Austen Riggs Alumnus Mashuq Mushtaq Deen describes his path to Riggs, his treatment experience, and how that impacted his life.
I made the decision that I was done, that I was going to end my life. It's just like when you were at war with yourself, and you are the enemy. It's just, it's a different kind of internal pain that you can't sort of get away from.
My name is Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. I was born in Brooklyn. My family life was different than my friends’ family lives. Just culturally our home was very different—from the kinds of foods we ate, to the expectations of me and my brother and how important school was.
But you know, I think, they're immigrants and they were under a lot of pressure. I went to college at Columbia in New York. As I was no longer in the sort of pressure cooker of my family situation at that time, in some ways like I had some space to breathe then I—in this oxymoronic way—then I started to get depressed.
I don't think my parents had the tools to know how to handle a self-destructive 18-year-old /19-year-old, and it would be a couple of hospitalizations before I get to Riggs, but there was some hope that I would be made better and better meant I would go back to having long hair and being a girl that they understood and being on this path that I've always been on in terms of academics and that is not what therapy is really about.
Riggs is really different in a lot of ways. One is the open setting—it’s to be in treatment at a hospital and yet have the freedom to walk down the street and get an ice cream cone or go get dinner with a friend or take a walk.
And this is a, I think, a really radical difference from most locked units, which is where I was before Riggs. You can't tell who the doctors are and who the patients are or who the nurses are and who the patients are. Like, that sense of we're all sort of in this togetherness is really different than at any other place I'd been to.
Then there are things like examined living. Examined living is: we are all in community together and we can sort of continuously be thinking about how we are all in community together or thinking things like if you were to end your life, someone's gonna find you. What would that be like for them? Like how would that affect them? Would that traumatize them? Like, it's not fun to think about things like that.
I think it's useful to remember that, that we're interconnected, and I think a lot of people come in with trust issues and that's normal, but you will get the most out of it if you can participate in the community and that means wrestle with the community and be angry at them or like them and try and help. It just, it means just being involved and putting yourself in it and then seeing what happens.
Life is messy. It's muddy. And I am more okay with the muddiness of it and the wading through of it and find more joy in that. I think the thing I hope is that I do not forget the lesson of that pivotal moment when I tried to end my life, which is that all these expectations or all these things I think I'm supposed to do I don't really have to do. And to allow myself to be surprised by what comes and to enjoy the moment as it is instead of trying to make it a different one. And I want to enjoy the ride.