to expedite an individual’s ability to cope with identified problems, and apply suitable alternatives to deal with them effectively.
More serious problems may require a protracted or even aggressive intervention. During the stabilization phase or normalization period, professional counseling through routine out-patient sessions will offer monitoring of a person’s progress. Such sessions can be less clinical in nature and more casual- as clientèle / consumers advance in progressive independent functionality in their daily lives. A special team of people help to administer care to persons in need that have specific health challenges of the above nature. When care is given properly, in a broad range of methods and/or applications, the prognosis or outcome can be dramatically beneficial. This means that positive results will enable the individual to resume their basic daily tasks, with little problems.
In our family member’s previous case, progressive improvement, stability, and optimum functionality etc. was easily achieved. As such, personal management (of the disability) under the circumstances became second nature, and episodes of distress were kept to a bare minimum, if any. I mentioned all of the above things, because it represents similar challenges that other Muslim families face. Recently, unanticipated events occurred and it posed serious challenges to our family as a whole. Our ability to respond to the crisis placed us in a position to make difficult decisions, which might have otherwise been in the hands of individuals that did not have our family member’s best interest at heart. It is true; we decided to seek medical assistance or intervention, and then pursuant to this we encountered a number of unexpected, unpleasant barriers. It was certainly not what happened before; instead, we were in the defense mode...!
The Afternoon Of The Emergency Stems A Long Day’s Journey Into Night...!
Particular procedures, protocols, and strictures of legal consent were implemented as routine steps. Before long, our family member was in the hands of the hospital administration, admitted, and legally bound. The pertinent personal circumstances at intake precipitated the long, arduous, and traumatic experience encountered by our family member. The initial procedure of admission began a twelve hour ordeal that resulted in medical clearance, and then discharge. Again, after a rough night the admission process started over again resulting in a ten hour ordeal, and then final admission. After all of this, our family member was now a patient in observation, in the psychiatric unit. This does not necessarily mean an individual is suffering some incurable disease or malady. But, it does mean that an individual with a former history will be attended to until a level of stability is attained that is acceptable, by the attendant physicians managing the specific case. From there, an individual enters the next phase of consultation, referral, and evaluation, to learn if a transitional stage for returning home can be recommended.
Generally, it is a process that must involve the entire family; a comprehensive cumulative plan is developed, implemented, and followed. Each component of that plan is extremely important, or indispensable. This time around the primary events did not coincide with our anticipated expectations. Already, in just a few days, we were feeling great apprehension for our family member. Of a sudden, our right to know what was happening on the patient’s end was abruptly cut off! This was quite unnerving to us, and produced a far reaching impact. It was not like the previous years where we were completely included in the (step-by-step) process of health treatment, repercussions, and final resolution. Now, it was not going very well!
*As a side note, it is extremely important to establish legal rights that will protect a patient. Consent is the legal term that is used in order to obtain access to information, and data related to a patient’s treatment and progress, which will be considered private. In this case, a family should act to establish power of attorney so they become legally responsible, and can access vital information if necessary. That can be done with the prior knowledge and agreement of an individual that is under treatment, or for other related reasons.
A Rising Tide Turns Into A Tsunami...!
In a matter of hours, we discovered that our family member was confronting a traumatic experience that seemed rather extra-punitive, as opposed to remedial. During the initial intake process she was given a psychotropic drug, to calm her down; this was rather unsettling since there was disorientation, but no particular aggressive or violent behavior. There was a period of unclear thinking.
In the following days we discovered that our family member was assessed as aggressive, uncooperative, refractory, impulsive, perceived as personally threatening by some of the staff, and then summarily sedated, and then for a number of hours locked in a so-called therapeutic [dark] “quiet room”. There was improper clothing, no undergarments beneath the hospital gown, no access to bathroom facilities, and no creature comforts other than an uncovered thin plastic mat, on a bare cold concrete floor, with a drain in its center. They were left alone, confused, frightened, cold, shivering, isolated, barefooted, feeling ashamed, wet from being unable to use lavatory facilities, and kneeling in the middle of the floor. This was the result of the procedures used by the hospital staff and management that administered to our family member, in that facility. She was forcefully dosed again and again with neural-inhibitors, used to control certain types of anxiety, and other reactions. The repercussions were averse. We were told by hospital authorities over the phone, that they observed our relative “crawling” around on the floor while in confinement. When we heard directly from our relative, it was explained that the perceived “crawling” was an effort to find a clean place on the dark floor that wasn’t wet, and since they were in an impure state they could only implore Allah’s Help by staying on their knees, and repeating dua’a over and over!
"Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives, and the fruits of your toil. But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Those who say, when afflicted with calamity, 'To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return.' They are those on whom descend blessings from their Lord, and mercy. They are the ones who receive guidance." (2:155-157)
It was necessary to be vigilant, and focused while on this emotional, hypertensive roller coaster. As Muslims we have an obligation to the Believers while making strong efforts to safeguard our well-being at every level. Sad to say, when we arrived at the facility to check on the situation, we witnessed other Muslim patients that were also present. We did not know their disposition, but we made dua’a for them, and this reflected Muslims that were making dua’a for our family.
We confronted the care providers, in a formal meeting. We required them to give a play-by-play explanation of the former day’s events. To our dismay, there was but little acceptable explanation for their behavior toward our family member. In a short time after this, a former patient was discharged and on our way home with us! For all intents and purposes, procedural care was not administered properly, in our estimation or to our satisfaction. What is more, while the tears flowed from their grateful eyes, our family member gradually recounted to us the horrific ordeal that was encountered. Not every moment in the experience was negative, and some individuals along the way were supportive, empathetic, and sincerely helpful. Yet, from the outset we perceived developing difficulties; this was our visceral intuition.
Resolution And Encouragement
Upon discharge from the facility, the slow clarity of mind started to come to light, Qur’an was constantly recited and remembered, while adkhar continued intermittently. Questions began to flow like water in a stream; we all spoke in a calm manner. The response was positive, and the lapse of time, events, and places started to make sense again. Things started to align in the mind of our relative. We felt relieved, after experiencing periods of depression, yet entertaining hope in Allah that things would change, for the better.
This was a test, and we comprehended that it was a way for Allah to draw all of us close to Him. In any event, we recognize it as a continued strengthening of iman (faith) in Allah, and in our ability to be patient, persevering, and composed. We are empathetic toward other families that encounter and will encounter such tests; we must ever turn toward Allah for His Guidance, inspiration, and compassion.
There is one thing to consider: Muslims are affected by many challenges, and they are also afflicted with an array of infirmities of varying degrees. One of those afflictions is mental health; it affects the well-being of the individual, the family, and the society at large. It affects Muslim and non-muslim families alike. We are not immune to the situation that was described above, nor are we excluded from being candidates for other health problems. The fact of the matter is that many Muslims are in deniable about such things like mental health problems, and a pervasive array of other health issues like: substance abuse, domestic (spousal abuse) violence, learning disabilities, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, promiscuity, teen pregnancy, runaways, gang affiliation, recidivism (returning to incarceration), illiteracy, autism, high school drop-out rate, homelessness, chronic unemployment, and a combined plethora of unresolved socio-religious issues.
Comprehensively, Muslims must continue their endeavor to learn about the circumstantial conditions that can affect individuals and their families. They must also learn how to combat the challenges that will occur, have an action plan, and comprehend the steps necessary to initiate a resolution and recovery. Support through the power of prayer, dua’a, sabr (patience), positive thinking, and pro-activity are components of healing. They are also components of perfecting iman, through the progression of sincere practice.
Sometimes it appears that the odds are overwhelming, but Allah says: Along with every difficulty comes ease and relief... The Muslim Support Services Network is always available, no matter what the circumstances, time of day, morning, noon, or night.
O ye who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah; that you may prosper. (3: 200)