Time For Change.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – MLK Jr.

 

My heart is so incredibly heavy, and my anxiety is at an all time high. Everything is changing, evolving and manifesting at such a rapid rate that it’s hard for me to keep up and thoroughly process it all.

I’m so proud to be a part of the revolution that’s occurring, one that is far overdue. I’m so proud of my friends of all colors for standing up and saying “enough is enough.” I support, love and cherish each of you wholeheartedly.

I vow to help this fight in any and every way possible, but I’m not going to lie, this is all really overwhelming. Most of the time I can’t even process my own thoughts and feelings, much less those of the whole nation.

I first want to say “I’m sorry” to every POC … every race, gender and ethnicity. I’ve always prided myself on being someone who loves everyone, someone who doesn’t see others by the color of their skin but instead by the beauty of their soul. I look to the inside to get to know someone before coming to any conclusions.

Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means ( I know I’m far from it), but I’ve tried really hard my entire life to be a genuinely good person. Yet despite all of my good intentions, I’ve failed to act upon my anger and outrage of racism, injustice and the needless loss of human life.

To be honest, I think my reservations have been due to the fact that I didn’t think anyone would care what I had to say on the matter. I tried to walk the fine line of not acting like I knew it all while also not condoning these outrageous murders.

Let’s face it, I’m a very white girl.

I grew up in a tiny Texas town where there were literally no Black people, no Hispanic people, no Asian people … just Caucasians. I was never taught racism or given preconceived notions about people of others races, and for that I’m truly grateful to my family.

I was always taught to love everyone regardless of race, religion or politics. However, I think my upbringing also somewhat hindered my understanding of how truly oppressed POC were and still are to this day.

This is no excuse, just fact.

I’m sorry for not truly understanding your struggles, your pain, the fear you face every time you leave your home. I’m sorry that I haven’t used my voice, the privilege I’ve been given just because of the color of my skin, to speak up and fight for you … to fight with you.

I’m sorry that my limited understanding of your hardships may have seemed like ignorance or indifference. I am not indifferent, I am not okay with what is happening and I am using my voice, my platform, to say to you “I HEAR YOU, I LOVE YOU, I WILL FIGHT WITH AND FOR YOU.” 

I truly believe that every human being struggles with something. My struggle isn’t one that can be physically seen but instead is a constant war raging in my mind. Others struggle with addiction, body image, self-love, family issues, and the list goes on and on.

However, I see your pain. I hear your voices. I stand with you. I stand beside you. I am here to love, to support and to fight.

My anxiety has caused me to struggle with this whole situation. It tells me I need to have all the answers before I speak up, before I raise my voice, but I will no longer let the unknown hold me back from screaming my outrage on these matters any longer.

I will not let fear of others’ opinions stop me from expressing myself, from using my rights as an American to fight for justice. I will not allow public judgement to keep me from standing up for my friends and all those that I love.

Listen to me when I say, “YOU ARE IMPORTANT. YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE WORTHY. YOU ARE HEARD.”

To all of my friends and family in law enforcement, this is not a bashing of you as an individual. I love you, I respect you, I pray for your safety and I’m thankful for the sacrifices you make each and every day. I don’t believe you are all the same, I know your hearts. I do believe that you are sincere in your efforts to help others.

Unfortunately, this is a pattern that’s repeated far too often. We all, not just law enforcement, have to do better. We have to unite and stand together against hate. Every human being, regardless of race or career, has the choice to do good or bad. It’s not about profiling a specific group but instead bringing awareness to all of the injustices that occur every day.

To all of my white friends and family, understand this … silence is now just as condemning as the violence and oppression itself. If we truly love all of God’s children, then we need to use our voice and our privilege we were given the day we were born white.

No, not every white person is racist, not every black person is a thug, not every hispanic person is illegal … we are all beautiful and created equally in the eyes of God. However, our society, our history, has made it so that a white skin tone gets you a louder voice. It gives you the benefit of the doubt. It offers you a safety that POC are not always given.

I pray that we all listen to our POC friends, that we hear what they are saying and instead of being offended, we try to understand their pain. POC are not saying that because you’re white you’re a racist. They’re saying it’s time to start standing up for the oppressed, to start fighting a system that’s been corrupt for far too long.

They’re asking us to speak up, to use our voices for positive change.

I don’t know about you, but one of my lifelong goals has always been to leave a positive impact on the world, to leave this world better than how I found it. This is our chance. This is our moment.

Are we going to stand up for what is right? Are we going to help our brothers and sisters who are asking for and more than willing to accept our support? Or are we simply going to turn off the news, stay off social media and act like the problem doesn’t exist?

To all of my readers, followers, friends and Anxious Minds … please tell me how I can help. Let me know how I can assist in cultivating the change our nation so desperately needs. Educate me, explain to me, show me. As much as I love y’all, I feel as though I still have so much to learn.

I truly pray that we each take some time to research, reflect and process what is happening right now in our world. This is a pivotal moment in our history. This is a change that is long overdue.

This revolution will make history as the time when we unified as a nation and said “no more.” I’m tired of the hate, injustice, inequality, racism, bashing, negativity and senselessly spilled blood.

It’s time we stop talking about it and start taking action. I am with you. I hear you. I will fight with you.

 

XOXO,

Myka Shantell 💋

Chasing After Happiness.

“Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things around you, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.”― Henry David Thoreau

 

We’ve all been on the journey of chasing happiness in one way or another. Some of us think we will find it in our careers, our family or by becoming famous. We are constantly searching for that missing piece, the thing that will make us truly happy.

However, the more we search for it the further away it seems. It’s a never-ending game of catch-me-if-you-can. While we’re going after that “happiness” we so desperately seek we often forget to appreciate the present, the very moments we’re given.

We forget to be thankful that we have a job, a family, a home, a warm bed and food on the table. We take so many of life’s blessings for granted because we’re always looking for the next best thing.

I, myself, am guilty of this. It seems that most of my adult life has been overshadowed by this daunting task of finding happiness, of achieving perfection. That’s no way to live.

Even if we achieve our dreams, the joy of that moment is fleeting, and before long we’re looking for the next thing that will fill the void.

What if instead of searching for happiness we focused on our blessings? What if we used all that time and energy to improve ourselves and to live our lives?

The funny thing I’ve learned about happiness is that we could search for a lifetime and not find it because happiness is not out there in the world. True happiness comes from within.

 

Chasing after happiness
Trying to find some peace
Trying to find something
To put my mind at ease
I’ve searched and wandered far and wide
Tracking every lead
But by the time I get there
Joy’s eluded me
I crawl back to the darkness
And make another plan
I really need to find it
For this dark I cannot stand
I try again, I search for light
But all that I can find
Is disappointing misery
That fills my wounded mind
As days go by and time drags on
I continue on my quest
The never-ending, daunting task
Of finding happiness
I’m weak and worn and at my end
I’ve got no more to give
I guess this dark and sadness
Is how I’m meant to live
But as I lay my head to rest
I slip into a dream
I find what I’ve been looking for
The light it starts to beam
And suddenly I see…
It was always inside of me.

 

I wrote this poem thinking about my own journey chasing happiness. I hope you all know that no matter what’s going on in your life, we are all in charge of our own happiness. We just have to find it within ourselves and let it shine.

 

XOXO,

Myka Shantell💋

Comfort In The Panic.

“I don’t like my mind right now, stacking up problems that are so unnecessary. Wish that I could slow things down, I wanna let go but there’s comfort in the panic…” – Chester Bennington 

 

Silence, a sought after treasure that’s rarely found in our world today. Our world seems to be filled with so much chaos that moments of silence are priceless. I guess that’s why they say, “silence is golden.”

However, when living with a Mental Health Disorder, silence can feel deadly. I don’t want to listen to my thoughts, the never ending battle that’s constantly raging in my head.

I’m a casualty of an invisible war that no one sees and few understand.

Some may wonder how panic can bring a sense of peace. Heck, I myself question that statement every day. I long for serenity yet when I get it, it terrifies me.

If you personally know me, you know that I constantly have some sort of music playing and that I have to fall asleep with my TV on. My thoughts, no matter what time of day, become almost unbearable when they aren’t being stifled by some sort of noise.

When I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (and the 10 years that followed), I couldn’t muster up the courage to confront my anxious thoughts. They were overwhelming, terrifying and insufferable.

It took me many years of hard work and therapy to confront those dreaded monsters in my head. How can mere thoughts hold so much power?

That’s the unexplainable part of Mental Health Disorders such as Anxiety. I can’t explain it fully. I can only type out my thoughts on this page in hopes that it will give people even a fraction of understanding.

Panic is defined as “uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.” How ironic it is that I often feel more comfort in such chaos than in stillness.

Anxiety is a twisted, vicious disorder.

I think the most relevant reason that Mental Health Survivors, like myself, thrive in panic is because it becomes the norm. I constantly hear the thoughts in my head, and this is my daily reality.

I think that in some ways I create my own chaos which fuels my anxiety. It becomes a vicious cycle that I can’t seem to escape. I constantly push myself to do more, be more, achieve more, and ultimately that pressure turns into uncontrollable anxiety.

In my mind, if I’m not achieving something I’m useless. Don’t ask my why my brain is wired that way because I have no clue. The need to do, to accomplish, fuels my reason for existence. It gives me purpose.

The fact that I thrive in a panic-driven environment only causes my surroundings to become more chaotic. Eventually, I’m neck deep in madness that starts to suffocate me. I cry and I question, “why can’t I just feel normal?”

I’ll never understand how a Type A, OCD person (myself) can even function in such an environment. The frustration of dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is something that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to fully explain.

Anxiety Disorder is living with a set of constant oxymorons. I’m anxious so I need quiet, but the quiet makes my anxiety worse. I long for calm, but I desire chaos. I want to find my special person, but I also need to deal with this alone.

I want someone to comfort me, but I want no one around. I need order and structure, but my mind is a constant mess. I can get through this, but I don’t know how I’m going to live the rest of my life dealing with this.

I’m sure you can see what I mean by frustrating.

Even though life with Anxiety can seem overwhelming and unbearable, I constantly find a strength inside of me to go on. I look around at my family and friends, and they bring me calm in my panic.

There has never been a day where I’ve thought about giving up, but I know some can’t say the same. I understand the suffering that accompanies a Mental Health Disorder and the shame that comes with it.

There is still a stigma associated with Mental Illness, and I’ll never understand why. The world wonders why people don’t seek help, but it’s because of the labels that come with reaching out.

They wonder why we continue to live in our panic, our chaotic surroundings, yet never have the courage to talk about such controversial issues. I refuse to let society label me in a negative way. I refuse to sit back and not use my voice.

People fear what they don’t understand, and Mental Health is unfortunately still extremely misunderstood.

So if, like me, you have a messy mind, remember that it’s okay to thrive in panic. It’s okay to live your life how you’re able to manage it. If chaos brings you serenity then let your life be a crazy masterpiece.

The more I’ve explored my Anxiety, the more I’ve come to learn about myself and what works for me. Sometimes that means chaos, and sometimes (rarely) it means silence.

There’s no manual for this thing called life, and there sure as heck isn’t a manual for living with a Mental Health Illness. Never let anyone make you feel bad because of the things that make you, you.

Find your comfort in the panic, and be proud of your unexplainable, beautiful, messy mind. The most chaotic thoughts often create the most amazing things.

 

XOXO,

Myka Shantell💋

 

 

Life Through The Eyes Of A Pediatric Cancer Nurse.

“They ride tricycles in the hallway, not in the park. They know the names of treatments instead of their classmates. Their central lines have names. Nurses and doctors are their new family. They think hair is overrated. Their laughter can make a heart melt. Their strength will make a grown person cry. If you have ever seen a child fight cancer, it will change your life forever!”

 

My alarm goes off at 5:10am, and I slowly drag myself out of bed. It’s time for another day of work at the hardest job I’ll ever love because I’m a Pediatric Cancer Nurse.

As soon as I’m up and around, my mind is filled with anxiety. I’ve had a few days off of work so I’m not sure how the unit has been lately. I start to worry that I’ll have a terribly hard assignment or that I’ll end up losing one of my favorite patients.

Still, I push through the worry and get ready to go.

On the drive to the Children’s Hospital I listen to my favorite Christian radio station, trying to get some motivation and encouragement for what is undoubtedly going to be a tough day.

There’s never an easy day as a Pediatric Cancer Nurse.

I pull up to the hospital, and my anxiety starts to quickly climb. I park my car in my favorite parking spot, grab my bag and head inside. I walk to the other side of the hospital, and as I start to near my unit my fear reaches an uncomfortable level as I wonder what assignment I’ve been given today.

I’m scared that I’ll be taking care of the dying child or maybe even the difficult family. Will I get the kid who needs 5 chemo’s or the 3 year old patient who hates me and everyone around?

I start to wonder if I’ll be taking caring for one of my favorite patients or get a newly diagnosed patient. Will I have the uncooperative teenager who wants nothing to do with me or the family who frequently reassures me that I’m a great Nurse?

I think all of these things before it’s even 7am.

My heart races as I get report from the night nurse who’s obviously had a rough night. I find out there’s 2 end of life patients on the floor that could pass at any minute and 2 newly diagnosed patients whose families have a million questions (rightfully so).

You see, most people have this preconceived notion that, as nurses, we simply give meds and take vital signs. They have no clue what life looks like through our eyes, the eyes of a Pediatric Cancer Nurse.

I say “Pediatric CANCER Nurse” instead of Oncology because it makes it more real. Oncology is an elaborate way of saying the dreaded “C” word, the word that no one wants to hear.

I can only image that hearing “your child has cancer” is like stabbing someone with a knife and twisting it.

You see, the families and patients are the ones directly affected. Their lives are forever changed by those few short words. Parents bring their child to the hospital for a nosebleed only to find out that they have Leukemia.

Everything around them quickly changes, and they’re brought to the Hematology/Oncology unit where they’re given an enormous amount of information all while trying to process this life-altering news.

It has to be scary, overwhelming and painful to say the least.

And while the families and patients are the ones most affected, no one ever hears the experience from the Nurse’s point of view … until now.

You see, when a patient and family come in for the first time I’m terrified. I wonder if the family will like me, if we will get along or if the child will approve of me. I question if I’ll be able to help them process this terrifying news or if they’ll even let me in.

I become so attached to my patients that I can’t even explain the love I have for each of them. I would do anything to make them smile or to make them happy for even a mere second.

I’ve been a part of brutal nerf gun wars between patients and the nurses. I’ve pretended to be a princess, power ranger, dinosaur and race car driver. I’ve gotten down on all fours to play with my patients and let them squirt me with saline syringes just to get them to take their medications.

I’ve held patients as I rocked them to sleep, rubbed their backs when they were hurting and talked for hours on end about absolutely nothing at all. I’ve cried so many tears and shared so many laughs with them that I’ve lost count.

I’ve watched patients break out of the Bone Marrow Transplant unit and attended parties to celebrate the smallest of accomplishments. There’s no small wins in Pediatric Cancer.

I’ve seen the strongest children imaginable fighting a terrifying disease without any fear or worry. I’ve watched their hair fall out and their little bald heads emerge, and I’ve reassured them that bald is beautiful.

I’ve seen kids who were never supposed to make it beat the odds like it was nothing. Their courage constantly motivates and inspires me. If I’m having a bad day, all I have to do is see their face and instantly I am okay.

I’ve also watched patients dwindle away to nothing and held their hands as they slowly drifted off to a final sleep. I’ve sang songs to patients with tears streaming down my face as I watched them take their last breath.

I’ve held it together as I completed postmortem care and completely broke down when I got to my car. Somehow I learned to keep it all inside until I was alone, and then the floodgates break.

I’ve cried with families and hugged them for hours on end, just letting them know I was there. I’ve attended too many funerals and spoke of my favorite memories of past patients with my co-workers and families.

You see, being a Pediatric Cancer Nurse has changed me forever. It has shown me that life truly is short and that time is precious. It has reminded me that things can always be worse and that life is beautiful.

I started to see life through a totally different perspective, and I still carry each patient that I lost with me in my heart. I can tell you every name of every patient I’ve been close to. I can remember how they took their meds, their favorite TV show and what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Being a Pediatric Cancer Nurse opened my eyes to the big picture in life. As I watch my patients battle a tough opponent without fear, I am constantly reminded to be strong, resilient and unwavering in my faith.

As Pediatric Cancer Nurses we love hard, we celebrate big and we try our best to bring a glimmer of light in some of the darkest times. It’s a privilege to be able to do what we do, to hold the hand of a dying child and to celebrate the victory of another.

We comfort the grieving and celebrate the ones who beat the odds. We remember those whom we’ve lost, and we look forward to visits from those who are now cancer free.

I’m forever grateful for the perspective I was given by choosing Pediatric Cancer Nurse as a career. No one will ever understand how or why we do what we do, and that’s okay. It’s not meant for anyone else to comprehend.

This job is a calling, these patients are unforgettable, these families are remarkable and these memories are ones that I will cherish forever.

 

XOXO,

Myka Shantell💋 

 

 

** September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Childhood Cancer only receives 4% of the national budget from the National Cancer Institute. Our kids deserve MORE. This month be sure to #GoGold for Childhood Cancer Awareness and spread the word. Check out http://www.EraseKidCancer.org for more ways you can help! **

 

 

2018: Like A Phoenix From The Ashes.

“And just as the Phoenix rose from the ashes, she too will rise. Returning from the flames, clothed in nothing but her strength, more beautiful than ever before.” – Shannen Heartzs

 
A year can change a lot of things. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s so true. Over the last year I’ve learned so much about myself, my true inner self.

The journey has been tough over the last 27 years, but this past year has been the most revealing yet. I learned that although I appear confident, I struggle with self-doubt, which is something that’s hard for me to admit.

In 2017 I realized that I’ve been in denial about my insecurities. I was always outgoing and involved in group activities growing up. I figured that because I was so extroverted that meant I was confident which was completely false.

The last 365 days of my life have been full of struggles, highs, lows and incredible growth. Although the pain wasn’t fun it ultimately lead me to where I am now, a place of understanding and self-love.

I struggled tremendously with my anxiety, depression and loneliness in 2017. I felt like I’d never get through some of my paralyzing panic attacks, some of the worst I’d ever had in my life. I thought there was no way I could learn to manage my anxiety, but I’m getting more control every day.

Loneliness struck me really hard this year. I thought that I’d at least be in a relationship if not already married at this point in my life. The pressure and expectations of society also didn’t help. The notion that you’re “supposed” to get married young and start a family did nothing but turn my loneliness into depression.

Let’s be clear, I’m completely happy with my life just the way it is, but if someone who’s single tells you they don’t yearn for a companion in life they’re lying. As human beings we just want to be loved and understood. We want a partner with us in this crazy journey called life.

While loneliness still hits me in waves, I’ve learned to focus on my many blessings. This has allowed me to get through the hard times, the moments of unrelenting sadness and heartache. It’s crazy how concentrating on the positive can truly combat depression.

Over the past year, I figured out exactly what qualities I’m looking for in a future husband. I’ve always jumped somewhat blindly into relationships so it felt good to write down traits that I truly wanted in someone. Now I feel more prepared for the next person God decides to bring into my life.

Speaking of God, 2017 was an incredible year of getting closer to the Lord. I was raised Baptist but always hated feeling like I had a label or that I had to worship God a certain way. So I decided to branch out and found a non-denominational church that I really love.

It felt good to get back that bond I’d once had with Jesus. It’s sad to say but sometimes our minds blame God for certain things that happen because we can’t see their meaning at the time. I was one of those people, and in return I ended up losing that close relationship we’d once had. It feels so good to have it back.

Throughout the last year I also learned the importance of quality over quantity in my friendships. I lost a lot of friends, but I also strengthened my relationships with those who were deserving of the title. I found out the distinction of “friend” vs. “acquaintance” and applied it.

Yet through all of the many revelations in 2017, none were more important than the reality of how much I’d grown as a person. I found out more about myself than I ever thought possible. I sat down, looked in the mirror and truly evaluated my life.

It was extremely scary being so vulnerable, but it was exactly what I’d been needing to do. We get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we never really stop to just look at ourselves and who were are as a person. We take so much for granted and forget to make ourselves a priority.

I started working on myself a few years ago when I decided to start seeing a therapist after going through a really hard time. The beginning was scary, and opening up to a stranger was the most terrifying thing I’d ever done. I didn’t want anyone else to see my many insecurities and flaws.

Nevertheless, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. This one simple step catapulted me on a journey of self discovery that I’ve been continuing since that day. For some reason, 2017 was the most revealing thus far. The past year brought up emotions and struggles within myself that I didn’t even know existed.

I did a lot of belittling and criticizing to myself this year, and that makes me really sad. I always preach self-love and appreciation yet I was doing the complete opposite. I had voices in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t doing enough with my life, and I started to believe them…but not anymore.

This new year is a chance for a renewal of spirit and mind. It’s a clean slate just waiting for an epic story to be written, and I plan to take full advantage of that. This year is about building myself up instead of tearing myself down. It’s about prioritizing myself and doing some real work on my soul.

In 2018 I’ll be kinder to myself and follow my passions. I’ll quit making excuses and chase my dreams head on. I have so many things I want to do in this life, and there’s nothing stopping me but myself (and that goes for everyone). I’ll go on more adventures and stop letting fear hold me back from my purpose.

In 2018 I’ll be courageous, fierce and unwavering. I’ll set goals, and I’ll crush them one by one. And like a phoenix from the ashes I’ll rise up stronger, braver and with utter determination.

I’ll let my rebirth be total and complete. No remnants of self-doubt or sabotage will be allowed to enter my purified soul. I’ll take this fresh start and use it wisely. I won’t fall for the tricks of my past for they no longer have a hold on me. I’m as free as a bird and you better believe I’m going to fly.

So bring it on 2018, I’m ready for you.

 

XOXO,
Myka Shantell💋

I Didn’t Think It Would Be This Way.

“One day she finally grasped that unexpected things were always going to happen in life. And with that, she realized the only control she had was how she chose to handle them. So, she made the decision to survive using courage, humor and grace. She was the Queen of her own life and the choice was hers.” – Kathy Kinney

 

I didn’t think it’d be this way. I never thought life could get so messy, so confusing, so out of control. I’d done everything in my power to live the “perfect” life. I’d gone to school, gotten straight A’s, participated in activities, went to church and tried to be a good human.

Yet it never felt like enough.

I thought all of my good deeds and careful choices would spare me of the heartache and pain that seemed to fill this ugly world. I thought my kind heart and gentle soul could keep me from sorrow, but I was wrong.

I didn’t think it’d be this way. I never thought I’d lose my best friend at such a tender age or experience a gut wrenching break up with an ex that would leave me feeling paralyzed. However, I intimately learned the saying “love hurts.”

I never thought I’d hang out with the wrong crowd or do things behind my parents’ backs like some typical rebellious teen. I thought I was better than that. Yet I partied and made bad decisions sometimes for no good reason at all.

I never thought I’d struggle so heavily with anxiety and depression as a teenager. I didn’t think I’d battle with self confidence or self love either. On the outside I appeared so confident, so in control, but on the inside I was drowning.

I could’ve never imagined the struggles I’d face in college. The sleepless nights, the drunken disagreements and feeling like I might not make it through nursing school. I remember asking myself what the hell I was doing putting myself in these risky predicaments…

Yet I could never bear to hear the truthful answer to those questions.

I never thought I’d be so cruel to myself. I truly was my own worst enemy. I never thought I’d look in the mirror and be hateful to the reflection staring back at me. Despite all the good things I’d done in the world, I was never good enough in my own mind.

I never knew I’d be single into my latter 20’s. I figured I’d follow the pattern of my hometown and be married with children by 24 years old. I thought I’d grow old in my tiny Texas town and never leave. I thought that was the only life I could live.

I never knew I’d be given such opportunities by simply moving away from home. I didn’t know I would find so much happiness in recreating myself…new town, new me. I had never realized just how claustrophobic I felt in that place.

I never realized realize how much I missed out on by giving in to my fears. I was terrified to start over away from my family, and with this fear came tons of missed opportunities. I’d never comprehended how much my wings were bound until I broke away and flew.

I didn’t think life would be this way. I never thought I’d have moments of complete emptiness, moments when breathing seemed like an unimaginable task. I didn’t know that anxiety would be something I’d deal with my entire life, a problem that I could never permanently fix.

I didn’t think it would be this way. I thought I could get through life without ever losing a family member. I thought they’d all meet my future spouse, attend my wedding, and hold my future children while we shared stories around the table…and then my Grandpa passed away.

Yet another dream crushed.

I never thought I’d experience the rollercoaster effect of feeling so lonely while also feeling happiness. I never thought it was possible to find joy in the pain and light in the sorrow. I never thought I’d be one to feel weak and alone.

While I didn’t think life would be this way, I’m extremely pleased and grateful at how my life has played out. While I didn’t understand the struggles and grief in the past, I’m beginning to understand them now.

I now see that through pain and heartache comes growth. I realize that losing someone makes you hold onto others a little tighter. It forces you to realize the amazing people you have in your life and reminds you to never take them for granted.

Through heartache we learn to love again. We find that our heart can repair itself and become even stronger than before. We may put up a wall, but it allows us to see who is willing to break it down to be in our lives. It teaches us that our hearts are indestructible.

While I didn’t think life would be this way, each and every experience has made me who I am today. Each trail and tribulation has shaped me into the kind yet wise soul that I am now. While I still try to find the best in others, I’m no longer naive to those who try to hurt me.

I’m stronger than ever before, full of scars but also full of wisdom.

Life really does have a funny way of working out. While things that try to break us may hurt like hell in the moment, their meaning ultimately comes full circle in God’s timing. We don’t understand the pain we initially feel, but later on we often see its purpose.

And while I didn’t think life would be this way, I’m forever grateful for this crazy life I’ve been given. I’m truly thankful for every high and every low, every victory and every defeat. Now I know that although life’s struggles might knock me down, they will not keep me there.

Our lives are our own, and the choice is always ours. Will you choose to dwell on your shortcomings and grieve what you thought life would be, or will you choose to rise each morning with a grateful heart and a fierce perseverance? The choice is ultimately yours…

 

XOXO,
Myka Shantell 💋

Your Death Gave Me Life.

“There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this, and after this…” – Unknown

 

It amazes me that 12 years have passed since that tragic day. I still remember every single detail in my mind. I remember spending that hot Summer day with my (then) boyfriend, simply enjoying the beautiful weather.

I remember my Mother answering the phone and the look of sheer terror in her eyes as she approached me. I remember feeling like something was horribly wrong but not being able to figure out what it was.

I remember hearing those words, “Jacob has passed away in an accident” and immediately falling to the floor. I remember feeling completely numb and overcome with grief. How was a 14 year old teenager suppose to understand the magnitude of what had happened?

I kept telling myself “get it together,” but all I could manage to do was crawl to the bathroom on my hands and knees. I couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, couldn’t function. I was in such shock at what I’d been told. We were kids. We were suppose to live forever not die a few weeks before our Freshman year of High School.

I remember laying on the bathroom floor for what seemed like eternity. My family continuously tried to comfort me, but nothing could take away the immense pain I felt. My best friend was gone, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

I remember picking up the phone and calling all of my friends. Each phone call ended the same, in heartache and grief. None of us could understand why God chose you, why you had to be the one to leave us.

I remember bits and pieces of the following days. Our school was encouraging everyone to see the counselors they provided to help us “process our grief,” but I refused. Instead, I decided to work through things on my own, a process that I’m still working on to this day.

I remember going to the funeral home to visit you one last time. Walking through that door is an image forever burned in my mind. I remember seeing your hat, the one you always wore, sticking up a little bit as I walked down the isle to you. It was a strange relief to know you’d be buried wearing something you loved so much.

I remember seeing your face, so peaceful, as if you were merely sleeping. I kept praying I’d wake up from this terrible nightmare, but I never did. I took a moment and placed your “friends” necklace in your hand. To this day I still have the matching “best” necklace that I wear to remember you.

I remember writing a poem for your funeral, determined to write the best poem ever. I remember walking in to the auditorium, my final chance to say goodbye to you. There were so many people there because you were so incredibly loved.

Each of us took an orange rose (our school color), and one by one we placed the roses in your casket. I stayed strong the entire time until I got up to read your poem. Suddenly, the fact that I’d never see you again hit me like a ton of bricks. Somehow I managed to get through it.

We placed you gently in the ground at your burial and took a moment to grieve together. I never knew that walking away from that cemetery would change everything. I never knew that your death would ultimately give me life.

I’m sure many of you are confused by that statement, but hear me out. Losing Jacob truly showed me how precious life is. It taught me that our teenage thoughts were completely wrong, we weren’t invincible after all.

Experiencing the death of a best friend at such a vulnerable, tender age made me appreciate the small things. I took my time and friendship with you for granted in so many ways. To this day, I try my hardest to be a good friend and value those around me.

Your death encouraged me to fiercely pursue music. The last time we were together you were teaching me the guitar so I vowed to continue on that path. I went on to write many songs about you and how you changed my life.

Your death increased my desire to take care of others and lead me to care for the sick and dying as a nurse. It gave me the courage to hold the hand of someone passing into the afterlife. It gave me the strength to support their family in such a trying time because I knew what it felt like to lose a loved one.

Your death put my faith to the test, but it ultimately strengthened my relationship with God. In the months following, I was so angry that He took you from me too soon. Yet, over the years I began to realize that we each have a purpose, and I guess you had already completed yours in a short time.

Your death made me create closer bonds to the people in my life. I learned that no one lives forever and tomorrow may never come. I learned to love hard in all relationships. I learned to move forward in life with an open heart and to accept people for who they are.

I learned that although being a good person doesn’t make you invincible, it does make you memorable. Not only were you incredibly good at everything you did, but you always had a smile on your face…a smile that was contagious and unforgettable.

Your death taught me to be the light that this world so desperately needs. It taught me to count my blessings instead of my shortcomings. It taught me to give back to others and expect nothing in return. It encouraged me to carry on your legacy of making the world a better place.

So while you were taken from this world 12 years ago, your legacy remains alive and well. On this day each year, I hear stories and see posts about you. Even after all this time we still miss you, we still think about you, and we still remember the beautiful person you were.

While this day never gets easier, it does continue to enlighten me. Each year I’m amazed at the discovery of another emotion, another layer of my feelings towards your death. I’m amazed by the fact that time continues to pass so quickly. I guess the process of healing is truly never ending.

I’ll never fully understand why you had to leave us, and although I can’t comprehend your passing, I’ll forever cherish your life. I’ll cherish all of the many wonderful memories we made and the best friend I was fortunate to have, if only for 14 years.

I know there will still be days ahead full of sadness, tears and pain because true heartache never fully goes away. However, I want to say “thank you” for inspiring me to be the person I am today. Your death gave me life. Keep watching over me my guardian angel…until we meet again.

 

XOXO,
Myka Shantell 💋

 

 

*RIP – Jacob Aaron Skinner
(September 21, 1990 – July 25, 2005)

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The Unfortunate Ones.

“It’s time to distance yourself from the people who let you down, the inconsistent ones. it’s time to start loving yourself.” – Billy Chapata

 
I hate to tell you this, but you are the unfortunate ones. If you play any part in my life, I must apologize in advance. I apologize for the person you will be dealing with, the person who has changed so much over the last few years.

I apologize because you will no longer see the weak and innocent soul that once consumed this body, the girl who would do anything for anyone without a second thought.

Now, I’m not saying this generosity has been permanently removed from my DNA. I’m merely no longer naive to the ulterior motives that now seem to drive the human race. I no longer turn a blind eye to the harshness and cruelty in the world.

There was a point in my life where I would turn away from things that broke my soul…child abuse, animal torture, violence, broken hearts, etc. Yet, I discovered that those terrible things happen whether I like it or not.

Leaning to accept this uncomfortable fact allowed me to accept many things about myself as well. I learned to stop making excuses for people who hurt me time and time again. I learned to cut people out of my life that wanted to use me for what I had to offer.

Ultimately, I learned to accept the fact that the world is a cruel place filled with a human population that is overrun with sin, abuse, manipulation and negativity. I hated giving in to this reality, but as I looked back on my life I realized it too was full of unpleasant moments and memories.

Upon this realization I decided to make multiple changes in my life. I started cutting out those who had done me wrong (on numerous occasions). I started separating myself from things that didn’t bring me joy or positivity. I ran from people and things that caused me heartache.

Now, I am by no means a perfect person (I’m far from it to be honest), but I try to live a positive life by being the best person I can be. I pride myself on being a Nurse and Humanitarian, giving back to those who need it most. I try my hardest to make a positive impact in the world.

Yet, I’ve found too often that many people seem to only be looking out for themselves. Their selfish nature not only feeds their ego, but it causes them to hurt others emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically.

I’m grateful to have never experienced the latter, but mental and emotional trauma can sometimes be just as damaging.

Going back to the beginning, I must say “sorry” to everyone in my life. Unfortunately from now on you will have the realistic me, the one who doesn’t fantasize about fairytale happy endings and white picket fences.

You no longer have the girl who is willing to give and give and give with nothing in return, to be trampled on without saying a word. There is no longer a quiet soul who finds an excuse for every bad thing that happens in life. Screw that.

There will always be good and bad people in this world. There will always be heartbreak, cruelty, disappointments and sadness. I’m completely aware of this. However, in this day and age we are able to decide what kind of life we want to live.

We are in control of our own destinies, living in a world full of endless possibility. We have the freedom to move to a new city, start a new job, create our own company and include people who truly matter to us in our lives. We are no longer pinned down by our pasts or backgrounds.

In 2017, we are able to be whoever we want to be, to create a fulfilling life full of love and happiness. We are able to choose our friends, our spouse and ultimately our futures. Unfortunately, so many people will never take advantage of this fact.

I, however, will take full advantage of my choices from now on. I will be extremely selective about who is allowed in my inner circle. I will keep the thick walls up around my heart until I find the right one who is willing to patiently break them down.

I will look for people who have similar goals and aspirations, who long to make the world a better place. I will cut people out of my life without remorse if they continue to do me wrong. I’m not playing games anymore, and neither should you.

This world is full of people (7,500,000,000 to be exact) so why let a mere few take away your joy? Why let one pesky person bring you down? If someone doesn’t love you for who you are then let them go. If someone can’t understand or accept your anxiety or issues then say goodbye.

Gone are the days of compromising ourselves for those who don’t care and the times of giving ourselves to others who won’t do the same in return. We all deserve love, understanding, happiness and a fulfilling life so why let others hold us back from that?

So again, I say “sorry” to the unfortunate ones, the ones who have recently come into my life or those who have stuck by me since day one. My core values remain unchanged, but my mind has a whole new outlook.

There is heartache from the past, but the future seems so bright. I’ll no longer simply allow things to happen to me. I understand that we cannot predict the future, but I’ll now control the impact I allow those events to have in my life…and I hope you’ll do the same.

 

XOXO,
Myka Shantell 💋

Always Remember.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese

 

Some days you’re going to feel like giving up, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You’ll feel like that weight is crushing you and that you no longer have the strength to stand tall.

You’ll have moments where you doubt every single decision you make, constantly wondering if you made the right choice. You’ll doubt your self-worth, abilities and who you are as a person.

No matter how great life is going there will always be moments of darkness, moments when the storm seems like it’ll never pass. The winds will howl, the rain will beat down and you’ll begin to wonder, “Why me?”

You’ll have days when you view the world as a blank canvas full of opportunities. You’ll set out for adventures and begin to learn that this enormous planet is full of more beauty than you ever imagined.

You’ll find a refreshing sense of peace while escaping the every day routine of life. You’ll explore places you’ve only read about in books, and while you’re gone you’ll feel on top of the world. Yet, when you return you may feel a sense of sadness, for the joy of adventure has faded and the mundane routine has returned.

You may fall in love, a love that turns your world into rainbows and sunshine. Eventually, however, you may find that love can quickly turn to heartbreak, and that pain may flip your world upside down.

You may start to once again doubt yourself. You may question why you were even put on this Earth if only to experience heartache and pain. You may question your relationship with God, wondering why He chose you to walk such a tough path.

You may lose a friend or loved one tragically and begin to question life itself. You may feel like you’ll never be able to overcome the grief and pain you feel. Death is such a permanent thing, and you’ll never know why they had to leave.

In this life, you’ll undoubtably experience heartache and happiness. You’ll have moments of debilitating weakness and tremendous strength. At moments, you’ll question the purpose of life, but other times you’ll admire its unfailing beauty.

There will be times when you may cry yourself to sleep, unsure of what the future holds and anxious about the times ahead. There will be moments of unexplainable joy, happiness and accomplishments. Life may start to feel like a rollercoaster of emotions with alternating highs and lows.

Yet in those moments of doubt, fear and pain I hope you always remember this…

Always remember that your mistakes do not define you, and your past does not dictate your future. Remember that in times of struggle you are never alone and that the pain won’t last forever.

When you’re feeling broken, wounded and unsure remember to reach out to those around you. Look for guidance and reassurance from those who love you most. Never stop relying on your friends and family because they will help you through even the toughest of times.

Remember to cherish your time with loved ones because nothing is guaranteed. Tell them and show them how much you love them. We never realize how much someone means until they’re gone, and regret is a horrible thing to live with.

Always remember that this life is what you make it. If you don’t like how your life is you ALWAYS have the capability to change it. Change is scary but so is living an unfulfilled life. Don’t wait until it’s too late to live the life you deserve.

Always remember to give love another chance. Our hearts have this amazing way of healing themselves even after they’ve been torn to shreds. Don’t let the wrong person from your past defer you from the right person in your present. Give love a second chance.

Remember to guard your heart, for from it everything flows. Be willing to allow someone to break down the walls you built from previous heartache, but don’t give your love too freely. The right person will be patient and willing to remove the bricks one by one.

Always remember to learn from your mistakes and to take a leap of faith. Nothing good comes from playing it safe. Even if you fail, you tried…and in the end that’s what matters. If you fall, always get back up. Nothing in this world can keep us down unless we let it.

Always remember to put yourself first. It may seem selfish, but you should always be your first priority. You deserve the love and attention you so freely give. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. You can’t pour from an empty glass.

When anxiety begins to consume you and the darkness closes in, always remember to fight. You deserve to be here, to take up space on this Earth. If you have trouble staying strong for yourself, remember those who love you. They need you more than you know.

Always remember to allow room for change. You may not see the purpose in it right away, but God has a much bigger plan for our lives than we can even imagine. Sometimes change leads us to the things we always wanted but were too afraid to try.

Always remember to chase your dreams. Nothing in this world is impossible, it’s all about mind over matter. If you really want something you will make it happen. Even if it takes a while, continue to fight for your goals. With fierce determination comes success.

Remember to do what you can to help others because you never know when the roles may be reversed. This world is full of people seeking love, acceptance and support…be the person willing to freely give those things. The small act of giving goes such a long way.

Lastly, always remember to be yourself. There is only one of you in the world, and that is your super power. We were each put on this Earth for a reason so never stop searching for your purpose. Make your mark on the world, and it may just leave an everlasting impression on others.

 

XOXO,
Myka Shantell 💋

Residual Feelings. 

“I plant roots so deeply in the people I love that I always lose a piece of myself when they go.” – Beau Taplin

Residual feelings…those pesky little pieces of the ones we loved that are left inside of us after they break our hearts. You’d think someone completely ripping your heart out and stomping on it would be enough to get rid of any feelings you once felt for them, but unfortunately that’s not how we humans operate.

No matter what kind of messy breakup we go through or how hurt we’ve been, we’ll always have that tiny, microscopic part of us that cares…even though we probably won’t admit it.

We like to pretend that once a relationship is over we can just move on without a second thought. We go out with our friends, throw ourselves on a dating app and search for the next one, all the while pretending that we no longer care.

Sure we may think we’re fooling our family or friends with the masks we put on each morning, the ones that make the world think we’re totally fine, but we’re so wrong. People, especially those close to us, recognize this behavior and know that it’s all just an act.

Why do we try to pretend like we’re indestructible, like our feelings are made of stone? We put all this pressure on ourselves to immediately get over the gut-wrenching pain we feel. We punish ourselves for having emotions, for feeling the loss of someone we thought we had a future with. Why?

What we often don’t tell ourselves is that it is okay to cry, to lash out, to feel pain. It’s okay to scream into our pillows or burn pictures of memories we once cherished. It’s okay to to be vulnerable, lost and sad.

Some days we may lay on the bedroom floor, unable to move or think. We may live on auto-pilot for a while or even cut ourselves off from the world. We may wallow in self-pity and overanalyze the situation, wondering what went wrong and how we failed.

However, eventually the days begin to turn into weeks, and it starts getting a little more tolerable to wake up each morning. It get’s a little easier to climb out of bed and face the world, if only for a few hours. We start to remember how we were before our world came tumbling down, before our lives were completely shaken.

After a while, the weeks become months, and we turn off our auto-pilot mode. We start to reach out to family and friends, the ones we cut off during that devastating time. We begin to genuinely smile and venture out of our cave that we kept ourselves in.

We begin to see that the sun still shines and that, while time seemed to be standing still the past few months, the world has kept on moving. We start to feel hopeful and optimistic about life, and we realize that we now have a chance to start brand new.

At some point, maybe months or even years, we find the walls around our heart starting to slowly come down. We feel the ice start to melt from our wounded soul, and we notice the pieces have magically been put back together. We find that our heartbreak was only temporary, and the pain we once felt so deeply has slowly faded.

In this process we learn to heal, we learn that not even the toughest heartaches can break us. We feel empowered, invincible and ready to take on the world. If we can get through this, nothing can stand in our way.

And then one day we meet someone new. We start to have feelings we weren’t sure we’d ever experience again. Those butterflies that were dead and gone have suddenly reappeared. After years of being dormant, our cheeks become flushed and our hearts begin to race.

We start the process of falling in love all over again, but this time is different. This time we know the signs to look for, we know what we deserve and what we will and will not tolerate. We know our worth and that our happiness is a priority. No more putting our needs on the back burner for someone else. This is our chance to get it right.

Throughout the process of exploring new love, we think about the heartache we encountered last time. We think about that person that once made us so happy yet broke us at the same time. We begin to feel things that we’d buried deep inside, things that we thought we were over.

We once again start to punish ourselves for having residual feelings, but the truth is those feelings are completely normal. When we truly love someone, a piece of them stays with us forever. At some point in our lives we’d put our hearts and souls into another. Love that deep never fully goes away.

Honestly, residual feelings can be a good thing. Through all the tears and hurt and devastation, we learned a lesson. We learned that we can fully love another. We learned our self worth and how resilient we truly are. We learned that we’re human and that even the strongest people break down.

This is all part of the process, even the lingering feelings. We must first grieve before we can ever even think of moving on, and even after moving on we can’t expect ourselves to act like it never happened. It did happen. The smiles, the tears, the happiness, the pain…it was all real.

As time goes by, the memories and pain fade into the distance. They become a mere blur of the past, and we learn to move forward in life. We learn to love again. We learn to forgive ourselves and others for the pain we’ve endured. We start to accept that those leftover feelings are okay, that we’re allowed to have them.

And in this moment of acceptance, we are truly freed from the pain and heartache of the past. Our residual feelings blend into our souls, and with our new love by our side we learn that this is the new us…the capable, loving, strong, deserving person we were always meant to be.

 

XOXO,
Myka Shantell 💋