My name is Rania Naim. I am 32 years old and I am a writer! I grew up in Egypt, but lived in the US in my mid to late 20s.
When did you start writing and why?
I started writing when I was 14. At first it was an outlet to express my thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t really say out loud to my friends and family. It was like my refuge where I could release my thoughts. It was very similar to what I write now where I imagine the person I want to talk to in front of me and I write what I really want to say to them. I always felt like an outsider in my own home, I couldn’t really be myself, I couldn’t really communicate with my family and I felt misunderstood most of the time. And I also didn’t like the fact that I accepted that I couldn’t be heard in my own home or that I didn’t feel the need to not suppress my own voice and my emotions, so writing for me was like the moment where I could express myself and free myself from what I could really have in my head, to express what I had inside. It was liberating, it still is.
How is writing a therapy for you?
Before I started writing publicly, it was like a therapy session with a therapist. I would write down my problems and think of ways to solve them or write a whole letter to someone and imagine sending it to them. Even if it didn’t change anything, it healed me. Knowing that I have a way to express my pain and read it so clearly gave me comfort because at least I can know the source of the problem or at least I try to find it, and the next thing to do is to figure out how to fix it or how to accept it. I always tried to end my writing on a positive note like I do now, so I always tried to find the lesson behind whatever was bothering me. In other words, programming my mind to face difficulties with a more positive mindset and working on being more honest with myself. I wrote down everything I was ashamed to say out loud and everything I didn’t want to admit to others. It was therapeutic to have such a platform and the more I did it, the better I felt, including with myself. It was like a cure and I’ve been addicted to it ever since. It’s like an out-of-body experience that recharged my batteries so I could continue.
Why do you choose to share your writing on Instagram?
I share my writing on all my pages, but Instagram is my favorite because of the level and depth of engagement I get from people. I think Instagram is becoming the hub for all upcoming writers and poets because it has a community of writers, poets, and people who take the time to read and analyze every word and are generous with their comments and share their own stories too. I always look forward to my Instagram feedbacks because I know I will connect with at least ten people who are going through or have gone through the same experiences and ultimately we help each other realize that we are not alone and that we will get through this. I call my Insta community, my free therapists because they also heal and comfort me with their words, stories and support.
What are the messages you feel most strongly about sharing with the world?
Fight for who you are and fight for your voice. In all areas, love, work, family and friendships. You should always embrace who you are even if you have a lot to accomplish or feel like you are not where you want to be. There is so much beauty and power in saying to the world, “This is who I am and I’m not afraid of it. I am enough. I think that was the turning point in my life. That’s how I found the courage to quit the job that was making me miserable and follow my passion for writing, even though everyone advised me not to. And that’s how I found myself because I could finally see that my thoughts and feelings were valid and important and that all those times I tried to hide to fit in or to please those around me were really toxic to my soul.
People make you feel bad for being different or wanting to pursue something that feels strange to them and I think if you don’t have enough confidence in yourself and if you don’t get the support you need, you’ll always be questioning yourself and you’ll never really live the life you want. It was when I decided that I didn’t need anyone’s support or approval to do what I love or be myself that I really thrived. I felt like a dead flower when I was trying to hold back who I really was and what I really wanted, and when I finally decided to follow my voice and give myself the push I needed others to give me, I blossomed and never looked back. That’s why I always write about self-love. The more you love yourself, the less sensitive and vulnerable you will be to the words and projections of those around you.
What would you say to someone who hasn’t found their passion yet?
I think we all have an idea of what we love or what makes us happy. It’s not always very clear, but I think we all know what drives us in some way, but what makes the difference is how satisfied you really are with your life. Some people don’t really try to find or pursue their passion because they are mostly satisfied with their life, it’s only when it all falls apart and you try to find more meaning in your life or more joy that you start to fight for that passion to come out and actually do it. I honestly believe that the more dissatisfied you are with your life, the more effort you will put into finding and following your passion.
How do you take care of yourself on a daily basis?
I try to surround myself with healthy people. I think our environment plays a very important role on our mental state. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing group of friends who help me a lot in my healing process when I’m feeling down. I also try to spend a lot of time outdoors, playing sports and traveling whenever I get the chance. Being away from everything familiar can give you a new perspective on life and help you get to know yourself a little better. I also read a lot about mental health and watch a lot of personal development videos. They always open my eyes to other ways of healing and help me discover the reason behind some of my doubts or fears and how to overcome them. But for me, it will always be about your circle and the people you choose to surround yourself with. They will either lift you up or drain you.
What do you think about mental health?
I think it’s crucial to our overall well-being. I’m not going to lie, I still have nights where my anxiety and fears manage to kick in and I go through phases where I have doubts and fears about the future and my life in general. But at the end of the day, if you can allow yourself to have those doubts without letting them consume or control you, then you are one step closer to a healthy mental attitude. It’s hard to be positive all the time, but it’s even harder when we let our worries and fears get the best of us and keep us from taking risks, connecting with people, or getting through a painful experience. I also think it’s relative from person to person, but I think everyone should learn how to at least deal with these thoughts if they can’t get rid of them completely. It’s a journey, but it’s a worthwhile journey because it can change or break your life. I also think it’s something you need to constantly monitor because it can easily get out of control and keep you from truly healing or reaching your ultimate potential.
What would you say to someone who is suffering and doesn’t know how to get better?
You know this is interesting because I wrote an article about this before “Here’s what I’m going to tell you instead of: it will pass” and I think that sums up what I would say to someone who can’t get out of the darkness. https://thoughtcatalog.com/rania-naim/2016/05/heres-what-im-going-to-tell-you-instead-of-it-will-get-better/
Here are some lines:
I have faith in you.
I have faith in your strength, in your ability to get up after the fall, in your perseverance to fight through the worst days of your life and in your courage to start over. I have faith that you will find your way out of the darkness and slowly let the light return to you. I have faith that you will heal because you can; because you will.
I trust you.
I really trust you. I know that you will not destroy yourself, I know that you will realize that certain things happen so that you grow, so that you change and so that you become wiser. I hope that you will understand the lessons that life is trying to teach you, that you will discover the beauty in yourself when you suffer and that you will become more compassionate, kinder and willing to dedicate your life to helping others come out of their darkness as well.
I can’t wait to meet you.
I can’t wait to meet you when the storm is over. I can’t wait to meet the person you will become. The resilient person you will become; how caring and generous you will be, how gentle but strong you will be, how wise and helpful you will be and how you will transform your life. I can’t wait for you to change your life. I can’t wait to see you live the life you’ve always wanted to live. I know it will get better because you will get better and you will look back and barely remember the feeling.
What do you think about the importance given to mental health in the Middle East?
I think we are finally trying to integrate this culture into our lives, especially with children. People have now started campaigns and movements against bullying and harassment. Parents are also more aware of the importance of their children’s psyches and helping them get the help they need, especially those going through a divorce. More and more people are finding it acceptable, even normal, to see a therapist and talk openly about it. I won’t say we are exactly where we should be, but we are getting there. It is harder to convince the older generation that mental health is essential for them and their children, but they are more open to listening now than ever before. It’s not taken lightly anymore because I think we all know how our minds can lead us down a self-destructive path and cause tragedy and suicide, and no one can deny that.
What do you think are the main obstacles to its development?
I think we don’t have the education about mental health. We assume that things will work themselves out and that hard times will pass without mental damage. Culturally, we have not been taught to look inside ourselves and try to find answers or heal, we have been taught to be patient and strong until things magically get better. I would say it’s a generational thing because parents and schools didn’t instill that in us when we were younger, so we had to figure it out as we got older and when you’re older it’s harder to change some of your fixed beliefs. I think the trick is to make it part of our education and our homes. We shouldn’t just use it after traumas or painful experiences. It should be something we learn and grow up with to be able to better handle these difficult situations and arm ourselves with the mental strength to endure and cope with them in a healthy way.
What can we do to increase awareness?
We need to start with ourselves before we pass it on to others. It’s like the oxygen mask on an airplane, you have to put yours on first before you can help others. Once you realize its importance, you can pass it on to your friends, family and children. You will be able to understand how it has benefited you and how it will benefit them as well. And I think it’s important to share your ways, your process or your remedy so that people feel comfortable sharing theirs too. We need to get rid of the idea that seeking mental help is a taboo or something to be ashamed of and we need to normalize the fact that we all need help and that life isn’t always easy and perfect and we don’t have all the answers. Simply put, we need to be more honest and humble about mental health because no one can achieve a healthy state of mind without the necessary education and awareness or help from people more experienced than us.
What are your current plans and what do you want to do next?
I want to start sharing my experience and journey as a writer and teaching creative writing workshops for aspiring writers or those who just want to learn how to express themselves better. I think writing has really healed me as a person and changed my life in so many ways and I think it’s time to move forward and start showing people how they can do that too. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but now I’m trying to bring it to life. I’d also like to write a third book of poetry, but that’s still a fledgling idea, I hope to do that in the next year or two.
Thank you for this interview!
Thank you for this interview and for giving me the opportunity to talk about such an important topic. I really appreciated it! Good luck to all.