I have supported children and adults with additional needs most of my working life and it was work where my journey began. I was brought up in an Atheist family and lived in a 95% White area so never had the chance to meet people from other cultures and religion. I married a Catholic when I was 18 years old, it wasn’t the best of marriages but I stuck it out for nearly 20 years.
I was still married when my interest in Islam begun. I had been working with a Muslim family for some time and they asked me to support their daughter to attend some Islamic courses. I had no interest in religion and wasn’t keen on doing an Islamic course but I loved working with the family so I agreed to take her to the course. Sadly, for the young lady, she didn’t have the capacity to understand but it blew my mind! Suddenly, everything made sense and I felt the need to learn more, so when I was at home, I would research at every chance I got and when my husband would ask, “What are you doing?” I would just say it was for work.
I felt trapped and it was an internal fight because I felt torn; I was 100% sure my family would hate anything that is not what they believe to be the norm, we were a very close family, always had been, so I didn’t want to upset them plus I was still married to the Catholic. I had been unhappy in my marriage for a number of years but I was brought up to work hard in marriage, so I did, but I was extremely unhappy. One night I prayed and prayed for an escape and my prayer was answered. I left my home and went to my dad’s house but I could only stay for two weeks at my dad’s, I had nowhere to live. Luckily, a friend helped me for a few months and I stayed in their house. By this time, I had lost everything, my home, my pets, my job, my family. My mum passed away within 6 weeks of another three members of my family, so I coped by numbing the pain with alcohol. I put myself in a number of vulnerable situations and I thank Allah for saving me and teaching me all the lessons I learned in that time. When I was sat alone, I would sit drinking and listening to nasheeds by Sami Yusuf, (my two favourites were “You Came to Me” and “Make Me Strong”) I would listen to them over and over again, crying, screaming for help and slowly the alcohol became less and the love for Allah became more. I had read that Allah would never burden a soul with more than it can bear, this gave me so much strength to keep going forward.
I supported the lady on the Islamic course in 2006 but didn’t take my shahada until 2016, it was one massive roller coaster ride; I was numb for 3 days after taking my shahada. It was definitely the best thing I have ever done and I have been blessed with so many brothers and sisters, the Muslim community have been so supportive.
I think if I could have done anything differently it would have been to be more patient with my family. It took me 10 years to get my head around the changes and to expect them to understand in a short space of time was wrong of me but the relationship with them is getting better. The family just keeps getting bigger and bigger and I have eight beautiful nephews and nieces (Alhamdulillah!) and none of them has a problem with me wearing hijab. My youngest niece puts a blanket on her head so she can look like Auntie, she is so cute! Life is so much better and I finally feel content, the emptiness has gone just by knowing that Allah is with me.
 Praise belongs to Allah.
 A headscarf.