It’s Not Me, It’s You.

“If your heart hurts a little after letting go of someone, that’s okay. It just means that your feelings were genuine. No one likes ends. And no one likes pain. But sometimes, we have to put things that were once good to an end after they turn toxic to our wellbeing. Not every new beginning is meant to last forever. And not every person who walks into your life is meant to stay.” – Najwa Zebian

 

Everything was going so perfect, so right, and then one day everything changed as fast as a flash of lightening. What in the hell happened? What did I do wrong?

All I ever did was try to be the best person I could be, to love without fear, to let go of every lie that my anxiety constantly told me. I tried to be better, I tried to finally let down my walls.

Yet, nothing was good enough, and the end result was once again the same.

Many of us have experienced this all too real feeling of heartbreak and disappointment. Unfortunately, it seems like most of us are forced to go through it more than once in life.

Anxiety will always try to tell us that the heartbreaks and struggles in our lives were our own fault. If only we’d been better, prettier, stronger, more … anything, then this wouldn’t have happened.

It sends us down into a rabbit hole of darkness and self-doubt (a very scary place to be). Once we’ve fallen, it’s nearly impossible to find our way back out.

We spend hours, days and weeks trying to figure out how things could’ve been different. We search for every possible clue that could point us to some sort of resolution and closure for the pain we’re enduring, though we never seem to find it.

Anxiety will always make us feel like the failure in the situation no matter what, even when we had absolutely nothing to do with the decisions that others made.

All of this, in turn, results in weeks and even months of questioning our worth, criticizing ourselves and hitting rock bottom. We can’t understand what happened, and we get angry when we realize we can’t fix it.

You can’t change someone’s mind when the decision had nothing to do with you.

So instead of simply letting go, moving on and doing the whole “I know my worth” thing, we harp on every single detail of the past. We over-analyze every memory until we’ve gotten ourselves back into that dark place.

I totally understand this relentless cycle because I’ve been there many times before. Yet, today I generated a new perspective of heartbreak and negative situations.

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU.

This is my new mantra. Screw the stupid anxious thoughts in our heads that make us put the blame on ourselves. We did absolutely nothing wrong. The way others treat us is only a reflection of themselves, not us.

If something was meant to be, it would work out without question or doubt. I don’t know about you, but I have no more time for bullshit.

Words are now merely words, it’s all about actions.

I don’t want to hear, “You’re seriously amazing, I just need to figure things out” or “you are the best thing that’s happened to me it’s just not going to work” or whatever other cheesy movie lines can be thrown at me. Forget that BS.

If someone really means the world to you, you do everything and anything to keep them.

Anyone who tries to tell you that it’s just not the right time or maybe things will work out in the future, leave them behind because they are making excuses. They’re trying to let you down easy so that they won’t have to feel so bad about breaking your heart.

I’m here to tell you that each of you are warriors. We all face invisible battles every single day, and somehow we still show up. Each day we put one foot in front of the other and make it through.

We rarely receive sympathy or understanding from others because if the world can’t physically see it, it’s as if it doesn’t exist (aka Mental Health Disorders). If only people knew the inner struggle we battle every day.

But back to my point.

Ladies and gentleman, never let someone’s decision to turn their back on you or leave you behind define you. Don’t let it send you down that dark rabbit hole like it has in the past.

The older we get and the longer we deal with a mental health disorder, the stronger we become. Have faith in yourself. Love yourself as deeply as you love others. Look in the mirror and realize that you are a diamond.

You’ve been through tough things, and yet here you are still standing. If someone can’t see your worth and all that you bring to the table then let them go. If they’re willing to release you and risk losing you forever then tell them “goodbye.”

With anxiety, when we love we love hard. When we drop down our guards, it’s a huge deal to us. When we fall, we fall completely. This is both our greatest strength and our biggest weakness.

One day that person who left you behind will realize their mistake. They’ll see that they let go of someone who understands the struggle, someone who would’ve supported them no matter what.

They’ll look back with regret of losing someone with unwavering strength, loyalty and undying love. But by that time, it’ll be too late.

Once you’ve shown an Anxious Mind your true colors their trust is forever broken. Not saying it can’t be earned back, but boy is that a tall mountain to climb.

My dear Anxious Minds, please always remember your worth. When people let you down (and unfortunately they will) never forget that the darkness is only temporary.

The sun will shine again.

You will heal, you’ll become stronger and eventually you’ll find that one person who will never turn away. You’ll find the one who will love you unconditionally and never make you doubt yourself again.

This person will hold sacred every milestone that you reach together. They’ll do everything in their power to keep you, to be your safe place from the monsters in your head and to show you a life of love that you truly deserve.

Hang in there my friends, and remember it’s not you it’s them.

 

XOXO,

Myka Shantell đź’‹

An Anchor In The Storm.

“Life has a way of testing our anchors and tempting us to drift. Nevertheless, if our anchors are correctly placed in the right hands they will hold. No matter the force of the wind, the strength of the tide or the height of the waves.” – Anonymous

 

If there’s one thing I’m sure of as a person who struggles with an Anxiety Disorder, it’s that life is full of storms. A lot of times, out of the blue, life decides to throw a kink in our plans and completely throw us off course.

Now, change is difficult for everyone in some way. Yet, dealing with change and a Mental Health Disorder can seem unbelievably scary and damn near impossible most of the time.

You see, as anxious individuals we love to plan. We thrive on the idea that we constantly have some control over our lives (totally not true, but it’s how our minds work). Therefor, when something destroys our carefully thought out plans, we panic.

We simply don’t know how to process it.

I recently experienced this exact situation where everything was going so perfect and then…BOOM, out of nowhere things took a completely different, unforeseen path.

And you can bet your ass I did nothing but panic for 4 days straight.

One of the most frustrating things about Generalized Anxiety Disorder is you have rational and irrational thoughts simultaneously. You know what you should be thinking or feeling, but your emotions are the complete opposite.

No matter how many times I say my mantras or meditate or journal or deep breath, this situation of change and uncertainty scares the shit out of me. It’s an uncontrollable, irrational fear that becomes consuming if you don’t get a grip.

I often get asked, “how do you make it through those times of mass chaos and uncontrollable change?” Honestly, it’s my anchors.

Now, anchors can be seen as a positive or negative. Sometimes your past can become like an anchor, dragging you down to the bottom. However, in Mental Health Disorders they  also represent those who make you feel steady in times of chaos and confusion.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on my 12 year journey with anxiety is that surrounding yourself with people who truly love, support and care for you is the most important thing you can do.

While your friends or family may not understand exactly what you’re going through, just their mere support, listening ears and comforting arms can make all the difference in the world, especially when dealing with the waves of change.

I’ve been beyond blessed to have 3 solid anchors my entire life: My Mother, Father and Sister. They’ve been right there with me as I’ve struggled with the highs and lows, ups and downs of my Anxiety Disorder for the past 12 years.

I’ve called them at 3am during an anxiety attack, and I never had to wonder if they would answer. They’ve held my hand as I cried, laid beside me doing absolutely nothing and have celebrated every single thing I’ve achieved in life.

They are my anchors on which I am able to steady myself in the raging storms of life.

These 3 are my people.

They’re my safe place when things get too tough or life becomes too overwhelming. They are the rock on which I have built a foundation of never ending trust and respect. They protect me from the cruel and invalid lies that my anxiety places in my head.

These 3 saints have never judged me or made me feel less than extraordinary. I’ve received constant reassurance and guidance without biased opinions, mockery or pity.

When the seas get rough, they never waiver or drift. When I think I’m going crazy, they’re right beside me to tell me that everything will be okay.

It’s also been extremely nice to add a couple of friends to my list of anchors as well. We are continually building that trusting relationship that is free of any doubt or insecurity. It feels good to add more people to the tribe.

I honestly hope to continue expanding my circle to include my future partner and may another friend or two someday, but all things come to fruition at the perfect time.

If you struggle with a Mental Health Disorder, I seriously encourage you to find these people in your life (if you haven’t already). Surround yourself with a handful of individuals that you can undeniably count on.

Anxiety will always be a wolf in sheeps clothing. It will always try to make you think that it’s doing you a favor by preparing you for the worst case scenarios when really all it’s doing is taking us out of the present moment and stealing our joy.

Learn to build a bridge of trust with your anchors so that you can open up to them without fear or regret. Holding everything inside will do nothing but allow anxiety to consume you and take you away from the beautiful life you deserve.

With each passing day and each trial you make it through, you’ll begin to have more confidence in your ability/yourself and give less power to that anxious monster inside your head.

And when the waves start getting rocky and the storms of life appear out of nowhere, remember you are not alone. Find your anchors, hold on tight and watch the storms of this life pass you by.

 

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’‹

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! **

 

 

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’‹

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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How My Pain Brought Me Closer To God.

“Many times when God isn’t changing your circumstances it’s because He’s mostly concerned with changing YOU within the circumstance. Your character, your inner strength, your integrity matter to Him because they are everlasting qualities. The wisdom, the strength and the maturity that grows within you are all things you’re going to need to sustain the calling God has on your life. Know that there is purpose in your pain.” – Brittney Moses

 

I’d like to think that I possess a lot of good qualities, but one of my biggest flaws is patience. I’m probably the least patient person you’ll ever meet thanks to my anxious mind and never ending search for perfection. While I completely love this amazing journey I get to call my life, I’m always looking for the next milestone to occur (a mindset I work to fix every day).

One of the many downfalls of having anxiety is that it always causes you to look to the future instead of enjoying the present. Anxiety tells us that we must plan for things to come and never focus on what’s right in front of us. As annoying as this is, it’s a really hard habit to break.

Something I’ve yearned for in life is to get married and start a family. As I look back on my life, I’m incredibly grateful that God didn’t allow that to happen with my previous relationships because I would’ve been completely miserable (I guess He does know what He’s doing after all). So many times I questioned Him and wanted to know when my turn would come.

After a few heartbreaks (especially the last one) I started to doubt God’s plan. I thought I’d finally found “the one,” but my heart was merely shattered yet again. My doubts started to turn into frustration, and before I knew it I began to resent God. All I could feel was pain and defeat.

After that breakup I began acting like a toddler, thinking that God owed me a happily ever after. I stopped reading my Bible, stopped attending church and quit praying. I felt like if God wasn’t going to give me my happy ending then He didn’t deserve my time or praise. Looking back now I see how ridiculous I was being, but in the moment my heart was shattered.

I tried the whole “I-can-do-it-on-my-own” thing for a few months, thinking that nothing would ever change and that I was doomed in the love department. I started to live life on auto pilot, merely going through the motions to get me to the next day. I figured that maybe I just wasn’t meant to find that immense love I’d always wanted so much.

During this time of rebellion, I was extremely conflicted. I’ve always felt like God has a big plan for my life, a plan that I can’t even fathom. While I wanted to believe that, even during this rough time, I wouldn’t allow myself to. I began to question if I had fabricated that feeling of a big purpose in my childhood, and needless to say I was seriously confused.

A few weeks went by after my Earth shattering breakup, and I decided I wanted to do something I’d never done before. I wanted to go out on a limb and surprise my own damn self but wondered what I could do.

One random night as I was sitting in bed, I opened my computer and started looking for nursing jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I’d always told myself I’d never move away from Wichita Falls because it was home, and I told myself I wouldn’t be able to make it on my own.

However, despite my doubts, I started searching the website. One of the first things I found was a listing for a hospital I’d wanted to work at my entire life. Although I felt completely under qualified, I decided to apply (what’s the worst that could happen, right?). At that point in my life, I was just throwing out a line to see if there was even a sliver of hope at happiness.

Long story short, a few days later I received a phone call to come in for an interview. My mind was blown! I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. A week later I was in Fort Worth, TX interviewing for my dream job, and I got hired on the spot! Two weeks later, I packed my bags and left behind the only home I’d ever known.

Once I got settled in Fort Worth, I began to reevaluate my prior suspicions. I felt like everything that happened in those few weeks were only made possible by God. Although I was still full of pain, I began to realize that I’d been blaming the wrong person. God has always and will always only want the best for me.

I used to tell myself all the time that it’s all part of God’s plan, but I don’t think I ever truly meant it. Words are only words until we give them significance. The icy shell I’d put around my heart started to melt, and I began to realize just how big of a fool I’d been. God had been with me all along, even while my back was turned to him.

Over the next year, the pain I’d been holding on to started to turn into gratitude. I was so thankful God had put me through all of those hard times because it pushed me to take the leap of faith that I would’ve never taken on my own. I was thankful that God hadn’t allowed things to work out with my ex because I never would’ve known true happiness.

As I look back on my journey of the past two years, I’m simply amazed at all of the personal, spiritual and emotional growth I’ve experienced. I thought I was a good person back then, but I never took the time to work on myself or to find my self worth. I’d been naive to the fact that God’s plan was bigger than staying in my hometown.

While I’ve made quite a bit of progress, I still have a lot of work to do. Now, each and every day I’m striving to be the best Nurse, Daughter, Friend, Sister, Human and Christian that I can be. Sometimes that means being uncomfortable and feeling pain. Sometimes it means enduring losses and going through things that I don’t quite understand.

I’ve learned that instead of getting angry about not understanding, it’s my job to trust that God has it under control. Instead of letting pain take over, I simply pray for patience and peace. Instead of being upset about not having a husband or family, I understand that it’s only because I haven’t met the right one yet.

I now have no doubt that God has a big plan for my life, and although I don’t know that plan quite yet I have full faith that it will be magnificent. They say that God’s plan is bigger than our imaginations can even fathom. So instead of trying to figure out what that plan may be, I’m sitting back and enjoying the journey…God’s got this under control.

 

XOXO,
Myka Shantell 💋