Nikyra McCann was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 20 which often left her feeling in a very lonely place — she often felt like nobody was there for her and no one cared. After struggling initially, she would eventually make the decision to not let her mental illness negatively affect her life and began to use her story to help and inspire others through her workshops and motivational speaking.
“I believe that the importance of talking about this – for me – has been healing myself. I believe if I would have kept this in for 10 years, told no one, went in a room and been depressed … that would have just stopped my life. I wouldn’t have been living,” McCann tells Madison365. “So I feel that by talking about it, it brought healing to myself as well as many others.
“So many people have told me, ‘Wow, you know that your story is really helping me!’ Even with some of my news stories, people have reached out to me and say, “Oh, my God. I’m glad to have you during COVID.’ I believe that talking about mental illness is an important part of healing and I think that it should be talked about.”
Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out daily tasks, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. After years of going through therapy, inpatient stays, searching for the right self-care and taking medications, McCann finally said “enough was enough.”
Now, she is a motivational speaker, on the board of directors for NAMI Dane County and the founder and owner of Still Standing Enterprise, which offers therapy through art and music for individuals who encounter a mental illness. McCann specializes in inspirational workshops and seminars pertaining to mental health.
“Thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with a mental illness. I wanted to take my story and my life and inspire others who were going through it also,” she says. “In 2013, I created a film about my life titled ‘Don’t Judge Me’ that was aired at a local theater and it was around then that I started my own business, Still Standing Enterprise.
“There are different aspects to it, but now I’ve mainly been doing the motivational speaking part of everything.”
She also has her own TV Show titled ‘Still Standing’
“I interview a variety of people on the TV show. I speak words of encouragement to uplift everyone,” McCann says.
The COVID pandemic, as McCann previously mentioned, and the resulting economic recession, have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders.
“So many things changed during COVID that it couldn’t help but affect people mental health-wise. For your doctor’s appointments, there were telephone calls and Zooms. It wasn’t in-person and one-on-one anymore … interacting with your doctor. For people with mental illness who may have already felt a bit isolated, COVID really made them feel isolated,” McCann says. “Like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m alone … but now I really feel alone.’ I really don’t feel like I have that connection that I used to have with my health providers, my friends or my family. I’m home all the time.
“That’s why I really wanted to focus more on my business now. I want to do seminars and workshops to really help build us up after COVID for people who have mental illnesses,” she adds.
McCann’s inspirational story and her business have gotten a lot of attention through local news stories and through her appearance on the national show Good Morning America (below).
“I have overcome these obstacles by embracing it,” McCann said in the video. “And knowing that even though I have this and that I’m different, I am still a woman of intelligence. I have overcome these things by praying and speaking and giving life to others.”
McCann explains how the Good Morning America appearance came about.
“I was on my Facebook one day and I saw that I had a message and it was an NBC reporter who saw a video I had done and asked, ‘Is this you?’ She reached out to me and was like, ‘We want to do a story.’ We did it over Zoom and then it aired all over the world on all of their platforms,” McCann remembers. “I’m still in contact with her.”
She’s currently working on a fundraiser for her business, a GoFundMe in which she hopes to raise $6,000.
“Melissa Herriges is helping me with my fundraiser for my business. We’re aiming to raise $6,000 so I can do seminars and workshops throughout the Midwest for my business,” McCann says.
Herriges, the past president of the Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professionals, is spearheading the effort to help McCann help other people.
“Being able to take motivational messages and workshops filled with hope across the Midwest is my mission to help others get through their own battle and the hard time that we’re all facing together,” McCann explains on the GoFundMe page.
She says speaking to large audiences has given her hope and she says she enjoys spreading hope to others who have experienced mental health challenges.
“What I find the most fulfilling about what I do is bringing smiles to people,” she says. “When someone is down and I’m able to see that smile just coming in … it just makes my heart smile. It makes me smile to know that I can bring joy and hope to someone else through what I’ve gone through … through my pain, through my struggle.”