Our journey with Buddy Check for Jesse started a year ago. It was one moment in time, one talk in the hockey dressing room, one game with green tape…and it changed the entire course of my son’s and my life.
If you haven’t read about our first experience with Buddy Check, please CLICK HERE and read that article first (I swear, it’s a good one).
Quick background: My son has been battling panic attacks since grade two. Thankfully we had an amazing teaching (forever grateful to Shaye Sanford) who identified his behaviour and asked if maybe, perhaps, have you ever wondered: “do you think he may have anxiety?”.
From there we battled. We met with counsellors, got on waitlists, were told he wasn’t “sick enough” yet. For years. His panic attacks worsened. They lengthened and they became more frequent. My son, fairly open about his anxiety, always asked me to talk to his coaches and let them know what was happening and what they could do.
So, I always have. We are brutally open about his anxiety and his panic attacks. It scares some people, but I figure…get over it and learn how to help. It’s not about you, it’s about illness and my son and how you can help coach a child who may need to be coached with understanding…so let me help you support my son.
Our coach last year was the best coach ever in the history of all coaches. His Buddy Check talk in the dressing room – about how to support one another, how to reach out, what to look for – was the best ever. He spoke about mental health challenges and how to be a safe place for your friends and family. Me? I was a weeping wreck as I listened…because this was the first time EVER I’d heard a coach talk about mental illness and how to support someone…let alone in a stinky hockey dressing room.
It was freakin’ incredible.
That moment changed our lives. From that moment, I had more courage to talk about my son’s battles. I received more support from the parents. My son received more support and understanding from his teammates. And, he continued to open up and talk, talk, talk about his mental illness.
His anxiety led to depression and although he spoke about his anxiety, he continued to battle…hard. He experienced 5-7 panic attacks that lasted 2-3 hours every week. He battled. And that, well now…that will fatigue a nervous system and eventually, it led to depression.
Finally “sick enough”, we managed to get him in to see a psychiatrist and he was officially diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses.
As he fought to recover from his illnesses, he began to focus on how to further educate about mental illness, how to further help people understand to not fear what he has to go through…and his focus went to Buddy Check for Jesse. He loves everything Stu Gershman created in loving memory of his son, Jesse Short-Gershman.
He raised $2500 for Buddy Check this year and continues to raise money through the sales of his t-shirts and hoodies (more info on how to support that HERE).
But, Buddy Check didn’t just help my son. It helped our entire family. Buddy Check was the platform that my son was able to stand on and have a purpose. He claims that Buddy Check is 25% of his life. It means that much to him and he continues to raise awareness for it.
For me…I used to quietly battle on my own, but since Buddy Check, I know I have a support system. I continue to educate…and frustratingly, sometimes my words fall on deaf ears, but I will continue to force the issue.
Buddy Check opened conversations in our family. It opened doorways to healing. It opened acceptance to lean. It opened a willingness to take a breath, accept what is, battle stronger and recover quicker.
You’re asking…seriously…one little speech in one little dressing room by one coach did all that? And I can, 100%, say yes. Yes, it did.
Last year, Buddy Check for Jesse packages were given to about 200 teams. This year, they were able to provide packages to over 1100 teams. CAN YOU IMAGINE the impact they are having right now? The Buddy Check for Jesse weekend wrapped up last weekend and it was a sea of green at most of the Bantam and PeeWee teams across BC, as well as some other province, per their request. There were also some Atom teams involved, as well!.
Stu – you’ve become a dear friend of mine and I am so honoured to help spread the good work you’re doing in any way, shape or form that I can. What you and your family have had to endure is heart-breaking and I cry with you. But, I also fight. I fight beside you and I will help bring this incredible initiative to the masses.
Because, Stu…you saved my family in more ways than you could ever possibly imagine. I am not alone. My son is recovering. We all have a purpose. And it is ALL because of green tape and short talk in a stinky hockey dressing room.
Jesse, I didn’t have the honour of meeting you but you are locked in my heart forever. I will support your family to spread the work and education that is being done in your memory as best I can. You mean a great deal to me and my family – and for that I will push and fight and battle for you.
#BuddyCheckforJesse – thank you.
For for more information on Buddy Check for Jesse, please go to www.buddycheckforjess.com.
To purchase one of Owen’s “Anxiety” hoodies or t-shirts, please CLICK HERE.