When Kyle Epp was a mere six years old, he was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As a child, he struggled to understand why he had trouble fitting in and relating to his peers.
"Like a lot of kids, [I was] pretty embarrassed about my differences; [I] just really wanted to fit in and I had a really hard time accepting the fact that I was different," he said. "I kept it secret for a long time and keeping that kind of deep, dark secret, can really weigh on you. I struggled, with anger, depression and anxiety, through my adolescence and kind of coming into adulthood."
But as he began to open up to others about his ADHD, he realized that there was an understanding from those around him, rather than judgement. Wanting to continue to keep the wheels of conversation in motion, Epp literally put his (bike) gears into motion. On June 21, he began a cross-country bike tour to raise awareness and money for mental health and for ADHD. He started his journey in Victoria, British Columbia.
Epp, who is an avid cyclist said that he had always wanted to tour the country on his bike. For him, there was no better way than melding his passion for cycling with his want to let others know that they are not alone with their ADHD diagnosis.
"'I've had people come to me and say, 'I also have ADHD, my son has ADHD, my daughter has ADHD.' Just seeing things like that, let them know that it's okay to talk about it and to open up," Epp said. "I think for me, as a younger person, that would have been a really big thing; just trying to spread that message that it's okay to talk about [it] and reduce the stigma around mental health."
Because the timeframe for cycling across Canada is quite finite, Epp is hoping to complete his trek across the country and finish his bike tour in Cape Spear in Newfoundland and Labrador. While Epp took a short break to attend the wedding of a friend in Calgary last week (Epp mentioned he was in fact the Best Man at the wedding), he said his days on the bike trail start at around 7:30 A.M.
"I try and get up early and start before it gets too hot and then I'll usually end around somewhere between five to seven. Up until now, I've been pacing myself a little bit going through the Rockies. I probably averaged about 90 kilometres a day. I'm hoping that through the prairies, as long as there's no headwind, I can increase that average to around 100 [kilometres] a day."
The trip, however, has not been without some bumps in the road, both literal and figurative. Epp who had been trying his best to avoid rainy weather ended up running into some bad luck and the very weather he had been trying to avoid on the road when he was in British Columbia.
"The hill coming out of Golden is so steep that I thought this is going to be one of those times where I have to really hug the shoulder, and then I just rolled over a staple. As soon as I popped the tire, it started to rain," he said.
To date, Epp has raised well over $10,000. Through his employer, he set up a campaign and was able to amass approximately $9,000, with a thousand of those dollars being money Epp donated himself. He has also set up a gofundme campaign page which has raised over $2,000 dollars for his cause. The money will go towards The George Hull Centre Foundation.
"'I've been pretty overwhelmed with the support that I have had. [Even] from strangers; in Revelstoke inviting me at a campsite, to have a steak dinner with them to people who I haven't spoken with in five to 10 years reaching out and sharing my story. It's been pretty amazing to see kind of the outpouring of support that I've had," he said. "The donations are a welcome bonus there as well. People who I've never met, [haven] given their hard-earned money to the cause. [That's] is huge for me."
If all goes as planned, Epp will have covered 6,712 kilometres on his bike tour when he finishes.
"I think the biggest message that I would say to anyone who's struggling with any sort of mental illness is that you're not alone, right. I heard a really good analogy about mental health versus physical health," Epp said. "If you had a broken leg, you'd be crazy not to go into the doctor and get it looked at, get a cast and get it fixed, so why can't mental health be the same way? I think the more we talk about it, the more we'll be able to move in that direction."
According to the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada, it is estimated that ADHD affects an estimated 5 -9 per cent of children and 3-5 per cent of adults.
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