Growing up, Robyn Weatherly didn’t realize her dad was fighting what she refers to as “a villain in his head.” She shares why her dad is a real-life superhero.
From Batman to Superman, society’s idea of a superhero involves fictional characters with unrealistic capabilities, fighting villains that do not exist.
My definition of a superhero differs. They are not a comic book character. They do not wear flashy outfits or drive outrageous vehicles. They cannot fly, or swing from a web. In my opinion, the real superheroes walk amongst us, disguised as ordinary people.
In fact, I have a true superhero in my own life. This superhero is my dad; the villain is mental illness.
My father, Mark Weatherly, a retired District Chief for the Calgary Fire Department and avid cyclist, is strong. But I’m not just referring to his physical strength. He uses his mental strength in a daily fight against a villain that tries to tear his world apart. In 1994, he was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), an anxiety disorder that affects approximately two per cent of the population. His illness, like many other mental disorders, cannot be seen, but it is always there, trying to gain control of his every thought.
As a child, I wasn’t aware my dad was fighting this battle every single day. In my eyes, he was a very happy man. He was the best father a girl could ask for.
As I grew up I became aware of his illness – not because of the way it affected him, but because of the way he dealt with it. He knows mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. His most powerful weapon is his ability to openly discuss his struggles with others – friends, family, and even strangers. Through this he continues to build a support system for himself and others. Every superhero needs a sidekick, and my father has plenty.
Perhaps he’s had the most ability to reach others through his many years of volunteer work with Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – Calgary Region.
Most recently, my dad sits on the organizing committee for CMHA’s second annual Ride Don’t Hide in Calgary, a community bike ride to raise awareness and funds for mental health initiatives.
“Due to the stigma that haunts this important issue, mental illness has stayed in the closet, gathering dust, but causing grief for many,” he says “This ride brings mental health out of the closet and lets it shout ‘I am here.’”
Of course, he doesn’t just sit on the sidelines. He also rides.
Last year, my dad rallied a team of 40 riders, raising $10,000 – the second most funds raised by a team in Canada.
He has set the bar even higher for the 2015 ride, hoping to recruit 60 team members and become number one in Canada for funds raised.
With the event taking place on June 21, his team – Don’t Worry -Just Ride – is already on their way to reaching their goals, having already raised $1,400.
He admits, “I have set lofty goals, but I know that we can do it.”
It’s not an uncommon attitude for my dad to be striving to reach ambitious goals towards breaking down stigma around mental illness. It comes from the same place that gives him courage to live. It’s true, there are days when even getting out of bed proves to be an impossible task for him, but my dad has never backed down from the fight.
He proves you don’t have to wear tights and a cape to be a true hero.