Getting to Know Nika
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m Nika. I’m 22. I’ve dedicated my social media career to talking about mental health, emotional healing, and just living a healthier, happier and more conscious life.
What are your preferred pronouns?
Any interesting facts about you?
People usually think I’m American but I’ve actually never been there! I was born and raised in Slovenia.
Nika’s Mental Health Story
Are there any turning points in your life where you didn’t feel the best with your mental health?
The turning point in my life was when I started experiencing hallucination. I was dealing with anxiety and depression beforehand for a few years, but I’d never gone to a therapist or anything so at the time I was really confused, but I felt something was wrong.
Looking back, it makes sense. I didn’t know some of the things going on in my childhood and in my family weren’t necessarily normal just because it was all that I knew.
And I never really expressed my emotions. I grew up thinking something was wrong with me anytime I expressed anything and someone had a problem with it. So, I internalised all of that and everything kind of just piled up over the first 14, 15 years of my life.
It started with small hallucinations and then snowballed, I was suicidal and harming myself. One of the hallucinations I had was this scary man that was always holding a knife. I’d see him pretty much every day and I’d have panic attacks.
It was like I can’t tell anyone about this because, in my mind, if I tell them he’s going to do something to them.
I was struggling by myself and when I was 15, I experienced a full-blown psychotic episode.
I was in gym class when all of a sudden I saw this man again. I started having a panic attack, which usually I could kind of hide it but this time, I was shaking and couldn’t talk to anyone.
My gym teacher talked to me and I told her what I was experiencing. So she called my dad. And that’s kind of how the whole thing started.
At what point did you seek help?
I don’t feel like there was one… The psychiatrist I was seeing at that time, I felt comfortable with her so she was like the first person that I felt understood me and didn’t make me feel bad for what I was experiencing.
Because when I was younger and anytime I got sick or anything bad happened, I’d get told I was only doing it for attention. When something huge happens, you’re like they’re going to think I’m doing it for attention.
My psychiatrist was the first person who made me feel valid, but it took her awhile to explain to me that everything happening was not my fault.
When I experienced the psychotic episodes, I just wanted some help. And I think the timing worked out really well – when I was kind of forced to see her I was ready, I wanted to make a difference.
I think this is where I’m really lucky, that I’ve always had this knowing that I’m going to live a happier life. So it was like, I’m here, I’m going to take advantage of the help.
I started exploring my childhood and everything with my psychiatrist and I finally felt being understood. And so I was in the right place at the right time.
Are there any breaking points that also prompted you to want to make a change?
Another breaking point for me was my psychiatrist recommended me to go to a mental health hospital.
She wanted to make sure I had the right diagnosis so she could get me the right medication. And it was probably the worst experience of my life.
The first day that I was there, I cried for like five hours. It was very traumatic and intense. You were surrounded with people who were going through the same stuff and the psychiatrists there were horrible. I don’t understand how they think that’d help anyone because it didn’t help me in any way.
And so when I got out of there, I was like, I’m going to do whatever it takes to change and get better because I never ever want to come back here.
Better Me, Better Life
What support systems have you had? How have they helped you? Any support system you wish you had?
I think anyone going through something like that wishes people around them would understand. And that was pretty hard for me.
People would either understand and then try to shield me, treating me like I’m a little child that needs to be taken care of.
And then there were people in my family that just didn’t know how to handle it, and would make me feel worse for it.
I also lost a lot of friends when I went to the mental health hospital. So, my psychiatrist was probably the biggest help to me. I don’t know where I’d be without her.
There were also YouTube and certain books that really helped me, but they’re not really a support system.
Obviously, the fact that I didn’t really have a good support system wasn’t the best, but it didn’t affect me that much because I was so determined and motivated.
How would you encourage those don’t feel comfortable opening up?
I think the best thing to do, if you can afford it, is to go to therapy groups or see a psychologist/psychiatrist. Because then you’re with people who’re in the same place and it’s a safe place where you can express that.
I’d recommend everyone to start there because most of the therapists are good at making you feel what you’re experiencing is valid. I think that’s usually why we’re afraid to speak up, because you don’t know why you have this problem or how other people would react.
Other than that, the internet could be great too. That was a part of my support system too, to share my story online. You can find people who make you feel seen and understood, and feel like okay, I’m not the only one experiencing this.
Something that I wish someone would’ve told me was: you can get over this. I felt like a lot of the time when people have depression or anxiety, they’re like I’m going to have for the rest of my life.
You absolutely don’t. Like I don’t have it anymore. If I can get through this, anyone can. That’s definitely something that I wish I’d have heard because when you’re in it, it’s hard to find that light.
Nika’s Wellbeing Recipe
What does mental health wellness mean or look like to you?
For me, I think mental health wellness is something everyone should pay attention to; it goes way beyond a diagnosis.
Being emotionally and mentally healthy is when you can process your emotions in a healthy way and let yourself feel them. You’re able to express them and share them with people who you feel comfortable and safe with.
It’s also about setting boundaries and having a good relationship with yourself. Because self-love and self-care is a consistent practice, you need to nurture it just like any relationship.
I just started seeing a psychologist five months ago because I missed having someone professional helping me out. Because it’s hard to be objective when it’s you [going through the issues] and so even though I don’t have any diagnosis now, I like going to him because I still have problems.
We all have traumas and issues from our past that come up to the surface time to time. They don’t stop when you don’t have the diagnosis anymore.
Could you walk us through your daily self-care routine that helps with your mental health?
Having a routine and scheduling it in your self-care time is so important. I, for example, have a set morning routine. After I wake up, I’d do a 10,15-minute yoga to kind of stretch out. Sometimes I’d do a short, guided meditation.
And I like journaling because it helps me process everything. It’s a way to check in with myself.
When I first started seeing my psychologist, she asked how I was feeling and I literally just sat there because I couldn’t answer her. I suppressed my feelings for so long I was completely out of touch. I just knew I was miserable and that was it.
She then started teaching me to observe my body. And I realised the only emotions I had were anger, which I thought I’d never felt, and sadness, which I thought I’d always felt.
She told me when I start feeling a bit off, I can do a few deep breaths, close my eyes, and just check in with my body. And that was how I started learning about my emotions.
I also write gratitude lists. I really like the exercise of writing down what you love about yourself and your talents or strengths. It starts off your day on a good note.
Also crying is amazing. I used to never cry. Now, I’d cry a few times a week when I feel like crying. I let out those emotions and it really helps me.
A Note to You Who’re Reading
Could you offer us a final word of wisdom to our readers who are struggling with their mental health wellness?
You can do it a thousand percent. This is not the end for you. This is not how you’re going to be for the rest of your life. You need to start believe that because I can tell you you can do it, and you’re not alone.
There’s nothing wrong with you. And when you accept yourself, which is a slow process, everything will start to change.
And be gentle with yourself, treat yourself like a parent would with a child. How would you want your parent to take care of you and that’s how you need to take care of yourself?
Even having a photo of yourself when you’re a child with you all the time. So when you feel upset, you can look at it and be like this little girl deserves that treatment, so why don’t you as well?
Where can I find you?