Erica

Mind HK Ambassador

I AM... a communications consultant.

I AM... a mental health advocate.



"My family, friends, and colleagues helped me recognise that I was not okay and encouraged me to take the steps that I needed to get help. I will always remember the conversations and phone calls where I felt so loved, seen, and heard by them."






Where/what has been important to you in your mental health journey? Why?

My journal. In the past, I used to only journal in moments of rock bottom. While it served its purpose, I can’t help but feel heartache that those were the only memories captured in writing during those times. Today, however, my journal has become a constant outlet for me to care for my mental health.

Translating my worries into tangible written words has allowed me to process, zoom out, and understand myself better. My brightly coloured journals have also become the keepers of gratitude lists and the many memorable, meaningful, and joyous moments.


How has mental health affected your day to day life?

Anxiety began to creep into my mind and body in high school. It was one-part social anxiety brought on by issues with a particular friendship, and one-part general anxiety brought on by Advanced Placement classes and the college application process. I worried about the relationships in my life, how I was measuring up against my peers, and often felt like I was not good enough.

Living with anxiety means recognising that every single day, something may trigger the treadmill of my thoughts and worry - and manifest into physical symptoms like tightness in my chest, the creeping aching feeling in my neck and shoulders, and sometimes even the makings of a panic attack.


How has the stigma around mental health affected your life?

I have come face-to-face with the stigma that so many of us unfortunately have to deal with when coping with mental health challenges, and the explicit or implicit judgment we may receive when we are vulnerable enough to open up or ask for help. At times when my mental health was already in poor form, these experiences made me feel dismissed, isolated, and filled with self-doubt.

Rather than feeling affirmed that my struggles were valid, I second guessed what I was going through.

Rather than recognising the very real mental health challenges I was experiencing, I internalised the ideas that I was “too emotional”, “overreacting”, or “unable to handle the pressure”.

Rather than seeking help at an earlier point in time, I tried to handle it on my own because I believed it was my fault for not being able to cope better.

Now, when I encounter experiences of stigma, and the emotions that they trigger, I am better able to detach and not let them affect me as much, because I am more confident in the validity of my experiences and who I am. This confidence has also empowered me to tell my story to normalise mental illness and to challenge others to use more inclusive language.


How would you describe yourself? What are your labels?

Family and Friend-Centric: My family – parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – is so important to me, as well as my friends. I would not be where I am today if it were not for them, and I am so thankful to have them as my biggest supporters no matter where in the world they are

Lover of Movement: I played soccer from the age of four through university – and have always loved keeping active through CrossFit, weightlifting, hiking, and dancing.

Bookworm: Bookstores are my happy place, and my bookshelf is one of my favourite corners of Hong Kong.

Purpose-Driven Advocate: Giving back and using my voice to help create a healthier, happier, more equitable world has always been at the heart of what I do in my personal life, in the community, and in my work.

Tell us about your life now

Today, I am not as afraid to be vulnerable or to use the power of my words to tell my story, knowing that if I make one person feel less alone, it will always be worth it.


What has your mental health experience taught you?

My mental health experience has taught me that I do not need to bear all of my burdens on my own and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. The best thing that we can do is open up to others, lean on the people we trust, and seek the professional help we need.

I also learned to let go of internalised negative stereotypes – the beliefs that I’m “too emotional” or “too sensitive” — while also seeing the positive sides to my diagnosis such as my heightened empathy and my A+ organisational skills.


 

Learn more about anxiety:

https://www.mind.org.hk/mental-health-a-to-z/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/about-anxiety/

Seeking help in Hong Kong:

https://www.mind.org.hk/getting-help/

List of mental health services provided by local NGOs:

https://www.mind.org.hk/community-directory/

Find help now:

https://www.mind.org.hk/find-help-now/