Today Is Tough.

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” – Unknown

 

Today I just needed to cry. I woke up with an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and separation. Being a 29 year old single woman who lives alone has been really hard in a time like this. Add to it that I’m a Registered Nurse, and the emotions and feelings of anxiety double, triple … hell they’re in a league all their own.

I’m usually a pretty grateful person. I do a gratitude journal every morning along with my Bible study and a few other things. I drink my coffee and thank God for the multitude of blessings He’s given me. I have so much to be thankful for and very little to complain about.

Yet, here I find myself in my living room floor crying because I’m so overwhelmed with life right now. It’s the most normal chaos I’ve ever experienced. Nothing outside is crazy, everything is actually quiet and still. There’s very few cars or people anywhere you look.

You’d think that this solitude would be a nice change from the normal hustle and bustle of living in a big city, a city that is usually full of life, but really all I feel when I look at my quiet, docile city is depression.

The world is a crazy place right now.

Never in my lifetime did I think I would see something as unprecedented as this Coronavirus Pandemic. I’m an Infectious Disease RN at a hospital so when this all started I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so hysterical. I thought, “man if only people could see the type of diseases I treat everyday, they wouldn’t be so scared of this COVID-19.”

But, not long after that I understood the chaos and panic.

Little by little I started seeing new statistics and information about what was happening in the rest of the world, and I quickly realized why they were so scared. To be completely honest, it’s not the virus that’s the monster in my mind, it’s the social isolation that has felt extremely crippling to my mental health.

Everyone who struggles with mental health has a certain way of coping with it because we know our disorder will never completely go away. So instead of living in fear of our anxiety and/or depression, we learn to adapt our lives to it.

For some of us, this means taking a lot of “me” time where we can stay away from crowds and chaos. For others, that means being around family and friends in social situations where we don’t have to listen to the constant chatter in our heads.

This is me, this is my strategy for dealing with my disorder.

Yet, when this new virus finally hit, the option to get out of the house and socialize was taken away from me. I fully understand the reasoning and purpose of the shelter in place order, and I’ve abided by it. Having said that, one of the biggest triggers for my anxiety is having my options taken away.

When I feel like my freedom has been compromised in any way, I lose my shit. As Americans we’re given so many luxuries like planning our days and (most of the time) doing what our hearts desire. We can eat where we want, go to the gym, get our hair done, hang out with friends, go to sporting events … anything and everything is at our fingertips.

When those choices are taken away, I feel helpless and stuck.

I never truly realized how privileged I was until everything was shut down and taken away. I’ve been taking advantage of the wonderful country I call home, and now I honestly realize how blessed I am to live in America. I now genuinely understand why so many people want to be here, it’s the land of freedom and opportunity.

Recently I’ve seen friends losing their jobs, people struggling severely with their mental health, businesses hanging on by a thread and the world trying its best to adapt to this temporary new way of life. There’s no way we will ever be the same after this.

So, life has been a constant inner battle for me.

The Nurse in me says, “You have to be strong. You have to be an example to all of those you care about, those with less medical knowledge, because they’re scared. You can’t show weakness or others may start to panic.”

The anxious human in me says, “is this ever going to end? I’m so tired of being locked up. I’m starting to feel claustrophobic. I can’t make it one more day in this house. Why do they keep extending the date? If I don’t get out of here I’m going to lose it. I can’t do this much longer” … and on and on and on.

Every day that I wake up, I thank God for another opportunity to live this beautiful life, a privilege not all are given (there goes the Nurse in me again.) I also prepare for a mental battle, the realist vs the anxious. I prepare myself for the never ending chatter that will undoubtedly fill my mind most of the day.

I have no doubt that things will get better. We are a strong and united nation. Our country was built on resilience and has overcome every obstacle thrown its way thus far. The real question is, “How long will this quarantine last? When will life go back to normal?”

The realistic answer is, I don’t think it will go back to how it was. I believe we will come out of this situation with a new normal, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I imagine a lot of people will have a sense of gratitude that they never had before (including me). I think that businesses will thrive, and we will be a little more inclined to help our neighbors.

I truly believe so much good will come out of this. Once the storm passes, we will see our lives in a whole new light. We’ll be thankful that we have a job to go to, that we can hug our family and friends, that we can once again plan our days as we wish.

I trust that those of us struggling with our mental health will once again restore the balance in our minds, and I pray that all of these positive predictions will come true …

But for now, today is tough.

 

 

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 Shantellđź’‹

It’s Not The Darkness That Scares Me.

“I don’t know what it’s like to not have deep emotions, even when I feel nothing, I feel it completely.” – A. R. Asher

As a child we’re told scary stories about monsters that lurk in the darkness. We sleep with a nightlight and hide our heads under the covers, afraid of what may be hiding in the shadows.

At such a tender age, monsters seem to be the most frightening things we could ever imagine. It’s not until we become adults that the real terror reveals itself to us.

You see, it’s not the darkness that scares me. Instead it’s my never-ending thoughts of worry and the paralyzing numbness that haunt my body, my mind and my soul.

It seems like every time I’ve almost gotten myself out of that dark place, anxiety pulls me right back in. The darkness doesn’t scare me. If anything it gives me a sense of solitude from my own messed up mind.

What seems to affect me the most is not the freedom that comes from reaching the light at the end of that tunnel nor the dark tunnel that precedes it. It’s the never ending struggle, the tug of war feeling, that I’m forced to live through every day.

You see, having Generalized Anxiety Disorder means fighting a constant, daily battle. Most people can’t fully comprehend this, and I’m happy that they don’t understand. That just means they’ve fortunately evaded a frustrating, lifelong journey of obstacles.

Having a Mental Health Disorder is like wearing a ball and chain. Those who deal with these diseases can seem “normal” and act like everything’s perfect, but in reality we’re being mentally hindered by our own minds.

Sure, I can overcome my disorder from time to time, and I’ve even learned to somewhat manage it. Yet, in the long run it comes back to find me again and again. There is no escape.

While dealing with constant anxiety is tough enough, I also struggle with my faith in love, humanity and sometimes even God. I try to wait patiently for the things that I know God has planned for me, but my anxiety tears me down.

It points out how all of my friends have moved on with their lives to have successful careers, significant others and children, events and playdates. Each time I reach out to someone they’re unavailable because they’re busy with their own lives.

This is all completely normal in the evolution of life, but when I feel like I’m getting left behind it allows my anxiety to take over. It causes me to lose faith, to feel numb to the world around me. It causes me to slowly lose hope.

The worst part of it all is that I try my hardest to shut down my negative thoughts, to listen to the light within my heart, to be the bright, radiant person that I know I am.

Nevertheless, the dark silence is louder than the positive whispers in my ear, and in this moment right now, my disorder is winning.

It’s the most frustrating feeling to fight an invisible, daily battle that no one else can see. I can try to explain it to others, but they’ll never truly understand the struggle and pain that I go through.

While the darkness in my mind can be scary, it’s the numbness that I occasionally feel that truly terrifies me. I’m not talking about “my foot fell asleep” sensation. I’m talking about the “I’m here but I don’t feel like I’m even present in my own body” type of feeling.

It’s hard to describe, but when I get in that mode I’m essentially a zombie. I go through the motions of everyday life, but I’m not actually present. My mind is a million miles away, and my body is a mere vessel.

Those moments terrify me the most because they make it difficult to recover. Each time I fall into a paralytic mental state, I find it harder and harder to make my way back to reality.

It get’s tough because those moments are the only moments where I’m truly free from my mind. I have no thoughts, no worries, just complete serenity. However, I always find that those times are usually followed by depression … another enemy of mine.

I constantly battle with myself, knowing what I should be doing but hardly having the strength to power through my anxious thoughts. Then comes the anger. I get so mad that I can’t just “fix” myself. It’s a never ending roller coaster of emotions.

So you see, the darkness doesn’t scare me anymore. It’s the monsters lurking in my mind that truly terrify me, trying to convince me everyday to give in to the sadness, depression, anxiety and fear.

For now, I’ve once again defeated their attempts, but for the rest of my life I’ll have to fight this never-ending battle.

No matter how long and tough the journey may be, I’ll forever strive to reach the light at the end of that tunnel because I am stronger than my disorder.

The battle will rage on until the monsters give up, the numbness disappears and the light is the only thing I see.

XOXO,

Myka Shantellđź’‹

Mental Illness: Disorder NOT Decision.

“Anxiety is the most silently painful experience. It makes no sense and you sit there alone and suffer for an unknown reason. You can’t explain it, and you can’t stop it. It merely is.” – Anonymous

 

How could you think I want to feel this way? Do you think the never ending fear and dread is something I look forward to each day? You say I do it for attention, that I’m making it all up. How dare you.

You don’t believe me when I tell you my heart is pounding so fast that I feel like I’m having a heart attack. You scoff when I say I’m dizzy, scared and confused which only makes me feel worse.

I tell you I have anxiety, and you act like you don’t believe me. I open up to you about what I go through, and instead of helping you laugh. I’m glad you think this is funny because I feel like I’m dying.

You’ll never understand the fatigue that comes along with being in a constant state of fight-or-flight. You think I’m lazy when really my mind has been running a marathon. You can’t see my suffering so you don’t believe that it’s there, but trust me it’s there.

When I tell you I’m feeling anxious you tell me to “get over it” because “everyone has anxiety.” I try to explain to you that this is different, but you don’t want to hear it. You mock me and leave never realizing that you’ve completely shattered me.

You get frustrated with me because I tell you that I can’t get out of bed. You call me pathetic and worthless then walk out of the room. Little do you know that I’m paralyzed by my mental illness, and every time I wake up I’m forced to fight another battle.

You get mad and tell me I’m a terrible friend because I cancelled plans with you. You say you’re never hanging out with me again because I’m a flake. Unbeknownst to you I’m sitting on my bathroom floor crying uncontrollably for no reason, unable to move.

I try to tell you I’m sorry and that I’ll make it up to you, but you say you don’t want to hear my excuses. You curse under your breath and hang up on me not knowing that your hatred just sent me over the edge.

Not only do you hate me, but now I hate myself. I take every single word you said to heart and start telling myself how worthless I am. I repeat your harsh words over and over until they’re stuck in my mind, and then I start believing them.

After a while, I somehow find the strength to pull myself out of the darkness. I begin to have a social life and finally start to feel like a normal person. You ask me on a date, and I say yes with pure excitement.

You pick me up, and we go to dinner. We start talking about ourselves, and I decide to bring up my anxiety. Instantly your face changes, and you shut down. You take me home and tell me that you just can’t deal with my disorder. Then I never hear from you again.

Never will you realize that you’re a perfect example of why I gave up on love in the first place. I start telling myself how stupid I was to think anyone could ever love me, and you send me straight back to that dark place in my mind.

I fill my days with mindless TV and junk food just looking for something to ease the pain. I do anything I can to numb the overwhelming feelings and emotions because, despite what you think, I don’t want to feel them.

You say you’re finally ready to try and understand my anxiety disorder. You apologize for all the things you said and tell me you didn’t mean them. You sit me down and ask me to tell you what’s going on, but yet again I disappoint you.

I wish I could tell you what’s going on in my mind, but I can’t even explain it to myself. I tell you as much as I can, and when I look over at you you’re crying. You finally start to see exactly what I’m going through, and it breaks your heart.

We sit together in silence, crying and hugging each other. I finally feel somewhat understood and loved, something I haven’t felt in a long time. The biggest weight is lifted from my shoulders when you tell me I’m not alone. You’ll never know how good that feels.

With every day that passes I start to feel a little stronger, and the sun slowly starts to brighten my dark place. For the first time in a long time I begin to think that just maybe I can live a happy life despite my anxiety.

Mental illness is a disorder not a decision. No one asks for this curse, and sadly some don’t survive it. No one that suffers with these disorders did anything to deserve them. They were merely woven into our DNA.

Because there is no cure all we, who suffer from these conditions, can do is learn to live with them by taking it one day at a time. We have to surround ourselves with those who are patient with us and love us despite our flaws.

Support is critical to those of us who are dealing with these issues. We’re our biggest critics and therefor we don’t need anyone in our lives that will add to our already overwhelming negativity. If you aren’t here to help us then leave.

Although mental illness is not a decision, it is up to us to fight for our happiness. We can’t let our disorder consume us or dictate what kind of life we live. Ultimately, we control our minds.

So when the darkness starts creeping in, hold on to this…you are not your disorder, and you are not alone. The sun will shine again and when it does, it will be beautiful.

XOXO,

Myka Shantellđź’‹

 

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 clichĂ©, 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 Shantellđź’‹

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)

62387_10200877846133308_1919816184_n

 

Dear Anxiety: An Intimate Letter

“And sometimes it hits me out of nowhere, all of the sudden, this overwhelming sadness rushes over me. And I get discouraged and I get upset and I feel hopeless, sad, and hurt. And once again I feel numb to the world.” – Anonymous

 

Dear Anxiety,

I thought I had you under control. I thought I’d found the magic potion that made you disappear forever. I always knew you’d be lurking in the shadows just waiting for your opportunity to consume me again, but I thought I’d found the shield to defend myself against your unwanted presence…I was wrong.

I woke up Friday morning and automatically knew something felt off. I’d had this uneasy feeling before, but I thought it was just a fluke so I went about my day. The day was okay, nothing special, but I could feel your presence stalking me from a distance. I thought that by ignoring you I could make you disappear.

I continued on into the night trying to hold it together, trying to act like you weren’t there. I started to feel you drain my soul and emotions out of me a little at a time like a leach. I tried to stop it, I tried to keep your darkness from creeping in and taking over, but my efforts were futile.

I went to bed at a decent time that night, merely trying to fall asleep before you could tear me apart. In that I succeeded.

However, Saturday morning when I woke I found you to be in control. From the moment I woke up I knew I didn’t stand a chance. I tried to complete my morning routine of gratitude, meditation and prayer, but everything I did only made things worse.

I told myself I wouldn’t shed a tear, that I wouldn’t give you that satisfaction of seeing me broken. I tried with all my might to keep my emotions buried deep down, someplace that you wouldn’t find them. Yet, once again you won.

I spent half of the day crying for no reason, and I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so depressed. It’d been a long time since I’d felt these overwhelming emotions. I hated feeling so vulnerable, but I knew you were loving the sight of me in pieces. I hate you beyond words for that.

I cried nonstop for hours  for no reason at all. For feeling so empty, I was full of so many tears. After a while my sadness turned to frustration, and I lost my cool. I was literally having an inner battle all because of you. You lit the match and watched the fire burn.

I was struggling to turn off my anxious mind. All I wanted was a minute of silence from the continuous irrational fight going on in my brain. It was like having an angel and devil on my shoulders that wouldn’t shut up. I just wanted peace and quiet, but you wouldn’t give me that.

I tried to continue on with my daily routine, but my frustration started boiling over and before I knew it I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think (rationally) and couldn’t function. I sat there in a daze, afraid to breath. That was the worst feeling in the world, losing control to you.

An hour went by before I was able to move, but it felt like forever. When I finally stood, my body felt so heavy that I found it hard to walk. That was the weight of you and all of your misery on my shoulders. You felt like a ton of bricks.

I finally walked over to my purse and grabbed my medication. At that point I was desperate to get away from you, if only for a little while. I took my pill and a few minutes later all of your stupid, ridiculous, pointless, annoying noise went away. I finally found my moment of silence.

I knew your absence would be short lived so I took advantage of the quiet while I could. I made a few calls to my family, unsure if I’d have another opportunity once you returned. You knew I couldn’t function with you around, and you relished in that fact.

I managed to somehow fall asleep that night, and I promised myself tomorrow would be better…it had to be. I couldn’t take another day of you and your misery.

Sunday morning I woke up with a whole new mindset, determined to keep you away. I’d been invited to church by a friend, and I was so excited to have some distraction from your tightening grip.

I went to church and heard the most perfect message. The sermon seemed like it had been written just for me. I was so thankful that God heard my struggles and gave me a sign that He was listening. I started feeling hopeful, and man was it refreshing.

My friend and I went to brunch and had a great time. We talked and laughed for about an hour, and then I headed home. Little did I know you were waiting patiently for my return.

As soon as I walked in my door, your heavy cloud started to dampen my uplifted spirit. I felt you slowly dragging me back into your darkness. I resisted your pull the best that I could. I didn’t let you knock me all the way back down, but my day was definitely ruined.

I once again sat in my living room crying for some unknown reason. My willpower and strength wasn’t enough to keep you away, and I hated myself for that. How could you so easily break my soul? Why was I so defenseless against you?

I decided I’d had enough of you and that I was done letting you control me. I stopped the tears, stood up off my couch, closed my eyes and told you to go away. I had nothing left to give you, nothing left to feel. You’d drained me of everything I had.

Sunday faded into Monday which faded into Tuesday, and eventually I started feeling better. I’d somehow made you crawl back into your eerie cave, at least for now. I prayed you’d never come back out, but I knew that was unlikely.

In those few days you threw every trick in the book at me, and I fell for them all. I tried to stay strong, but you beat me down until I had nothing left. Why did you have to do this to me? Why am I plagued with your darkness?

I know you’re gone, but I also know you’ll be back. Lucky for me your attacks only happen every now and then, but I’m already dreading the next one. No one would even know of your torture if it wasn’t for my willingness to share.

So until our next unfortunate meeting I’ll continue living my life like you don’t exist. I know you’re patiently waiting for me in the shadows, but for now I’ll act like I don’t know you’re there. That’s the only way I’ll be able to live the happy life I deserve. Thanks for the reminder though, I haven’t forgotten your everlasting presence.

With Hate,
Myka Shantell 

 

The thing is we all put on a smile, but you never know what that smile is hiding. We all have pain and struggles, and even those who seem happy have demons they fight. I live a beautiful, happy life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments (or even days) of weakness and vulnerability.

My point in writing this is to show everyone what anxiety looks like at its worst. I decided to snap the pictures of myself above so that people could SEE what it does to a person, even one who has a wonderful life.

Sometimes we can feel its eerie presence among us, and other times it’s sprung on us out of the blue. I feel fortunate that I only have to deal with this from time to time, but other people out there aren’t as lucky. 

If you know someone who struggles with anxiety, please be supportive of them. Don’t turn your back or tell them they’re irrational, that only makes things worse. All they need from you is comfort and encouragement. They need to know they aren’t alone.

You don’t have to understand anxiety to be a good friend, we don’t expect you to. However, I hope writing this has given you a brief look into our reality. This is what we deal with, this is what we fear, and unfortunately this fear is permanent. For we always know anxiety is lurking in the shadows, just waiting to strike again.

 

XOXO,

Myka Shantell 💋