Faizah’s story

When Faizah Hashmi walked through the door of the Moseley Chance to Shine Street session wearing her cricket whites, she was carrying more than a full set of cricket equipment on her shoulders.

Faizah has autism and anorexia, she has also struggled with severe anxiety and depression. During her darkest days, Faizah says she didn’t feel like she had any control over her life: “My life was anorexia, I wasn’t Faizah. I was fixated by numbers. I was looking at a hole inside me but I couldn’t fill it.” Faizah’s struggles resulted in her being hospitalised on several occasions in her teenage years.

Faizah had always been passionate about cricket and played at a local club, but it was when she joined the Street programme that she began to feel at home. The coach at the sessions, Asma Ajaz-Ali, welcomed Faizah, told her to pop her pads and her helmet at the side and to just join in with a game of tapeball cricket. For Faizah, this was something completely different to her other experiences of cricket: “It was crazy for me because I was so regimented, wanting be perfect but this was a game just for fun! I learnt that it didn’t have to be so competitive, if you made a mistake it was ok.”

“She was a very shy girl but she had that real passion for cricket,” Asma tells us, “this was a release for her and it has really built her confidence, she’s changed as a person.” As Faizah learnt to care for her own mental wellbeing, she became comfortable speaking about her challenges, her past and her present. She opened up to the other girls at the session and became a leader and a mentor to them.

By speaking openly about her mental health, Faizah has broken down barriers and Asma is incredibly proud of her for that: “It’s very strong of her. Mental health is taboo within our community, it’s not talked about at all. She’s the leader in helping other girls to come forward and talk about their struggles as well.” When Chance to Shine visited to talk to Faizah and her friends, the girls all opened up with a maturity beyond their years. 15-year-old Manahil spoke of her own struggles with anxiety and of a fear of not fitting in but, having listened to Faizah and her experiences, she too was able to learn to manage them and to open up about them.

Now 19, Faizah still carries around her past and she recognises the triggers that affect her but now she can manage them. She is able to defend the short balls and the yorkers that life bowls her with a solid forward defensive. “In the past, my illness defined me. When I’m with my friends from cricket it feels like that hole inside me has been filled.”

 

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