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¬†ūüíč

 

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 Shantellūüíč

 

 

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 Shantellūüíč

 

Anxious, Anxious Remedy.

ANXIETY ATTACKS: Intense feelings of fear, doom, foreboding, and gloom; a sudden urgency to escape, run away, or get out; the fear that you may lose control of your thoughts and actions; dizziness; nausea and vomiting; a feeling like you might pass out; trembling or shakiness; weakness; difficulty breathing; pounding or racing heart; hot or cold flashes; chest pain; hands and feet may feel numb; you may be lightheaded or woozy; irrational thoughts, and a number of other physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms.”

“What exactly is anxiety? What does it actually feel like?” These are the questions I get asked the most, and honestly I don’t have a perfect answer. Anxiety comes in many different forms. Some people struggle secretly on a daily basis. Others, like myself, have physical symptoms that can be extremely scary.

When I begin to experience¬†an anxiety attack the first symptom I notice¬†is heart palpitations. I’m an RN so this is really scary¬†for me because I go from 0 to 100 real quick. This was especially scary before I truly understood my anxiety.

I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety in 2007 at 17 years old. At the time I thought it was a phase, just typical struggles of a high school student with way to much stress. However, the older I got the more I began to realize that anxiety is very real.

I experienced a lot¬†of small attacks during high school, but again I brushed them off. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I endured¬†my worst attack to date.

I was sitting in one of my nursing classes with 40 other students. I was listening to the lecture when all of the sudden my heart began to race uncontrollably. I tried to quietly calm myself down, but after 2 minutes I could tell something was wrong.

I sat my head down on my desk because I began to feel like I was going to pass out. My friend looked over and asked if I was okay and told me¬†I was looking pale. I couldn’t even respond to her because my mouth couldn’t form words.

I finally stood up and walked out of the classroom. Everyone was staring at me (including the teacher), but I didn’t care. I simply knew I had to get out of there. My friend followed me, brought my stuff and called my dad to come pick me up.

My dad immediately raced to the school and took me to the hospital. There they performed a series of tests (EKG’s, ECHO’s, etc). After a few hours they determined I’d experienced an anxiety attack and sent me home with medication.

There are no words to describe how scared I felt that day. If it wasn’t for the support of my family I don’t know what I would’ve done. Since then I’ve only had one other major attack. However, this time I was able to talk myself through it.

After extensively researching and understanding anxiety, I decided to write a poem to document that moment in my life. Writing and music are the best ways I know how to express myself. I thought if just one person could realize that this is an actual disorder, everything I’ve experienced would be worth it.

 

ANXIOUS, ANXIOUS REMEDY

 

“My mind feels like it’s beaten down,¬†My soul feels ripped and torn
My heart is worn and fading fast, My body starts to mourn
My muscles tense and then they quake, My eyes drag to the ground
My mouth can merely utter words,¬†My ears don’t hear a sound
My nose no longer smells the scents, Tears flood my washed out face
My hair is dull and brittle, My thoughts just run in place
My fingers tap the surface, as I sing a frantic tune
A glossy layer coats my face, My brain starts to assume
I feel my stomach rumble, With doubts of every kind
My knees begin to buckle, Both my eyes go blind
My limbs shake uncontrollably, My skin creeps and it crawls
My eyelids start to flutter, I try hard not to fall
The anxiety completes its course, This time I have survived
Yet I always seem to wonder, When it will once again arrive
It doesn’t even matter now,¬†This battle I have won
But the war will carry on for life,¬†The end may never come.”

 

So if someone comes to you battling anxiety, please don’t turn them away. Educate yourself, and help them in any way you can. You would be surprised to learn that simply listening, talking through it, and physically being there for them makes all the difference in the world. Be the¬†rock that they’re needing in that moment.

For those of you who join me in the struggle of anxiety, I say a special prayer for you. I pray peace, love, and healing for your soul. There will be dark days ahead, but remember they’re only for a moment. Don’t let anxiety control your life. Always remember that this is YOUR life, and you are not alone.

XOXO,
Myka Shantellūüíč