Mental health is stigmatized in general, but it’s even worse in our culture - and more so for men. This post explores the journey of ZUDO’s founder, Ibraheem, and his experience with mental health/depression.
It all started 7 years ago with a phone call that changed my life forever. I was studying in Canada at York University and I was following a lifestyle that I wasn’t proud of. My grades were slipping. And I had zero motivation.
One night in February 2013, I was studying for a test when I received a call from a family member overseas with the most tragic news. I was told that my father had passed away. My world broke down and my life took a complete stop. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move. All I knew was that I needed to be with my family. I immediately dropped my courses and flew overseas to be with them.
After that, I dived deep into depression. My dad was gone. I was the oldest son in my family - which now made me the man of the house. How was I going to support my family when I wasn’t supporting myself, mentally and emotionally? There was so much pressure to be stable and stay strong for those around me. But behind closed doors, when no one was watching, I would cry myself to sleep. Every. Single. Night. I began to lose all of my hair. My health deteriorated massively.
This went on for eleven months - after which I told myself enough that was enough. If I wanted my life to change, the first step had to come from me. Not only did I need to do this for my family, I needed to do this for myself.
I put my focus on my physical and mental health. I started working out and taking care of my body. I remember writing my goals down on a piece of paper. I visualized the life I wanted to live, and thought about the action steps I needed to take in order to ensure my vision materializes.
In my mind, I was determined that I would make it through this. It was a matter of when, not if. I took away the external pressures and unrealistic expectations. Instead I chose to be patient with myself. I knew I wouldn’t have my life together overnight. Sabr (patience) was key.
In order for things to change, I had to step outside of my comfort zone. I decided I needed a complete change in my environment. I switched from pre-med to engineering (just like my dad!) I moved to a new country, I made new friends, I lived by myself. It wasn’t easy to make the adjustment - I felt like I wasn’t reaching my academic potential and, on top of that, being far away meant that I felt hugely isolated from everything and everyone. So I used my time to strictly focus on things that had value: doing well at school; taking up extra-curricular activities; volunteering; and building new relationships.
I’m a strong believer of manifestation. I was attracting what I was putting out, so self-improvement had to be my main focus. And in doing so, I noticed that things started to fall into place. This is also when I met Zuni (my now wife!) alhamdulillah.
I realized that the closer I got to my religion, the more success I found. I went from failing, to graduating from a top university and landing an incredible job, alhamdullilah. I was ticking off these milestones, and doing what I was “supposed” to be doing according to society. But I felt like I wasn’t fulfilling my life’s purpose. I still felt unhappy. And I was determined to change this.
I tried to focus on the finer things in life, and found myself trying to find a gift for Zuni. I would walk into so many stores and see personalized jewelry with everyone’s name on it - except hers. I took a moment and thought to myself - surely there must be others who experience the same frustration? My mind suddenly saw an opportunity - one which might allow me to escape my situation. I thought about what my unique selling proposition could be. Conscious and meaningful pieces. And this is where ZUDO’s mission came from.
I would get home from work at 5pm every day, and begin working on this as a passion project. I spent every waking hour on launching this brand. 18-hour workdays, 7 days a week. Sleepless nights. And in June 2018, I officially launched ZUDO. Sure - it took away my time with my family and my friends, but it gave me so much in return. It gave me purpose, it gave me my spark, and it allowed me to spread the beauty of our cultural roots and provide meaningful reminders for people across the world to wear every day.
This is where I want to thank each and every one of YOU for being a part of the journey! Here we are, a year since starting this company, and thousands of you have joined our family. I am now living the life I once visualized - and that is because of you and your continued support. And we are only just getting started…
Now, a year from launching, I have left my 9-5 to pursue ZUDO full time. The next step for me is to take ZUDO to another level. I want to use this platform we have built together to inspire change in others. I want to encourage others to live a life they are proud of and passionate about. To push ourselves to be the best we can be. And above all, to build a community so that anyone going through a hard time doesn’t feel like they are alone.
I’m writing this in hopes that someone who may be experiencing a similar journey may find motivation or hope from this. When I think about how much my life has changed, I’m still in shock. But the message to take away is that we all stand together to support each other. We hope that our meaningful pieces provide a form of guidance, hope, and positivity to you.
If anyone out there is going through any kind of struggle right now, just know that there is always someone you can talk to.
Thank you so much for taking the time to hear my story <3
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