A POWERFUL MIND
Nural-Huda Dollie was diagnosed with asthma at six years old, only a few months before her grandmother died from an asthma attack. This event sent Nural-Huda into a downward spiral of depression. She tells us about her journey to being healed.
Nural-Huda was raised in a working class family that was never short of love and support. Both her parents worked, her mother in a clothing factory and her dad at a printing house. She is the youngest in her family and the only girl. She has three brothers (32), (26), (21) who she says tease her endlessly but love her unconditionally.
“When I was younger, I was a healthy and active child. I would often play in the road with my friends and my brothers.”
One day Nural-Huda’s playing stopped abruptly.
“It was during break time at school and my friends wanted to play hide and seek, but I felt tired so I suggested we play stuck in the mud because we didn’t need to move too much. My friends insisted that we play hide and seek, so we did. I ran across the quad and as I got to the middle, I started coughing, my chest was hurting, I lost energy and I felt like I couldn’t walk anymore. I fell down on my knees. My teacher saw me and asked what was wrong and I told her I couldn’t breathe. She took me to the office and called my parents. I lay down and I remember I was telling myself to calm down. I can’t remember much after that, but my mom told me that by the time they arrived at the school, my lips were turning blue.”
“They took me to the emergency room and the doctor who was examining me told my parents that he was worried about my condition. He called the nurses and they put a drip in my arm and an oxygen mask on my face. They also gave me medication to make me fall asleep. I remember waking up and seeing my mom and dad sitting next to me. I was confused about why I was lying in the bed and I was afraid when I saw the tube in my arm. They had also put a tube in my nose but it was burning, so I asked them to take it out.”
The doctors told Nural-Huda’s family that she had had an asthma attack.
“I was in hospital for two weeks. The first week I was on oxygen and couldn’t eat any solid foods. I wanted to go home and see my family and friends because I missed them, but what helped was that I always had someone from my family with me – my mom, dad or one of my siblings. My chest was still really closed so they were trying to open the air passages in my lungs. I also received physiotherapy, to help clear the fluid in my lungs.”
“My mom says that I would often cry to go home and complain that I was hungry. I remember I couldn’t breathe properly while I was eating; the chewing affected my breathing so I could only take in liquids.”
After the second week Nural-Huda’s doctor said that she was well enough to go home, but that she needed to recuperate at home for another week before going back to school.
“When I got home everything was different; my doctor gave me a strict diet to follow. The worst thing was that I loved eating chocolates, but after the asthma attack I was not allowed any. I was only six years old so I didn’t understand why everything I liked was being taken away from me. My family always said that if I didn’t listen to the doctor, I would get sick again. I was scared and didn’t want to go back to hospital again so I listened to my parents.”
About a month after her stay in hospital, Nural-Huda found out that her paternal grandmother was also asthmatic.
“I was excited to hear that she had asthma, because I thought that I finally had someone with whom I could talk to about the way I was feeling. Sometimes I would feel angry because I kept hearing words like sick and asthma that made me feel different from everyone else.”
“When we spoke about it she gave me good advice – like if I see people smoking I must leave the room; don’t run fast, rather walk; keep to my diet and always keep warm. Often after we spoke she would cough and say that her chest was sore. She would also apologise for not visiting me while I was in hospital and say that she was too sick.”
“I saw her almost every day for the next few weeks. I felt we connected about our breathing problems, and she really understood how I felt.”
Sadly, two months after connecting with her grandmother, Nural-Huda received some terrible news.
“My mom told me that my grandmother had had an asthma attack and passed away. The day of her Jannazah (funeral) I was upset because I couldn’t see her. I think at that time I didn’t understand what death meant, so I just thought that she didn’t want to see me. When I went back to school, I told my teacher that my granny had died but she didn’t want to see me. She then explained to me that when somebody dies they are gone forever, into the clouds, and that I would never be able to see my grandmother again.”
“I felt so sad. I thought if my granny was taken away because of asthma then I would also be taken away because of it and I would never see my family again.”
Following the death of her granny, Nural-Huda’s life changed.
“I would go to school and be more reserved, come home and then sleep. I also stopped eating. On Sundays we would have family lunches, and we would normally sit in the dining room and chat. I had always enjoyed this, however, after my granny died, I would just sit there and not talk or want to eat. My family would ask me what was wrong, but I would just say that I wanted to sleep.”
“My friends would come to our house and want to play, but I never wanted to join in. I didn’t want to use any energy playing, eating or doing anything that I thought would give me an asthma attack and take me away. I wanted to move as little as possible because for me, movement equated to using energy and that equated to getting sick and dying.”
Knowing that something was wrong with her normally happy little girl, Nural-Huda’s mom took her to the doctor.
“The doctor explained to my mom that I was depressed. The next day was a school day, but my mom told me to get dressed in casual clothes. I wondered what was happening, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone so I just went along. We went to a sports centre where I was introduced to a man, who my mom told me was going to be my new friend and I could talk to him.”
“He spoke to me for a while and asked me what was wrong. At first, I didn’t want to talk to him, but then he kept on talking so I spoke to him just to keep him quiet. I told him that I had asthma and that I didn’t want to talk to him because I wanted to save my energy to stay alive.”
“After that, he said he wanted to show me something and asked me to run two laps around the hall. I didn’t want to because I was afraid that I would get sick. I sat on the floor and cried, I wanted to go home. He kept saying: ‘two laps is all I’m asking.’ I replied that I didn’t want to die like my granny, I wanted to stay with my mom and dad. He told me I would be okay and that the only thing I must do is try.”
“I ran, I was gasping, feeling really sick and thinking that I was going to die. He told me to sit down and keep calm, then he gave me a glass of water. After that, my body relaxed and I began to feel normal. I couldn’t believe that a glass of water had made me feel better.”
For six-year-old Nural-Huda, this experience proved to her that being active does not mean death. She continued to see the psychologist for the following months.
“My mom would meet me at school to take me to my sessions. Sometimes I would hide in the toilet because I didn’t want to go, but my mom would explain why it was important and I would end up accepting it. When I arrived in a mood, he would say: here comes the ‘Sullen Face Monster,’ and it would always make me laugh.”
“Sometimes we would play with the ball; on other days we would run. It was fun, but I was still fearful. If I felt short of breath, he would tell me to use my inhaler.”
Nural-Huda kept going to her sessions for a few months until she felt better.
“It was a really amazing experience for me, because the things I thought would make me die, were in fact helping me to get better. Today I can take part in activities like running and I have the freedom to move. I have managed to go back to a normal life and I feel confident in dealing with my condition.”
10 years later, Nural-Huda feels that she continues to use the skills she learned at the age of six and she is forever grateful to her family and the psychologist.
Concluding, Nural-Huda says: “The greatest lesson I have learned is the power of my mind. For months, I was convinced that if I used too much energy I would have an asthma attack like my granny, and I would die. I was so paranoid about this that I stopped living, little-by-little. I was behaving as if I was already dead. Be careful with the power your mind has in creating your reality. If you allow your fears and negative thoughts to take over your life, you will become miserable. You are in control of your thoughts and you can easily transform negativity into positivity through awareness and self-management.”
Nural-Huda is a Leaders’ Quest participant.