“In the last year of my business degree, my mom had a heart attack, and I asked her if there was anything she wished she had done. She always wanted to be a sculptor and a painter, so she would have gone back to art school. And I thought, well, I’m at the age where I don’t have a house and kids or anything to worry about, so I quit my job to get my second degree. I ended up taking David’s health psychology class because my mom passed away in 2014… learning about stress, grief and the psychology behind death and loss, I realized there’s no real groundwork for how to cope as a young person who doesn’t fit in the demographic of a small child or an elderly husband or wife with a terminal condition…

That was the first psychology class I had taken after transferring to UBC, and at the time I was just considering leaving school because it was getting too hard dealing with grief. I decided to stay after being connected to Anita and her lab and their work, seeing how I shouldn’t feel guilty that stress is affecting my life, and understanding how I was never equipped with tools going into the situation… whereas now, if I have a friend whose mom or dad is sick, they ask me, well maybe you could try these types of techniques, these studies show this.

When my doctor first said, after my mom passed away, ‘I really think you need to see someone because I think you have PTSD,’ and I thought, ‘No I don’t have that’—I had a subconscious stigma toward mental illness. But PTSD doesn’t have to be the result of a military injury. Specifically what Anita studies is stress and relationships; how the people in your circle really affect or help your stress coping mechanisms. No one teaches you even remotely what is beneficial, and what is ok; no one validates your own emotions and sentiments and how you feel….

This year I wrote the dental entrance exam again. Dental school is kind of a hoop dream. I never really thought I was smart enough to become a dentist, so I went to school for business instead, mostly just assuming I couldn’t get into dental school. Now, because I’ve learned how to better cope with the stresses, it’s like, no, those things might actually be achievable.”