“I’ve been through everything. I’ve been medicated. I’ve done all the things that you can possibly think of for anxiety,” says singer-songwriter Pip Brown
“I’ve been addicted to the pills, I’ve self-medicated with alcohol – everything.
“But I’ve stopped all of that. Now, I try simple things.”
Brown, better known as Ladyhawke, is getting real about her ongoing struggles with anxiety.
The revelation comes in an episode of Being Human, a Stuff video series hosted by Antonia Prebble that looks at some of the fundamental parts of the human condition, including fear, sleep, food, love and happiness. Alongside The Project host Kanoa Lloyd, Brown discusses fear – one of the earliest emotions she can remember feeling.
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“You fear the dark and you’re scared of what’s under your bed, or that there’s something in the closet.
“And then, for me, it presented itself massively as I started going through puberty and then becoming a teenager.
“Then it was, ‘I’m scared of what people think of me’, ‘I don’t want anyone to judge me’. And then, ‘I’m scared to give a speech in front of my class’ and then it grows, and it blossomed into this horrible, crippling thing that followed me around forever.”
For the singer, the overwhelming terror hits her hardest while flying. She says the fear doesn’t come from the plane crashing; instead she is scared of the other people on the plane.
“I don’t like being in a confined little space, [where] I can’t get out and I can’t escape.
“Sometimes it just builds up on the plane and it gets so bad, and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘what if that person does something strange or what if they get sick on me?’
“That’s like my worst nightmare.”
Then, once she imagines it happening, her brain keeps drawing out the mental image, and it gets worse and worse.
“I get intense paranoia when I get my fear and anxiety setting in in those situations. I start to think of really extreme scenarios, crazy extreme things that could happen that involve death. My brain really takes me there,” she reveals.
Sometimes, it manifests in a physical reaction. Just like it did on a flight to Tokyo during one of Brown’s tours.
“I have no memory of this, but my tour manager behind me said I just stood up like a zombie, and he said I was grey.
“I took two steps and just fell and my head hit the door of the toilets. I was out, and that was the height of my anxiety attack that I had on the plane.”
Brown thinks people who experience anxiety and fear regularly often master the art of the facade. And she is no different.
“People always say that about me all the time, ‘you always seem cool, calm, and collected’. But I don’t feel like that at all. I’ve got turmoil inside, but I seem calm.”
But now, Brown is prepared. She knows her triggers and has taken steps to manage her fear the best she can, so she can live her life fully.
When she flies, she now has a tailormade kit with her that contains water, painkillers for headaches and anti-nausea tablets.
“I need to have all these things and – just knowing they’re there – means I won’t have a panic attack at all. And I won’t have any anxiety, just knowing that they’re there.”
Over time, she has worked hard on the other, harmful ways she was masking the fear. While living in LA, she worked with a hypnotherapist to reduce her fear of performing – one she was using alcohol to hide.
“I need to be able to cope, because I’m putting myself out in front of people all the time – and I’m putting myself on airplanes all the time as well and I’m in confined spaces with people lots. It got to the point where it’s like, ‘I just need to deal with this’, you know.
“I’d never performed without alcohol, and I quit drinking and I was like, ‘well I have to do something about this’.”
She says the hypnotherapy worked – and she can now perform without alcohol. And while the nerves are still there, that energy no longer manifests into anxiety – now, she calls it “pure excitement”.
“I haven’t had that in… I mean since I was a teenager, you know? I haven’t felt that excited about something – and I felt quite exhilarated afterwards – like an achievement.”