Dear Reader, It’s been more than a decade being on my recovery journey which includes seeing my psychiatrist every few months and to this day taking “pill medicine”.
It was my energetic and empowering psychiatrist who first introduced to me to the importance of “personal medicine” and encouraged me to take it seriously. Personal medicine was conceptualised by Dr Patricia Deegan, an activist, psychologist and researcher. According to her research, “personal medicine was found to be self-initiated, non-pharmaceutical self-care activities that served to decrease symptoms, avoid undesirable outcomes such as hospitalisation, and improve mood, thoughts, behaviours, and overall sense of wellbeing.”
Writing and reading have been my personal medicine. I do a bit of it each day and just as consistently as I take my pill medicine (which I cannot afford to miss). After reading “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, I realised the concept of personal medicine is aligned to me creating daily small but very consistent habits that make my life 1% better each day. I’ve made it a promise to myself that I will write at minimum one page a day and read one page from one book a day. I get to tick off on my habit tracker app when I have done so as a reward!
Writing in my journal has been the way I uplift my mood, reassure myself, and connect to God through writing out heartfelt prayers for myself and others. I also ensure to do the “Three Good Things” exercise where I list three things that went well for me and I am grateful for, and this practice has been clinically proven to improve happiness levels as one begins to be on the lookout for more positivity.
Writing poetry has also been an outlet for me to express myself creatively and as authentically as I can. I am a poet because I write poems. I do not feel the need to be a “good poet” - if there is even such a concept. Whenever I need perspective - I read the illuminating poetry by Maulana Rumi, Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou. I also find comfort and inspiration in our local poets Humairah Jamil, Ameera Begum, and Noor Iskandar.
Reading is a beautiful endeavour that never fails to get me into a state of flow, allowing me to forget about my worries as I travel the world within the book and explore fascinating ideas, stories and strategies. Books that attract me are inspiring and usually centre around positive psychology and Islamic spirituality.
I am grateful for the gift of dedicating time for reading and writing daily in my personal journey of recovery and I truly resonate with Wardah Book’s call, “The secret gift of reading is time”.
Mental Health Advocate
(Sumaiyah's guest editorial is in conjunction with World Mental Health Day on 10 October.)