My daughter and her battle with anxiety
When Aileish was in grade eight she started to become really withdrawn. Something's not quite right.
She's naturally a really bubbly person and but really started to change. She didn't want to participate at school or go to any social events. We didn't know if this was just teenage hormones or if there was something going on.
Around the same time, Aileish was being bullied at school through social media and in the playground. The girls at her school were sending her nasty messages and even death threats. And of course she started to get really down. There was so much pressure on her - to deal with school itself and how the other girls were treating her.
When we realised there was something wrong, we spoke to her about it. She's quite good at talking to us and sharing what's going on - but it was her behaviour that alerted us to the fact that something wasn't right.
From there we went to our GP. We went to numerous psychologists and a psychiatrist but nothing was working. Nothing got resolved.
Then the school counsellor suggested that we get in touch with headspace. The counsellor thought that she was suffering from anxiety as she'd stopped taking part in things at school such as public speaking.
So we went to headspace and they were fantastic. Her counsellor, Mel, spoke to her on her level. She really listened to Mel and it was so great to know that she had an appointment with her every week. The headspace centre has a real teenage environment and they communicated with her on her level. Aileish really looked-up to Mel.
At the beginning of all this I felt like I couldn't do anything. Like I was worthless. We did everything we could for our kids - sports, helping them with homework, eating really health - so what were we doing wrong? Aileish's sister started feeling left out too because supporting Aileish took up every hour of our days. It also of course really affected her sister to see what Aileish was going through.
We were also completely naïve. I used to think 'snap out of it - you can sort it out'. But now we know that some people need more help, and that it's a process.
We responded by joining the gym together as a family - me, my husband, Aileish and her sister. This has had massive benefits for us as a family - spending time together and being healthy.
If you're a parent and you're worried that there's something going on with your child: don't hesitate. Nip it in the bud when you see changes. You've got to get help straight away. And as the parent you've got to take control. Your child doesn't always know what to do - you need to support them. Don't be too proud to speak up and say 'my child is seeking help'.
Kids need to know that it's not acceptable to be bullied - or to be treated the way Aileish was being treated at school.
It's fantastic that headspace is free. I don't know how she would have gotten through this if she hadn't gotten to headspace. Kids need this guidance and support. And as parents we also need help with how to deal with this.
My husband and I would sit there in the waiting room at headspace and see all these kids come through the door. And I would think: why are they all having trouble? Like in Aileish's case, social media can make things really hard for teenagers. Kids need to be aware that it can be harmful, and they need to know how to look after themselves.
Aileish is in a good place now. She's been volunteering at the Brisbane Paralympic football program and has just become a junior coach. It's made a huge difference to her confidence. She gets to play soccer with the seniors and just loves it. When I asked her what she loves so much about it she said 'I'm not being judged'.
She's got new friends at school who are more positive and she's hanging out with people again.
We were in the car the other day she said (for the first time in a long time) 'I love school'.
As parents we used to want the girls to go to university and had ideas about what they should do. But now we really just want them to find their own paths and be happy. Seeing her as low as she's been - all we want is for her to be happy and to love herself.