Patti Lowery

Adversity: Son and daughter both have OCD

Advocacy: Co-founded Adversity 2 Advocacy and provides support for parents of children with OCD

“When I see that I’ve helped someone it just lifts my spirits. I feel like I now have a focus in life, a destiny, what I was put on this earth to do.”

Patti Lowery didn’t know immediately that her daughter had OCD. Emily showed signs of perfectionism as early as kindergarten – she was never satisfied with her artwork or her printing, and she washed her hands until they bled. But it wasn’t until 2003 that OCD came on full-force, with Emily exhibiting what Patti calls “bizarre,” debilitating behavior. Patti sought help for her daughter, but found it hard to come by in Toronto. At first, the family pediatrician thought Emily had a brain tumor but eventually she was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. After an intensive 12-week multifamily behavioral treatment program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Emily was initially doing fine. “But slowly, slowly, it came back, because there was no follow-up,” Patti says. “There’s not enough people treating it here.” At one point Emily had difficulty with daily life skills including struggling to dress herself each morning, putting her clothes on and taking them off until they “felt right.” “We knew we had to do something to help Emily when I entered her high school and noticed that her OCD had crept out from behind the closed doors of our home – where it stays for most kids with OCD – and she was circling the bottom of the stairs … social suicide,” says Patti. Ultimately, Patti took Emily out of the country, sending her to Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin where she got the help she needed. Like her daughter, Patti’s son, Andrew, showed early signs of severe anxiety, but it wasn’t until later in childhood that he was diagnosed with OCD. After receiving treatment in Toronto, Andrew, like his sister, is doing well and both children are now in college. “They’re definitely success stories,” Patti says. “And our family, we’ve definitely gotten stronger.”

“When the kids were in elementary school, high school, I educated the teachers,” says Patti, who developed a program to train teachers on what OCD is, how to spot it, how to help children who have OCD and where to find resources for them. In addition, working with doctors and others in the health field, Patti has become a source of referral internationally, talking to parents of children with OCD, especially those who are newly diagnosed – sharing her story, helping them find the help they need or simply providing an empathetic ear. Her work led her to co-founding Adversity 2 Advocacy. “I don’t think any of us could have made it if we didn’t have each other,” Patti says of her support system. “My goal is to set up some kind of support group in Canada, break the stigma, and get funding for mental health support. … I don’t want anyone to feel isolated and alone.”