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Nikki Kynard

Nikki Kynard has written songs, DJed all over the world, and has even sung on some of Lil Wayne’s tracks. When she steps offstage, however, she battles intense anxiety, which dates all the way back to her childhood. The musical impresario opens up about the trauma of her youth, the stigma of mental health in the black community, and the personal experiment that changed her life: tree frog medicine.
by Sollis Health

How did you first realize you were suffering from anxiety?

I didn’t recognize it as anxiety. I didn’t really know what was happening, but I knew that my whole life, since childhood, I had been in a constant state of fear and survival. I felt pressure in unpressurized situations, was nervous to speak up during almost every conversation, and my self-esteem suffered because of how inadequate I felt, specifically when socializing. I internalized my emotions and thoughts, which led me to depression and masking that depression with alcohol. I learned a lot about myself in 2017 when I had a residency on a private island for 2.5 months, which sounds incredible, but the glamour wore off quickly. I had to sit with myself, by myself, for long periods of time with no real vice. That’s when I started to go inward and address some of the situations that weighed heavy on my chest. My childhood experiences dealing with sexual assault and abuse; my teenage years—going to school with mostly wealthy families and going home to the ghetto, also being kicked out of high school for having sex before marriage; my adulthood—being raped and shamed for my sexuality. I had been hyper-sexualized my entire life, and I realized how all of these things affected my relationships, how I express myself, and my overall mood. I started to become aware of how my lack of self-worth and fear of being accepted had all turned me into this ball of angst. I understood that in order for me to show up as my true self, I had to love myself, and I wasn’t referring to who I was in response to my traumas. I knew there was a me that was deeper than that, and I badly wanted to find her. That’s when I started my journey to do the work from within, and during that process, I learned I was dealing with anxiety and depression.

“The stigma in the black community regarding mental health is real. Our families have figured out a way to navigate life with every external odd against us, so oftentimes we can’t fathom the thought of something being wrong internally and that we may need professional help.”

What’s been the hardest part? Have there ever been times you’ve tried to get help and haven’t felt heard?

The hardest part was recognizing that I had a problem. I could have drank and partied my way through life. It would have been much easier. It was painful to address that the constant knots in my stomach, stress, worrying, and heart beating out of my chest feeling was no way to live. Although I had no idea what I was going through at the time, I believe there were cries for help in my teenage years. I attempted suicide at 17. My family sort of treated that as something common that teenagers go through, but as I reflect, I know now that it was a cry for help. The stigma in the black community regarding mental health is real. Our families have figured out a way to navigate life with every external odd against us, so oftentimes we can’t fathom the thought of something being wrong internally and that we may need professional help.

How has living with anxiety affected your work (negatively or positively)?

I feel safest at work. I feel like I can express myself and be exactly who I am. Completely untamed and proud of it. I am an absolute badass behind the decks or during any type of performance where there’s a barrier between other humans and me. When I step off the stage and have to have intimate conversations, I revert to that little girl who wasn’t accepted in school because she spoke too black and didn’t get acceptance from her friends in the neighborhood because she spoke too white. I wasn’t as well versed at code-switching as I am now. When I’m on stage, I forget about all of that. That’s when I’m my true self. That girl up there who could care less what anyone thinks, that’s me! I become fearless, funny, entertaining, confident, exciting, sexy, skillful and talented, mindful, courageous, attentive, desirable, and powerful on stage.

What sort of treatments have you tried—from the most basic to the most experimental—and what’s been the most helpful?

I’ve tried everything from meditation and therapy to starting my own monthly event to provide a safe, comfortable, and confidential atmosphere for a highly curated group of women to express themselves— 10 Chairs. Recognizing that you’re not alone in whatever you may be going through is revelatory. The most experimental experience was with Kambo, and I truly believe it changed my life.

Has music helped you deal with your anxiety?

Music is life! I use music to connect with my true self whether that be writing, singing, performing, or listening. It’s the art form that aids me when dealing with whatever life might throw at me, both good and bad.

What have you learned about yourself as you cope with your mental health day in and day out?

I genuinely feel like I can overcome anything. I don’t love all of the traumatic stories I have to tell, but I am extremely proud of my resilience.

If there’s been a silver lining, what would you say it is?

That I can tell my story and raise awareness for mental health conditions to counteract the shame many people struggling with these issues feel. Especially black and brown people!

“I am an absolute badass behind the decks. When I step off the stage and have to have intimate conversations, I revert to that little girl who wasn’t accepted in school because she spoke too black and didn’t get acceptance from her friends in the neighborhood because she spoke too white.”

What do you think is the biggest misconception about anxiety, and what do you wish you could help people understand better?

Anxiety isn’t a real disorder. I’ve heard so many times that all I have to do is think positively, and I wouldn’t feel so anxious. I find that suppressing my anxious thoughts only makes them come back stronger. I believe that everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives, but anxiety disorder involves intense fears that can interfere with a person’s life. It is a very real medical problem.

How can you see Sollis helping you on your health journey?

Sollis offers the ultimate peace of mind. In a crazy world where nothing is guaranteed, it’s great to feel like my health is in good hands.

Any good words to live by?

“Ask for help not because you’re weak but because you want to remain strong.” I read that somewhere, and it stuck.
The views and opinions expressed in this campaign are those of the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sollis Health.
Sollis Health is a 24/7 doctor, private ER and concierge service rolled into one. Whether it’s an emergency or simply to diagnose the symptoms that you typically Google in the middle of the night, our emergency-trained doctors are ready for anything. Interested in becoming a Sollis member?

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