Erica Chau

@erica-chau | contributor
Super Contributor
I know what it’s like to live and interact with illness, whether physical or mental, and I know there is still stigma around it. I want to use my words and my story to help create a safer and more open world.
Erica Chau

Understanding and Healing Generational Trauma in 'Turning Red'

Do you ever sit down to watch a movie and think “Can’t wait to watch this super cute relaxing movie,” only to be met so much internal reflection that you end up crying so hard that you can’t breathe? No? That was just me when I watched “Turning Red“? As a local Torontonian resident, I was practically jumping for joy when I first saw the trailer for “Turning Red.” Not only because it was set in my city (when is anything ever set in Toronto?!), it was a movie about Chinese culture, front and center. I knew I would be emotional watching this, not only because of the representation on the screen, but in terms of the actors, director, screenplay, story, and cinematography. I expected to laugh and maybe shed a tear, but what I didn’t expect was the deep emotional response that I got from seeing the generational trauma and the healing. And, my dear friends, when I tell you I was sobbing on the couch… Let’s unpack that, shall we? “Turning Red” spoilers ahead! If you’ll allow me to give you the shortest, worst summary ever: a young girl, Mei, turns out to be descended from the Red Panda, and that her mother and grandmother and aunts have all had to find a way to “tame the beast,” so to speak, for generations and generations. There is so much to unpack here but the main theme for me (read: the reason why I cried so much) was the generational trauma and the healing that we were able to see for Mei. The healing that we work towards and strive for in our actual lives everyday. First things first: what is generational trauma? Generational trauma is essentially the “passing down”of oppressive or traumatic effects from one generation to the next generation within families. It’s like this: a traumatic event (personal, global, small scale, large scale) occurs to one of your ancestors and if that trauma isn’t healed, it will begin to negatively affect further generations. And unfortunately, a lot of families may likely “cope” with this trauma — a trauma that they may not even be aware of — through denial or minimization. I knew that I would be able to see myself in this story, but what I wasn’t expecting was to learn to see others in this too — namely my mother and grandmother and all of my ancestors. I am first generation Chinese Canadian, my parents having immigrated here before I was even born. And by the time I was in high school, I knew that there would be differences in how I navigated the world compared to how my parents navigated the world. At its core, it’s a major cultural difference. Word choices, setting boundaries, even comparative expectations (why did my mom expect such high performance at school when my friends’ moms didn’t even seem to care?). The core ways in which we formed our identities are so drastically different. In “Turning Red,” Mei feels as though she loses her identity and meets this with fear, especially after learning about her mother and grandmother’s sacrifices and their own respective suppression of their true selves. You mean… older generations suppressing who they are? Projecting that onto younger generations for years and years? An ongoing cycle that was just accepted as normal because “that’s the way that its has always been”? Their love for their daughter so strong that it broke through literal generations of self-oppression? A loving partner so strong and understanding that you didn’t feel as though you were asked to be someone who you weren’t? The final healing of breaking the cycle? How could you NOT cry? This is all I’ve ever wanted and it’s all that I work towards every day. Accepting your ancestors for who they are — without judgment. Seeing your parents for who they are: people who are trying their best to love you in the only way they know how. Seeing grandparents and aunties as real people. People who are a product of their environment. Making the conscious choice to break the cycle. It’s hard, but you can do hard things.

Erica Chau

When I Realized I Was Masking My ADHD by Body Doubling

It took me a real long time to realize I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Growing up, I had spent a lot of my time reading books and  binge-watching TV and soap operas with my mom (or sneaking downstairs at night just to watch more TV). Back then, I just thought it was fun to watch stories play out on screens and it was normal to imagine yourself in the plot. Different time periods, fantasies, and dragons — why not? It was always fun and relaxing for me to imagine I existed in a whole other realm where none of my bullies would come after me and my very mundane, teenage, angsty problems could not find me. Later on, I learned this was called escapism. And then later later on, I realized it was ADHD. I learned people read books and watch movies to escape, but then I discovered many people don’t imagine themselves in the scenario. And what does this mean? Sometimes, at home, at night, when I don’t have to be around others, I finally let it all out and… I cry. And that’s OK. But I am sad because I spend so much time mimicking and pretending and playing down part of myself, I feel like I don’t know who I am. I feel like I only know who I am as a character, who society needs me to be. But other times, I use this to my advantage, because why not? I’ve started referring to these as my brain hacks and the most useful trick I have is body doubling… in my head. Except I didn’t even refer to it as body doubling because I didn’t realize this is what it was. I was simply imagining scenarios. Just role-playing, or play acting, if you will. And the wonders it does to help me focus and finish the task at hand. You see, I am a huge Marvel fan. A big, big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and sometimes when I have a hard time focusing at work or find I’m not pushing as hard as I could be during a workout, I recognize this in myself and conjure up a plot in my head that encourages me to focus. Even as I’m writing this, I’m not Erica in her bedroom writing an article. I’m Erica, an associate of Stark Industries, putting together an important and timely report for Pepper Potts. Steve is standing at the door behind me, just wanting to check in on me after a mission, as we file reports. And these scenarios are detailed. Let me tell you, they are detailed. Steve, right behind me, in my peripheral, is leaning against my door frame, still in his stealth suit, as Natasha just walked by and peeped her head in, because she and Pepper want to wrap this up and call it a night. So, how could I dilly dally or scroll through my phone when I have Avengers who need me to do what I do so they can do what they do? The world depends on it! But of course, I know this is all made up. I am under no illusion I’m actually in the Avengers tower, but the logic and concept here still stands. And it wasn’t until I was speaking with my friend Chris I realized this is indeed body doubling, but hey, whatever works, right? I had never thought of it like this before. Why? Because my previously very limited knowledge of ADHD meant I knew folks with ADHD often worked better and could focus more when there was someone else in the room with them, but I never understood why. And I had always assumed it had to be a physical person. Or maybe a camera. But I’ve since learned being on camera with someone else (Zoom study dates!) or online working sessions while working from home also work. Or, in my case, a made-up alternate reality wherein Captain Rogers himself is the one supervising my work. And that’s OK. Honestly? That’s cool. Because it means I can dream up any scenario as long as it help me get my work done. I could be on the moon, I could be in a submarine, or writing reports for Mr. Clark Kent… the possibilities are endless! And the best part is it works in any scenario. I’m not “doing chores,” I’m cleaning up the apartment in preparation for a million-dollar showing (I live in a shoebox). Forget food prep, I am an “Iron Chef” contestant on the Food Network! Or the “Competition For The World’s Fastest Laundry Folding.” The gamification is endless here. And while ADHD and its lack of publicized knowledge for ADHD in adults can be scary, it can also be fun. And at the end of the day, if I’m getting all my work done, why not imagine I’m in a cook-off with Black Widow herself?

Erica Chau

4 Things You Might Be Doing to Mask Your ADHD

While those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are likely not the only ones who mask their disorders, this is definitely one that is often socialized into us. To the point we didn’t even know it was masking. Or that we even had ADHD! At least, that was the case for me. When you grew up with certain expectations of behavior, and when those around you had similar expectations, you often think it’s normal. For example, I went to a small religious school and we were expected to act and behave exactly how you would imagine: calm, well-mannered, obedient, taking directions well. All that yummy goodness. And so, whenever any ADHD symptoms or behaviors arose, it was often met with ridicule and negative reinforcement, like detention. All of this learned behavior eventually turned into what is essentially self-policing of behavior to manage the impression on others. Read: Act this way and behave properly or you will get in trouble. And so, while we went to different schools in different towns and had different teachers and parents, I’m sure many of us have similar experiences, feeling as though we have to self-monitor our behaviors, and often in ways we might not even know we’re doing. 1. Procrastination. ADHD brains don’t respond to the same rewards as our neurotypical counterparts. I can’t just “get it done” so I can do other things and not have it loom over me. I need those deadlines and an impending deadline to make me “Do The Thing.” And that’s why I have a thousand projects going on. So, I’m always busy and I procrastinate on completing the task by… starting other tasks. Because I need a deadline, and so when I have a thousand projects on the go, I’ll always have a deadline to meet and finally kick my butt into gear! 2. Drinking a lot of coffee. When I say a lot, I mean a lot. It wasn’t until a little while later, after a diagnosis, that I was starting to research and understand the relationship between ADHD and stimulants. Essentially, I was self-medicating. When you think of drinking too much coffee, you probably imagine jitters and bouncing around. But for folks with ADHD, it actually can have a calming effect. That’s right! Stimulants can actually have a calming effect on ADHD brains. So, perhaps I am drinking my coffee, or maybe I am self-medicating to help me relax and focus on the task at hand. 3. Intense staring. I stare. I stare a lot; and often, I don’t speak much when I’m trying so hard to try and focus on what you’re saying. And this is likely because as you’re talking, my brain is going a mile a minute and I’m trying to make a mental list of what to say as a response when you’re done. But sometimes, when all you need is a friend to listen, you don’t need answers or solutions. So, to avoid myself from interrupting, I force myself to focus. And that comes in the form of… staring. Intently. At you, as you speak. To make sure you know that I’m actively listening. It can also come across as hyperfocusing. 4. Taking notes. Taking notes during meetings and phone calls. How diligent! Such a good notetaker and so good at keeping records. Of course, these are all good things! But really, it’s a way for me to help my brain focus because, just as with the active listening, no matter how hard I try, my focus will shift and drift, and then who knows how long before I come back to what you’re saying? Of course, note-taking is a great skill to have, but it’s also a way to force your brain to focus. Also, just because we are talking about masking, I would like to take a moment to say it’s OK to mask! It’s not a bad thing. And often, these things are productive and they’re done subconsciously. As long as you are feeling comfortable and are able to move through the world in a way that best suits you, keep doing what you’re doing!

Erica Chau

How to Respond to Comments on Your Weight During Holiday Meals

I am a child of immigrants. And the culture in which my parents came from (and which I took part in — still take part in) values thinness. A lot. And it has always been a “normal” thing to do — discuss food, talking about diets, ways to lose weight, ways to shrink ourselves. But one of the privileges that I’ve experienced while living in Toronto include the conversations around eating disorders, setting boundaries, having healthy relationships with food, and body dysmorphia. And the work that goes into reprogramming our brains to shift the weight (pun intended) on these conversations. Because in the media that I had consumed as a kid, seeing teenagers and young adults flaunt their latest diet or workout to lose weight, stay slim and take up less space has been damaging, to say the least. Even though I have gone through years of therapy and beat an eating disorder, disordered eating still makes its way into my life, more often than not. I am a work in progress. But this progress is often stalled or meets its match the most during the holiday season. Friends and family and friends of family and family of friends somehow, even in this day and age, feel as though they have the entitlement to comment on my body, my weight, the food I eat. But alas, we all tend to somehow end up at the dinner table with those with The Audacity, so here are my go-to responses when they decide to comment on my weight at the dinner table (cue vomit emoji). 1. Please do not comment on my weight. I know, this seems so straightforward. Duh, Erica. But sometimes things have to be said bluntly. And with direct eye contact. Seriously. Don’t give in, don’t smile or laugh to make it more palatable. This is a hard boundary, set it as such. You’d be surprised how many people only take you seriously after you stare at them, emotionless and unmoving. 2. I know you meant that as a compliment, but it really isn’t. My family members thought that I looked my best when I was at the lowest point in my eating disorder. I had no energy, I didn’t want to engage in conversation, but they applauded me for “wow sticking to it” when really it was a demon I was battling every day. And was on the losing side. 3. I know your intention is not to be hurtful, but I urge you to do your own research/work to find out why your statement is so damaging. It’s almost 2022, folks. We are exhausted. And I am personally exhausted. Tired to the bone. And I am not longer taking it upon myself to explain things/teach people things when they are clearly not ready for the conversation. It is not your job to be everyone’s teacher and you do not have to justify why it is hurtful for you. 4. This is not open for discussion or debate. A follow up to point 3. It’s not my job to teach them. If they come back to me and say they just “want to learn” or “debate,” go do the learning yourself. Google that shit. Watch videos or join community boards where people do want to learn. But it is not my job to teach you. And this is what I’ve learned: you can craft the most beautiful, kind, thoughtful response and reasoning to why you do or do not want to discuss something, but when you bring it up at all, it’s opening it up for discussion and you know what we’re not doing? Opening it up for discussion. Because my health and what I deem as healthy or triggering behavior is not up for debate, regardless of our familial relationship.

Erica Chau

What 'Masking' and 'Mirroring' Mean in ADHD Behaviors

Hi there! Your resident hyperfixater over here. Hyperfixater. Is that a word? A noun — someone who hyperfixates. Me. I hyperfixate a lot. And recently — on my very own self-diagnosis of ADHD and learning more about it. And when I make notes and start discovering a new topic, there isn’t anything I love more than learning definitions that will act as building blocks to my knowledge. So, let’s just jump right into it! 1. Masking Masking, at its core, is presenting yourself to others in a way that makes it seem as though you are not living with this disorder. So, for ADHD masking, it would be presenting yourself to the world in such a way to make it seem as though you do not have ADHD. 2. Mirroring This is based on my observation of you — the tone of voice, physical stance, facial expressions, sentence inflections, use of hand gestures… the list goes on. And in an effort to be more accepted and seem amicable, these moments are copied — mirrored — back to you. Why This Matters Masking and mirroring are two sides of the same coin. Whether done consciously or not, they are to hide your ADHD from the world. It is intricate and complicated and depending on who you’re around, shifts to meet the social need. And, you guessed it, it’s exhausting. Now I don’t want you to think that this is deliberately trying to deceive the people who are around you. When you spend so long masking, you don’t realize you’re still doing it. And for me, it started off from the environments in which I’ve grown up (socially, at school, or at home). And also, you’ve guessed it, this is a misunderstanding and stigma around ADHD. It’s not just “being hyperactive.” Depending on the environment (school, home, dinner at a fancy restaurant), I often internalize a lot of the ADHD hyperactivity and I mask all my symptoms to make others around me feel more comfortable. Masking, for me, has always been about “behaving appropriately.” Read: behave in a way that won’t get me in trouble. Getting too excited? Calm down. Stop fidgeting. You’re talking too fast. Focus on one thing — why can’t you just finish one project before starting another? Stop getting distracted by all your side projects and finish your homework. You’re overreacting — why are you being so performative? Stop laughing so loud. No more pulling on your shirt. Maintain eye contact — why are you looking away and back so much? Stop leaving things to the last minute. You just started that hobby — why are you already wanting to try something new? Don’t you know that you need to stick with it to get good at it? Can’t you just stop masking? Ah yes — the age-old useless advice, given along the same lines of “Why are you stressed? Stop stressing.” This is simply yet another case of “it is easier said than done.” Because we have done it for so long, the masking and mirroring have been ingrained into my brain and it is often subconscious at this point. This is why you’ll notice that I’m different depending on who I’m talking to — my partner, my parents, my boss, strangers in a coffee shop, or the nice folks over at Build-A-Bear. They all have different expectations of me and I act “accordingly,” in my Herculean effort to be liked by everybody I meet. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have many answers, but for me, it always comes back to a few simple points: I enjoy alone time because I don’t have to mask. I have a hard time with my identity because I spend so much time playing all these roles that I’m not sure who I am without the expectations. Help your friends with their masking by meeting them without judgment and letting them know that they are safe, loved, and supported.

Erica Chau

Is It OK to Diagnose Yourself If You Think You Have ADHD?

For some unknown reason, when I grew up, a lot of the medical, forensic, and crime TV shows had storylines about “unofficial” mental health and a lot of hypochondriac plot devices. Was that everyone, or was that just me? Either way, I think it stuck with me for a very long time, which is why for a long time, I had a really hard time accepting the fact that that I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And for a very very long time, I was made to believe that doctors know best, doctors couldn’t be wrong, and until you get that official “yes” from a doctor, then it must definitely of course be a firm “no.” I have since learned that this is clearly not the case and we need to advocate for ourselves and our health because the medical system is far from perfect. Which is why I have diagnosed myself with ADHD. But Erica, you can’t just… diagnose… yourself! You’re not a doctor! I’m well aware, thank you. But in this instance, I do believe that I can and that I am accurate. I don’t want to say that it is in the same vein of self-diagnosing a cold or fever, but … yeah, it’s along the same vein. Firstly, there is a lot of stigma and incorrect information floating around about adult ADHD. And I say “adult ADHD” because ADHD is often looked for in children and if you don’t have a diagnosis as a child, any adult ADHD symptoms are often disregarded or inaccurately attributed to something else. Like laziness (cue eye roll). There are also lots of, once again, inaccurate stereotypes about what ADHD looks like, particularly in adults. And adult women. And BIPOC adult women. This is very similar to the stereotypes that, for the most part, used to center around depression and anxiety . While it has since gotten better for those two conditions, the same recognition for ADHD is still unclear. Lastly, it is expensive. Like, real expensive. When I spoke about getting a diagnosis with my therapist, who is not an expert in ADHD, she had recommended a few clinics that do specialize in diagnosing ADHD. Great — why don’t you just do that, Erica? Well firstly, it’s thousands of dollars. Like, multiple months’ worth of rent. And requires full days of being at the clinic, which means days off from work. It’s not covered by insurance. And, it also doesn’t guarantee a diagnosis or treatment plan either. And even if it does end with a conclusive diagnosis, a treatment plan is separate. And of course, charged separately as well. So before you judge a self-diagnosis, whether it’s someone else or even yourself, please remember that the barriers to health are very real. The financial barriers are very real. The fact that women, especially BIPOC women, are rarely taken seriously is yet another hurdle that we need to consider. All of this is to say: a self-diagnosis is a real diagnosis. If you are able to, I support your decision to seek a medical professional for a diagnosis and guidance. But if you’re like me and you can not, I see you. Your diagnosis is valid. Your experience is valid. And we will get through it together.

Erica Chau

Things to Know After Being Diagnosed With Major Depressive Disorder

Here’s the thing about mental health … it’s hard to deal with and it’s hard to understand and really, just in general, it’s just a difficult thing. But sometimes just as hard as it is to manage it, it can be just as difficult just getting the diagnosis. Even though the conversations around depression have improved over the last decade or so, there is still a lot of stigma, especially in more conservative workplaces. Especially if you’re a POC who has parents or older generational family members who just can’t seem to understand it. It can take a long time of advocating for yourself, finding the right therapists and doctors, and trying to get insurance to cover some of the costs of finding the diagnosis. After all of that, you may end up asking yourself: OK … now what? Here are three things to keep in mind when you get a major depressive disorder (MDD) diagnosis: 1. Take a moment to let it sink in It can feel both overwhelming and relieving to get an official diagnosis. It did for me. How come? I finally felt valid. After all of these challenging years of being alone and trying to come to terms with this invisible disorder, I finally had a name for it. When speaking with your therapist, you may be learning a lot of new verbiage and phrasing, rewiring your brain to change thinking patterns. You may have options for new medications. Medications with names that you can’t yet pronounce and potential side effects that you don’t know how to manage. It’s OK. There is no rush. Take your time. Talk it out. Journal. Do your own research. Talk to your therapist. Take it one day at a time. 2. Know that things may not change right away With a shiny new diagnosis, you may think that perhaps everything will be different now. And things will change and get better as you continue to learn more about MDD and be able to articulate your experiences. But it may not happen all at once and it won’t happen all in one day. If you’re trying new medications, it will take a few weeks for your body to adjust to it. If you’re starting CBT, it will take a few sessions before you see the results of the hard work you’re putting in. Be patient with yourself and extend yourself the same grace that I know you’ve extended to many others in your life. It won’t happen all at once, but it will happen. 3. You don’t have to share your diagnosis with anybody Your diagnosis is yours and yours alone. Of course, you are more than welcome to share it with whomever you’d like, but please know that you do not have an obligation to do so. You do not have to tell friends, family, coworkers, or even your parents. Yes, you may want to tell your doctor, but that’s between you and your doctor. You are still you and this is just another aspect of your health. It is part of your story and you do not owe your story to anybody. Getting a new diagnosis can be difficult and scary and freeing all at the same time. And with conflicting emotions, it can be at times very difficult to untangle. But you’re doing so well and please remember that you are not alone. Take your time with it, be patient with yourself, and know that you are stronger than you think. Take it one step at a time and remember that you are not alone. You’ve got this.

Erica Chau

Read This If You're Anxious About COVID-19 Lockdown Ending

I am a creature of habit. I also happen to be Canadian (from Toronto). We have been in COVID-19 lockdown since March 2020. It is now June 2021. Sixteen whole months later and we are still in lockdown. And as much as I miss my friends, going out to restaurants and even walking around aimlessly in a mall, I gotta say… I’m scared to be back in the real world. The first few months were rough. I’ve previously shared how I was unemployed, the EI cheques were ridiculously low, and the only thing keeping me sane was doing what everyone else was doing: making banana bread. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to start a new job that lets me work from home and I’ve gotten into a new routine: I wake up early to exercise with my online group, I eat, I shower, I make my morning tea… it’s a routine. A routine that doesn’t involve driving or commuting to work. A routine that doesn’t involve the uncertainty of traffic jams or unruly weather. A routine that I absolutely do not want to change because I am so comfortable. I am a creature of habit, as most humans are. And the idea that so many changes are going to be happening so quickly is really starting to stress me out. I wasn’t expecting to be going back into the office until 2022, even though this was an assumption based on nothing but a gut feeling. Yet I still find myself grieving the “loss” of the few months that would be my current routine. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but: I miss not needing to hang out with friends. I didn’t ever truly realize how exhausting it was to keep in contact with people, especially when they’re different groups. Especially if it feels like you’re always the one who reaches out first. Especially when no hangouts happen unless you organize them and when you don’t, you’re always met with “but why do we never hang out?” I’m anxious about needing to see people and make small talk again. I’m anxious about the morning train being packed with people. I’m anxious about needing to go back into the office and needing to wear real pants and having to wash my hair. I’m anxious about wanting to go out to bars (bye-bye, money) and I’m anxious about having to put on makeup. In the grand scheme of things, I know that these aren’t the worst things to happen. I know that “real life” has to resume at some point and I want to be able to hug my friends and celebrate my birthday outside the four walls of my home. In my brain, I knew these things. But the rationality of it doesn’t outweigh my anxieties around this situation. All of this is to say: it’s OK if you’re anxious. It’s OK if you feel guilty for not wanting to see friends right away. It’s OK to be anxious about drastically shaking up the routine that you’ve been accustomed to over the last year or so. Unlike some of my other stories on The Mighty, I don’t have any action items or key takeaways this time. I just wanted to share how I’m feeling. I know that I’m not alone in these fears and if you’re feeling this way, I just want you to know: you are not alone. You are valid. I see you. We will get through this together.

Erica Chau

How to Cope When You See Eating Disorder Triggers

Growing up, I didn’t know what an eating disorder was because we never talked about it in our household. Or at school. Or in any media. All I knew is that girls wanted to be skinny and if you were hungry, you were supposed to “eat a handful of almonds.” When I had inevitably developed an eating disorder but then had been fortunate enough to find the help to overcome it, I was always surprised by how quickly seemingly mundane things would trigger my disordered thoughts. I was always told that “the real world doesn’t come with trigger warnings” but that’s not true. We have “peanut allergy” labels for snacks and “high voltage” stickers on electricity panels. We have speed limits on streets and pools that let you know there are no lifeguards on duty. When we know there are risks, we adjust and prepare appropriately. The same thing goes for eating disorders . What is a trigger? A trigger is some sort of stimulus that causes an uncomfortable and upsetting emotion — a negative reaction that leads you to react compulsively and destructively. Here are eight tips and tricks that have helped me and my triggers: 1. Learn what your triggers are. You can’t adjust your behavior or prepare yourself mentally when you don’t know what you’re preparing for. The first step is learning what triggers you: is it grandparents telling you to eat more? Or an aunt who compliments you when you’ve lost weight? Maybe it’s friends who are always talking about the latest health trend or the people you follow on social media. After you figure out what your triggers are, we can focus on what is within your control and focus on what you can control. 2. Do a social media cleanse. This is the perfect example of “out of sight, out of mind.” We all know the differences between Instagram and reality, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t subconsciously compare ourselves to the images that we see on our screens. On top of the fact that there is a lot of conflicting information out there, we have to remember that not everything we see online is true. It’s important to take all internet advice with a grain of salt and to fact-check when necessary. Unfollow accounts and people who are triggering for you. And that might include friends and family. Sure, they may be upset, but you have to set that boundary for yourself and they should respect you for it too. Perhaps it’s too-heavily edited images or that they are constantly sharing their latest diet. You have to do what is best for you. 3. Use the buddy system. Just because there are triggers out there doesn’t mean that you should avoid going out at all costs! And it’s always easier to do something when you know you’ve got somebody in your corner. So if it’s a family event or a friend’s birthday party, have someone with you whom you can confide in when you feel triggered or know you are starting to spiral. Having someone who will let you know that you’re doing well, to remind you to breathe, or to even be your excuse to leave an event can be a great thing to have. 4. Remember to breathe. When we’re upset and we start to panic, it’s easy to forget to breathe. Remember: you know more than you think you do. You are stronger than you think you are. When we start to panic, we can tend to hyperfixate on the thing that seems to drive us mad, and the more that we hold our breaths and hold onto the triggers rather than focusing on letting it go. Remember all that you’ve learned in your journey so far. Take a moment to acknowledge the triggers and the eating disorder . Acknowledge how you feel. And then take a breath and focus on letting it go. You got this. 5. Be conscious of how you spend your energy. We all only have so much energy to expend on any given day and we are better off focusing that energy on alternate behaviors that are less destructive and more along the path of recovery. Interrupt the bridge between the trigger and the eating disorder behavior. When you’ve faced with an urge to restrict, binge or purge, take a breath. Don’t give in immediately. Sometimes delaying engaging with the disordered behavior is enough to deter it completely. 6. Try mindfulness. Take some deep breaths. Start at 100 and subtract 7, going backward. (It’s hard enough that it forces you to concentrate on the task, but not so hard that you get frustrated and want to quit. But, I get it. Mental math isn’t calming for everyone!) 7. Journal how you feel. Either in a physical journal or on a notes app on your phone, or even just a voice memo to note how you feel. 8. Make a list. five things you’re grateful for; a list of your favorite cookies; all of your elementary school teachers; zoo animals for every letter of the alphabet… but backward; the Marvel movies in timeline order. Whatever works! Eating disorder triggers are everywhere, but don’t let that scare you. You are stronger than you think and you have more tools in your toolbox than you may realize. You’ve been putting in the work and you’ve fought through all your hardest days — you can do it again. Remember that you can always ask for help. Remember that the triggers do not own you. Remember that you are strong and that you got this. I believe in you.

Erica Chau

What to Know If Finances Makes You Anxious

I’ve always been a little anxious. I was an anxious kid who turned out to be an adult with anxiety . And over the years, I’ve learned to deal with my anxiety and there are lots of things that help. You know what doesn’t help? A global pandemic that’s been going on and on and on… and of all the things to be anxious about, I feel very fortunate and very privileged that I’m not anxious about finance. Whoa, whoa, hang on — before you close this page or roll your eyes, let me make myself clear: I don’t have piles of money. I’m not rich. I’m definitely not a “rich person.” I work full-time, I pay bills, I save what I can. I am by no means a financial expert. I am, however, someone who has been lucky enough to learn about finances and yeah, there’s lots of information out there, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to start when you don’t know where to start. Sure, sure, Google has lots of information, but it’s only useful when you know what you’re looking for. You don’t need to have a million dollars to feel less anxious about your finances. And I won’t want to belittle your stresses by pretending I know what you’re going through, because I don’t. What I do know is we all need to start somewhere and this is what helped me, so I’m hoping that this can help you too. 1. Acknowledge that finances are a scary thing and that they may cause anxiety . I get anxious whenever I’m faced with something that feels messy, chaotic and out of my control. This includes large bodies of water, airports and when I have too many things to do but not enough time to do them all. Finance, money and markets have always had this shroud of secrecy, with knowledge that “only those deemed worthy can understand.” I call bull! Everyone can understand it, but there’s no shame or embarrassment about not knowing. Let me help you. 2. It’s OK to not know where to start. Sometimes, we feel silly that we don’t know things that everyone else seems to already know. If you’re looking for the fundamentals, check out some of these things: What is a stock? How are bonds traded? How do I get out of debt? Or maybe you want to get into investing but don’t know what to look out for. 3. Have an emergency fund. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unemployed. I got laid off and I was one of the millions of people waiting for their EI. I’ve written a few articles about it here and trust me, I feel your pain. Your stress. Your anxieties. Your sense of, “How will I make it through?” While waiting the two weeks before my EI kicked in, I lived off of my emergency fund. This is money that I had squirreled away on my good days. My “rainy day fund.” An emergency fund is meant to cover three-to-six months of expenses and can be used for, you know, emergencies. Like your car breaking down unexpectedly. Or a leaky roof. (Can roofs leak?!) Or, you know, an unexpected global pandemic wherein grocery prices have skyrocketed and job security is at an all-time low. 4. You are not alone. You are not the only one who doesn’t feel as though they have all their finances in order. You are not alone. People rarely air out their own insecurities about money and sometimes it can feel as though everyone else has it together. Talks about “investing,” “management styles” or “asset mix” can make you feel as though investing is hidden away in some secret black box, but really it all comes down to the same few concepts. All you need is a place to begin and the steadfast confidence that you can understand it with time. 5. Ask for help. It’s OK to ask for help. You’re not in it alone and you aren’t the only one with questions! I know it’s hard to start looking when the internet is so full of noise and puff pieces with supposed experts talking about the success of portfolios. Start with the basics and learn from a place where you know you can trust. Visit reputable sites like FinPipe.com, which I help manage, where you can get objective, educational content to help. Then as you get more questions or want to dive deeper, make Google searches or even set up an appointment at your local branch. In the wise words of Harry Potter: “Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than what we are now — students. If they can do it, why not us?”