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Anxiety and depression hit this wellness influencer when she was 11. Now, on Instagram, she raises awareness of mental health and helps others

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“It was so hard to do anything,” she says, recalling failed maths tests and scraping by academically.

“I Googled an ‘Am I depressed?’ quiz when I was 11, and basically [for] all of the symptoms, I would put the most severe.”

Eu did not know how to shake off her symptoms, and spent most of puberty navigating her thoughts and emotions without professional help.

Eu (left) and her two older sisters. Photo: Katie Eu

When the academic pressure, social friction and symptoms became too overwhelming, she knew she needed to make a big life change.

Her parents agreed to a move to the United States, near her grandparents in the state of California, so she could pursue a fresh start when she was 15.

Eu then had her first therapy session with the on-site therapist at her high school on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

After years of struggling with symptoms of anxiety and depression in Hong Kong, Eu moved to California for a fresh start. Photo: Instagram/@katie.eu

With an older sister’s help, she started an uncomfortable conversation with her parents about her struggles and won their support to start seeing a therapist.

Four months into therapy, Eu’s therapist recommended that she see a psychiatrist who could diagnose her symptoms and prescribe medication and other treatment types.

I still feel like I don’t really know how podcasting works, but I love it. It’s a way for me to say what’s on my mind without having to make it look all pretty for Instagram.

Katie Eu

The results of a brain scan the psychiatrist ordered for her were reassuring. “I was able to see that there was something biologically, physically tangibly wrong with my brain that was making parts of it overactive,” Eu says.

She started taking prescription antidepressants – first Zoloft, then Pristiq.

“[Medication] has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself,” she says, explaining how it helped with regulating her feelings. “There’s definitely nothing shameful about it; I talk about it a lot.

“I always tell people, if you have the means to access it, the financial resources, and the [knowledge], try it out, because you can always take yourself off of it.”

Eu posts about the topics she discusses in therapy and the issues she is working through on @katie.eu. Photo: Instagram/@katie.eu

Still, her symptoms persisted. So in the summer of 2020, she checked into an inpatient treatment centre, Sabino Recovery, in Tucson, Arizona, for 35 days of extensive individual and group therapy sessions.

“It was a lot of hard work, but all things considered, it was a lot of fun,” Eu says. “Every Saturday, we had equine therapy where we would take the golf cart out to pet the horses for a few hours.”

After Eu left the centre, she began posting wellness content on her Instagram account, @katie.eu.

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She had always posted visually appealing photos, and had attracted a following of 15,000 people under the username @fowlist, which she started in high school. She transformed this into a wellness and accountability diary, writing long captions about the topics she discussed in therapy and the issues she was working through.

She started “Project 50”, a series dedicated to maintaining daily habits such as having a balanced diet, waking up before 8am, engaging in daily movement and more.

That collection of reels and posts on Instagram, combined with her “how-to” guides, became hugely popular.

Examples of her posts include her first guide, “How to: Be Alone” – which offered short- and long-term tips for enjoying time alone – and “How to: Become That Girl” – which focused on becoming one’s best self and was based on the “that girl” trend on TikTok.

“It was very therapeutic to be able to do that research and educate myself on actionable steps and journal prompts of something I’m actually tangibly going through,” Eu says.

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“Just being able to curate a space online that is very focused on recovery was super helpful,” she says, explaining that her personal Instagram feed is a positive space filled with people similarly motivated to succeed in their recovery.

Eu has also developed her 1-1-1 newsletter, her “brainchild” inspired by American bestselling author James Clear’s 3-2-1 newsletter. Her format includes one quote, one journal prompt and one piece of advice, and is now read in more than 100 countries and in 43 US states.

“I still feel like I don’t really know how podcasting works, but I love it. I can talk to myself all day,” she says. “It’s a way for me to say what’s on my mind without having to make it look all pretty for Instagram … to express what’s going on in my brain.”

The recent graduate of Scripps College, in Claremont, California, is now pursuing a master’s of science in behavioural science at the London School of Economics in the UK, and embracing her passion for economics.

“Something I’ve been very adamant about is that I don’t want to pursue a career in social media,” she says of wanting to keep her career and wellness social media platforms separate.

Eu graduated from Scripps College in May, 2023. Photo: Katie Eu

Still, she is no less dedicated to maintaining her online work than full-time influencers are.

“I would be doing it even if I didn’t have the community,” she says. “The fact that I’m able to help people that I’ve never even met is really cool. It’s been a whirlwind.

“The thing that I love the most is when I get messages that say, ‘I wish I had this when I was younger, this is such a cool space and community that you’re creating, and you’ve helped me learn so much.’”

Eu is now pursuing a master’s of science in behavioural science at the London School of Economics. She is pictured with her best friend, Sophia Carter, who also posts about her recovery process on Instagram. Photo: Katie Eu

Of her mental health journey and recovery, she says: “It’s always a struggle. But I would never trade my experiences for anything, because every single experience – good or bad, especially the bad – has forced me to become the person I am today, and I’m very happy with that person.”

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