When I found United Way, I was suffering from depression and anxiety. Every night, I was going to bed praying that I would not wake up the next day. But even when my depression was at its worst, I knew there must be a different life.
I am originally from Romania and back home we just don’t talk about mental health and seeking support is seen as weakness. For years, I struggled alone and in silence. When I came to Canada, my degree was not accredited, and I had to retrain to continue my career. I am a perfectionist and I put so much pressure on myself to succeed that I lost sight of the harm I was doing to my mental health.
I started looking for a support group for people who were going through what I was going through. But I felt like the services I found were a little bit disempowering. They were only talking about my weaknesses. Yes, I have depression and I have anxiety, but I’m not the label and I think I’m capable of being much more.
The approach at the United Way funded agency was so different. Those classes are facilitated by people with lived experience. I felt like they were saying, ‘I know what you’re going through. I’m not here to teach you a lesson. I’m here to tell you that you can find your way back.’
My ‘aha moment’ came during one of the classes. One day, I was listening to someone’s story, and they were sharing their feelings of worthlessness. But I was like, ‘How can you think are worthless. You are such a wonderful person!’ I didn’t verbalize that; I thought it. But then I realized, maybe I’m just like this person. I’m beating myself instead of looking at the other side.
Going through United Way-supported classes showed me how powerful it could be to navigate your challenges. Mental health is not something that you achieve and then you forget it—it’s something that you have to maintain.
Today, I am in a much better place. I know that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. Recovery is possible and there is hope for a better, happier life.