Laura has been on a journey to find true happiness her whole life.
She’s originally from Romania, where natural beauty and mountain views create a picturesque backdrop for everyday life—a stark contrast to the way she was feeling inside.
Laura, an engineer by trade, had begun to experience concerns with her mental health. But in her home country, mental health was not widely talked about and seeking support was considered taboo. For years, she struggled alone and in silence. She knows now that she was facing obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression, though she didn’t have the language for it at the time.
When Laura moved to Canada, her degree wasn’t accredited, so she had to retrain to continue her career. She returned to university, but this proved to be a trigger for deepening mental health problems. As a self-described perfectionist, Laura put so much pressure on herself to perform in school that she experienced depression over her grades, even though she was an A student.
“Every night, I was going to bed praying that I would not wake up the next day,” Laura says. “But even when my depression was at its worst, I knew there must be a different life.”
During her studies, and over time, Laura gained new perspective. She knew there was a stigma around mental health that needed to be broken down.
“I was able to understand that dealing with a mental health challenge is not a sign of weakness, or not being smart enough, or not working hard enough,” she says. “It’s okay to not be okay.”
This was a turning point. Laura started to reach out for help. She tried individual counselling, but that presented its own difficulties—her desire to please and be “perfect” prevented her from opening up and receiving the support she needed. But she didn’t give up.
Laura enrolled in a United Way-supported program in Calgary that offers resources for people experiencing mental health challenges. By going through classes and connecting with peer supporters with lived experience, she was able to learn healthier coping strategies and embark on a road to recovery.
Today, Laura is in a much better place. She knows mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of—that recovery is possible and there is hope for a better, happier life. At one point, she thought being perfect would bring happiness, but now she knows the truth: “Happiness comes from inside, from acceptance of yourself and compassion to yourself.”
Photo courtesy Brett Gilmour.