Anik was four years old when she realized she could hear voices.

“Out of fear, I didn’t tell my mom or my grandma,” Anik said. “I was afraid of their reaction; I was afraid of how I’d be treated.”

Eventually, Anik let the truth slip out. But when her mom asked if she was serious, she said no out of fear. It wasn’t until Anik was 25 that she consulted with a doctor. In addition to hearing voices — which she said happens both inside and outside of her head — Anik deals with anxiety and depression.

At 39, Anik said her biggest struggle on a daily basis is to maintain her energy.

“Just to have a nice day where I don’t feel tired or floored,” she said, adding that she experiences insomnia as well. “When I hear things, it happens in association with physical pain.”

Anik recently learned from a support group that a few key ways to help with her condition are to prioritize talking to other people, to play music or, when the voices are too invasive, to speak out loud.

“I would eventually like to work,” Anik said, specifying that she wants to avoid customer service because large groups of people cause her anxiety to flare up.

Anik currently lives in a 3 1/2 apartment in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve with her partner and their kitten, and speaks of her situation warmly.

“The rooms aren’t very big, but we live nicely with the cat,” she said.

The rent is manageable, Anik said, and between her and her partner, they get by. The couple makes calculated decisions with their lifestyle, and when prices for necessities like food increase, they find other places to cut back.

“It’s tight, but at least our cat isn’t missing out on love, food or litter,” she said. “We can’t permit ourselves to have a kid, that’s for sure.”

When money is particularly tight, Anik said she has her mother-in-law to count on.

“When something major happens and we don’t know how to get through it, she offers her help,” Anik said. “She obviously won’t do it every month, but when it’s something major, she’s often ready to give us a hand.”

One of the financial hurdles Anik and her partner had to deal with in the past year was a bedbug infestation.

“It was nightmare-esque,” she said.

They had to get rid of most of their belongings, which they haven’t been able to entirely replace yet. They were able to buy a new mattress, and Anik said her mother-in-law has generously offered to buy them a bed frame for Christmas.

Anik said she will be spending Christmas with her partner and their kitten.

“We’re planning on watching four to five Christmas movies, to take it easy, to relax in the comfort of our home,” she said.

On New Year’s, they’ll celebrate with the rest of their family.

This year, Anik will be one of the thousands of Montrealers in need to receive a $125 cheque from the Montreal Gazette Christmas Fund. The fund helps make the holidays a little easier for those in tough situations.

Anik plans on using most of the money to buy food, and perhaps presents if there’s any left over.

“I just want to say thanks for this gift,” she said, noting that she has received the cheque before during a particularly difficult chapter in her life. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

How to help

To help Anik and others, donate online at Donors can also mail or drop off their contributions at the following address: 2055 Peel St., Suite 700, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1V4

This content was originally published here.