We had the good fortune of connecting with Nikki Opara and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nikki, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
I completed my Bachelors in Psychology at California State University Fullerton. I will be attending grad school to pursue my Masters in Social Work and Mental Health. I hope to use my passion for writing to start public speaking to middle school and high school students about their mental health and to remind them that they are not alone. I always knew that being a Public Speaker would be a primary goal by the end of my career, although what really solidified it for me was when I went back to the high school I graduated from and I spoke on a panel to several high school seniors about life after high school and college. I was able to share the importance of taking care of your mental health and well being. By the end of the panel, I knew that I could see myself giving back to the next generation by writing, working in the mental health field and publicly sharing my experiences and knowledge.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I am the mental health/lifestyle blogger behind the blog Spokenbyher. I started blogging in 2016 in the middle of my transition from community college to a 4 year university. During that waiting period, I did a lot of reflecting on my journey through depression, anxiety, loneliness, friendships etc. I wanted to create a platform where I could not only share my story, but also share the stories of others. Little did I know that this would become a space on the internet where I would meet so many young writers like myself, who are going through mental health challenges as well. This has been so profound for me because from age 12-16 years old I thought I was the only one who felt all the overwhelming emotions and feelings. This is one of the biggest lies our anxiety and depression tells us, that “you are the only one going through this, and no one can possibly understand”.. I wanted to put a stop to that lie. Within my blog I started a series called “The Brave Series” where young men and women have written about their mental health challenges, it has now expanded into a series where not only are people sharing their mental health journey , but so many others have shared about their physical and developmental disabilities as well. This is probably one of the things I am most proud of when it comes to blogging, because this series is aimed at empowering people to not be ashamed of their story. Being a writer has not been an easy road. The topic of Mental illness is still taboo in our society. To bring up Suicide online still feels like I am stepping on eggshells, it is a very sensitive and difficult reality in our society that a lot of people ignore. Unfortunately, the more we ignore hard topics like this, the more people suffer in silence. This is definitely a challenge I had to overcome, understanding that even though it is not trending, doesn’t mean it is not important.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Dimas is a very nice and chill city in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles California. You do not hear of anything crazy happening in San Dimas which I like! If a friend were to come visit I would first take them to the Bonelli Park Trail and we would go on a nice hike. Anyone who knows me well can testify that I love a nice hike or run. Bonelli Trail is a moderate level hike experience and has a beautiful lake to take pictures as well. I would then take my friend to go get breakfast afterwards, we would go to the one and only IHOP of course, I have yet to hear of another place that can top off IHOP’s omelets. I would also introduce a Mexican restaurant called Las Palmas which I have been to several times with friends. Las Palmas has really good quesadillas. Finally, I love Chaparral lanes and having a great night bowling, eating and dancing to fun music.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are two people that come to mind immediately. First, My sister has always been a force of inspiration to me. Her honesty and tough love when it comes to giving me advice in the way I view life and my career has guided me through some of my toughest times. There was a point where I was going to stop blogging for good and I had a simple conversation with her, where she reminded me of the difference I am making. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you of your abilities and talents. I truly believe my passion to want to give back to my community and create something bigger than myself has come from my sister and observing how she tackles everyday with drive and ambition. Another person that comes to mind is a former co worker that I now consider a mentor, Monica. I have had the pleasure of working with Monica within the mental health field. She has not just told me, but has shown me in her actions what faith, confidence and independence can do and I am forever grateful for her wisdom and knowledge.