Kaitlin and Kelly Hrudey on enduring mental health struggles as a family

At age 11, Kaitlin Hrudey began struggling with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.

The daughter of former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey is now 22, and describes the ongoing challenges of those disorders as paralyzing.

Kaitlin and Kelly Hrudey spoke at AnxietyBC’s MindShift gala in Vancouver on May 6, to talk about what mental health struggles put a family through.

They spoke with On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenkom prior to the event.

Kelly, take us back to when you were 11 years old when you faced your first bouts of anxiety. What did it feel like at the time?

I had a lot of thoughts in my head that would become repetitive. They mostly revolved around different diseases that I thought I would get.

I also had a big thought about being blind and it would just be in my head and I just couldn’t seem to shut the thought out.

At first I could kind of control the thought a bit and distract myself and it would kind of go away. But as time went on, it would be more controlling of my brain and I couldn’t shut it out. I associated being with my parents, especially with my mom, with me being okay and not getting these diseases.

I got really attached to my parents, and it got to a point where I couldn’t leave them for school or dance class. At that point, my parents and I decided we should get some professional help.

Kelly, from your perspective, for you and your wife, what was it like for you?

Terrifying. We had no idea what was happening to her. We noticed all the signs, but we took them all as individual acts and we didn’t put them all together. Had we done that — and I don’t feel guilty about that, because we didn’t know trouble was lurking — we might have been able to get her some help earlier.

It was totally frightening. It was something that we didn’t recognize that would be as long lasting as it was or is. I was very naive. I was hopeful that maybe once she started to get professional help that this would all be gone in about a month, and we sit here today, and although she’s much, much better and healthy, it’s a lifelong thing with Kaitlin.

Kaitlin Hrudey

Kaitlin Hrudey’s OCD and anxiety disorder first appeared when she was 11. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Kaitlin, were you finding yourself leaning on your friends or distancing yourself from your friends?

I distanced myself from my friends, unfortunately. I didn’t tell anyone besides my family what I was going through. None of my friends knew that I was seeing a therapist or anything.

And I do regret not telling them, because once I did tell them, I was 19 and they were so supportive. It honestly has made such a difference in my mental health, having more people to lean on and more people to help me get through it.

Kelly, what would your advice be, from a parent’s perspective?

Reach out and talk to people, to whomever you think might be able to help and be understanding. I cautioned Kaitlin the night we were going to go public with this in 2013. 

I was very scared. In fact, I was worried about social media and all the haters out there, the people who bash you and all that.

Much to my surprise, it’s been amazing the outpouring of support we’ve had, which is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. ‘Cause it’s heartwarming when we have so many people come up to us to share their stories, and they’re making progress, and heartbreaking when you see in their eyes that they’re right in the midst of it, and that’s a kick in the teeth.

Kaitlin, why is it important for you to speak publicly about this?

It’s important for people to know, especially young people who are going through similar things, that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

I really regret being younger and not sharing my experience with my friends, because they are there to help.

It does feel so good just to be open about it. People are so understanding and supportive, and it just feels so good to be able to be proud of myself and what I’ve gone through and what I’m going through.

With files from CBC Radio One’s On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Kaitlin and Kelly Hrudey discuss getting help for mental health problems