When Lindsay Gee’s 10-year-old son, Owen, started having panic attacks in Grade 2, she thought she could handle it.
Over the next few years the panic attacks got worse, eventually turning into a weekly occurrence and then multiple times a week lasting two to three hours every time. Adding to the crisis, Owen, now in Grade 5, was having what he called ‘sad days.’
“He started coming downstairs in the morning and I could see it on his face — his depression mask — it’s your kids face but it’s foggy or grey,” says Gee. “He would say ‘Mommy, my whole body feels sad.’”
That’s when the Langford resident knew she needed to get Owen help, taking him to the mental health clinic, he was put on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist.
Owen had been seeing his school counsellor for years, working on strategies to deal with his anxiety. “But there comes a point where strategies don’t work for a kid with a chemical imbalance.”
Four months on a waiting list was hard for the family and Owen would constantly ask about how much longer it would be before he could get help.
“My son is really self aware, he knew he needed help,” says Gee. “It was daily he would ask if he was off the waiting list. Did I call, did I email — it was everyday.”
Two weeks ago, Owen finally saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and depression. Owen was prescribed medication — brain vitamins, as Gee calls them — and has been taken them for a little over a week. The family haven’t seen any changes as of yet but remain hopeful as this medication usually takes a few weeks to start working.
Owen’s depression isn’t situational, it’s a chemical imbalance, due to the neurological fatigue caused by his anxiety and panic attacks.
“It’s like a virus or a cold so we have to treat that — I wish it was something I could fix,” says Gee.
Doing what she can to help, Gee has created a fundraising campaign called Pushing for Awareness. Encouraging participants to commit to 50 push-ups for 50 days in order to raise awareness, and funds, for childhood mental illness.
When people join the challenge they get access to an app that keeps track of their push ups and gives them their own fundraising page to share with their friends and family. Currently 20 people have committed, but Gee has big goals. She wants to see hundreds of people joining with the goal of raising $5,000 to divide between multiple organizations that support children and families with mental health issues.
“There are going to be days where you don’t want to do the push ups, but there are days where my son doesn’t want to battle mental health,” she says.
The biggest message Gee would like to get across is the parents of children dealing with their mental health.
“You are not alone and you’re not a terrible parent if you feel like you’re failing,” she says. “If you’re loving your child and you’re advocating for them then you’re doing the best you can.”
For now, Owen is relieved to be getting the help he needs and Gee is happy to have her hockey-loving son back.
“He’s an annoying 10-year-old now,” she says. “Which I love.”
For more information on the fundraising campaign or to donate visit fundly.com/50-for-50-pushup-challenge-for-childhood-mental-health-aware-50-for-50-pushups-challenge#
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