Perrie Edwards bravely opens up about the crippling effects of her anxiety

In an emotional Instagram post last month, the twenty-five-year-old opened up about her relationship with her mind, powerfully revealing she has been battling against anxiety and panic attacks.

Perrie Edwards may be one fourth of the most successful female group of all time, Little Mix, with Brit Awards and chart-topping records galore but behind the famous façade, the singer has been battling crippling anxiety.

Here, as she steps out on her own for the first time as the face of Superga, Perrie emotionally recalls her relationship with her mind and how she went from barely being able to leave the house 18 months ago to using her experience to help others. This goes beyond the word ‘brave’.

We salute you, Perrie Edwards…

Stepping out on my own for the first time for the Superga campaign was quite daunting at first…

It’s been so good today – shooting with Superga – I’ve had the best day ever. It’s been really, really fun. But anything that’s slightly different is quite daunting, at first, it isn’t until you actually do it. At first, I’m not going to lie, I was like ‘argghh’, but it’s been really good. It’s weird because we (Little Mix) spend so much time together, we literally go through emotions like we’re the same person.

If one of us is going through a sticky situation in a relationship or one of us is feeling a bit down, we start to feed off their energy. When one of the girls goes through a breakup, I’m going through a breakup. It’s really bizarre but I think because we spend so much time together, we’re in sync now.

If you were going to walk in my Superga shoes for a day…

I think if you were to take a walk in my shoes prepare for an odd day. I don’t think I have normal days, they’re all a bit strange. We’re always busy, there’s always something going on and I’m always darting around so it’s a busy day. Everything we do is different like we have photoshoots, then video shoots, rehearsals, vocal warm up days, learning all the different harmonies then we have recording days. Every day is different.

When I first had a panic attack, I was ringing doctors saying, ‘I’m dying, I’ve just had a heart attack!’…

At first, I never wanted to open up about it. When it first started happening to me, it felt like it had never happened to anyone before. I can’t explain it. It was almost like I didn’t know what was happening when I was going through the physical attacks and panic attacks. I’ve always had anxiety, I just don’t think it’s ever been triggered in a way where it’s become a physical attack so when it first started happening to me, it was so scary because I didn’t know what was going on. I was ringing doctors, I was ringing everybody being like, ‘I’m dying, I’ve just had a heart attack!’ I thought there was genuinely something wrong with me.

The reason I never wanted to speak about it before was because every time someone said, ‘I’ve got a bit of anxiety,’ it would trigger it and then it would happen. It was almost like speaking about it made it come out; this devil I was terrified of. Now I’ve got to a place where I’m trying to not let it take over my life so now when I talk about it openly, I’m quite cool about it because I know I’m fine so if you’d have said to me a year ago (that I would be openly talking about my anxiety), I’d actually start panicking. I’d have a physical attack.

Knowing other people had anxiety made me realise I haven’t just survived a heart attack…

What helped me the most was knowing that other people were experiencing it. I looked into it and I noticed Ellie Goulding came out and said she had bad anxiety and she couldn’t get a car to the studio. I read that Fearne Cotton was on the motorway in her car and she had a physical attack and it was terrifying. It started to make me feel a bit more normal.

It made me think, ‘oh crap so many people go through this, it’s not just me. It’s not the first time it’s happened, I haven’t just survived a heart attack.’ It’s a thing everyone goes through now and it’s quite sad. I’ve had therapy and a lot of help.

One of the main reasons for me coming out about it is because I have so many fans now who have anxiety and who have panic attacks. There were a lot of parents reaching out saying, ‘my son has anxiety and he’s only twelve,’ or ‘my daughter has it and she’s only 7,’ and it’s just unfair. If I felt better when I heard about Fearne Cotton and Ellie Goulding, hopefully it will do the same thing when people read it about me.

Social media can be so crap because on the one hand, it’s the best thing ever. We can go online every day, talk to our fans, be really close, have this connection with them, we post videos and pictures and we keep them up to date. It’s a nice thing we have as a relationship with our fans, our friends and our family. On the other hand, you go on Instagram and see people living these ideal lifestyles and people looking perfect 24/7 and you look at it and think, ‘why don’t I look like that?

Why don’t I have a private jet every day? Why don’t I have Bentley parked outside?’ It starts to really mess with your head, and you start to feel like you’re not good enough. It’s about trying to differentiate what’s real and what’s not and a lot of the time, social media is not real. When I put about my anxiety on social media, I decided I’m just going to be honest about it. I’m really glad I did it because I do think social media has taken over everyone’s lives right now, especially the young ones. Kids are rocking around with Instagram at 5.

It’s the negative that stays with you and affects you the most. I don’t know how to look at people like that on social media. You don’t know whether to look at them and think ‘why are you evil? Do you get a kick out of being a bitch?’ Or, do you feel sorry for those people because they feel the need to do that? Maybe it’s by putting a negative effect on someone else, they’re benefitting by making themselves feel better. I don’t know how to look at it. I think if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut the f**k up. Why bring your negativity onto other people? If you’re going through something and you want to speak to someone, speak to someone, don’t go out and be aggressive towards other people on social media. Just because you’re behind a screen doesn’t make it ok because you’re affecting people by making nasty comments. They’re not robots, they have emotions, so I think people need to be a bit kinder to one another.

Panic attacks gave me a fear of being on my own – I couldn’t even get on a train to see my boyfriend…

Weirdly when I first started experiencing the panic attacks, I developed a fear of being on my own. It’s a lot better than it was, I kept thinking, ‘if I’m on my own and I have a panic attack, what do I do?’. I’ve got nobody to reason with me and I can’t rationalise it in my head or get a sense of it. It got to the point where my mum was coming to the studio with me, she would drive to work with me because I couldn’t get in a car on my own. I’d be in a car for two seconds and be like, ‘turn around, take me home!’ I wouldn’t be able to leave the house feeling normal.

Even now, my boyfriend lives in Manchester because he plays for Liverpool so when he moved, it was crap and then once this started happening. I still can’t get the train on my own, it freaks me out and makes me feel really claustrophobic. I feel uneasy. My mum would even be like, ‘I’m going to the shop for a bottle of milk!’ I’d sweat and panic and be like, ‘please don’t leave me on my own because the second you leave that door, I’m going to have a panic attack and I’m on my own.’ My mum got to the point where she didn’t know what to do because she can’t babysit me 24/7 even though she did for a long time.

I never thought there was a way out. I thought this is me now, I’m going to be a house hermit… it was like learning to walk again…

My best friend/cousin Ellie moved in with me and it’s massively helped. Now she can go out with her friends and I’m alright on my own. It sounds ridiculous but it was like I needed to be babysat for a long time. I still struggle now. I wouldn’t be able to get a train and go somewhere on my own, I cannot do that anymore, it freaks me out.

I don’t know if it’s come with being in the industry and knowing that people are constantly looking at me and wanting a piece of me or there might be a pap somewhere. I don’t know if it’s triggered it, but it’s just happened. When I look back now to this weird wobble I had, I never thought I’d be where I am now because I never thought there was a way out. I thought this is me now, I’m going to be a house hermit, I’m never going to leave the house and I’m going to need someone to hold my hand 24/7 and then I thought you can’t live your life like that. How am I going to have a career? How about I going to get on stage and perform?

How am I going to meet our fans? How am I going to do any of the stuff I love doing if I don’t leave the house? It was like learning to walk again, it was so bizarre. Once I overcome one thing, once I went out the house a bit more, my mum didn’t have to come to work with me anymore and I was fine. Then I started travelling on my own. I can get in a car and go to Manchester and I’m fine. I’m still a bit uneasy about the train.

It’s about finding coping mechanisms; I’m constantly not letting it defeat me…

It’s finding coping mechanisms and looking back then, I never thought I’d be here now. I’m constantly getting better, I’m constantly not letting it defeat me, it’s one step at a time. You have to figure it out for yourself and figure out how to cope. I’m getting there. My coping mechanisms include my dog, Hatchi – he is my son. I love him with every bit of my soul. He keeps me calm and I talk to him all day. If Ellie goes to the shops, at first, I was pretty on edge but now I have to let her go. I can’t make a deal out of it if she wants to go out with her friends to the cinema because I can’t be that person. When everybody is out, if I’ve got Hatchi I’m cool. I’ve got my little mate. He keeps me sane. My parents, my mum, my dad, loved ones, family friends and talking to a stranger helps massively.

At first, I was embarrassed about going to therapy. I thought if I tell everybody I’ve been to therapy, they’re going to think I’m nuts…

Therapy helped hugely by speaking to someone who has no idea what’s going on in your life, you just let it all out and it’s the best thing in the world. At first, I was so embarrassed because I thought if I tell everybody I’ve been to therapy, they’re going to think I’m nuts. I thought people are going to think I’m mental and at one point I thought my mum was going to have to send me somewhere because I was having these dark thoughts, I was thinking differently to the way I would. I’m a very positive, outgoing, bubbly, sunshine person and then I was thinking dark thoughts that were freaking me out. The more I thought about it, the more it would freak me out even more.

By admitting that, I thought I was a weirdo. Like I said in my post, I’ve lived in my mind for 26 years come July, I’ve been the same person for 26 years, my life’s changed yeah, it’s been on a dramatic rollercoaster but it’s still my mind so when you lose control of it, you start to think ‘what the hell is happening? Why is my mind doing this to me?’ You feel like you’re against it and you’re battling with it. One part is trying to keep you sane and the other’s parts like, ‘nah you’re pretty messed up!’ It’s terrifying and so bizarre and why I never wanted to tell anyone I had therapy at first, but it just helps. Even if you’re feeling a bit down at work or you’re feeling a bit down about things going on in your family, it’s nice to speak to people. It’s nice to talk. If you’ve got a friend or a teacher, just anyone you know who’ll listen for 5 minutes is the best.

It’s like battling with yourself – my mum got me dolls to paint and I would sit there shaking when she left the house for two minutes…

At first, I was like ‘don’t leave me on my own, I will literally die’. It got to the point where I was like ‘mum, you go to the shop and take your phone and then as soon as you’ve been gone and I start to feel a bit funny, I’ll ring you’. I did the same with Alex’s mum, Wendy. She’s been incredible. It was Christmas time and she was like, ‘I’m going to go walk the dog and I’ll be gone for two minutes and then I’ll take my phone and if you need me then ring’ I’ll try and stay as long as I could without ringing her. I’d be like shaking and she would say find something to keep your mind occupied like paint. My mum got me these dolls and I’d started painting them shaking like this thinking ‘don’t ring her, you’re an adult, you can do it’. It’s like battling with yourself. The more I did it, the better it got. Nothing is going to come overnight; it’s not going to happen that quick, so you have to tell yourself and rationalise with it.

Now I’m a completely different person to what I was a year and half ago, we are all going to go through hard times in our life…

Thinking back then to 18 months ago, I thought it would never get any better. Now I’m a completely different person to what I was a year and half ago. It is exactly that. I’m a human, we’re going to go through hard times and hard periods of our life, it’s not going to be an easy ride all the time. That’s what we forget. On social media, it seems that way that living are living these idyllic lives and it’s not. There’s going to be bumps in the road, that’s life. How you deal with it is how you are as a person and it can make you as a human.

We’ve gone through heartbreak. You can be heartbroken and be miserable but instead you have a performance to prepare for and interviews to do…

That’s hard. That is really hard. I think sometimes when you’re in this industry, you have to be an actress sometimes which is sad because it does suck that you can’t show your emotion 24/7 because you have to be on, ready for the camera. We’ve gone through heartbreak. You can be heartbroken and just want to get in bed and throw the quilt over your head and never come out for a week and eat ice-cream and be miserable but instead you have a performance to prepare for and interviews to do. You have to put it to the back of your head and get on with it.

Sometimes it’s better because I think if I didn’t have work at the time that all the anxiety was going on, I wouldn’t have gone. If I didn’t have 3 other girls to think about and be strong for, because we were preparing for the Glory Days tour, and I always have mini breakdowns during tour because learning that much choreography is a lot. It’s so intense. It’s so mentally and physically draining. Although it’s fun, it’s hard work. If I didn’t have the other 3 girls to think about and the tour to prepare for and all the fans that want to see the show to be the best it can be, I don’t think I would have come back to work. I was happy to be at home with my family with Hatchi and call it a day. It was that daunting trying to go back to everything.

I hated my freckles and I went home from school and said, ‘mum I’m thinking of getting a skin peel’…

My relationship with beauty has changed. I don’t know if it comes with age, I don’t know if confidence comes with getting older and not caring what people think anymore but when I was younger, I was in the playground and we were playing catch the kisses. One of the boys was like yeah let’s play catch the kisses and I was thinking I really hope someone catches me for a smooch. I ran and I looked behind and there wasn’t one person chasing me.

They were all after Nicola and I remember thinking what about me? One of the boys was like, ‘don’t kiss her, she’s well freckly!’ I remember thinking what the heck is wrong with my freckles. I hated them. I went home and I was like, ‘mum I’m thinking of getting a skin peel!’ And she was like, ‘what?’ I was like, ‘surely they can peel off your skin and put new skin on?’ She was like, ‘what is wrong with you? Why are you saying this? That is nonsense.

Why do I have to do something that makes me unhappy like wear loads of foundation to make my skin look flawless when people are still going to say I look sh*t…

Growing up – being in the dressing rooms, getting changed in front of all the girls – I had this big scar of my stomach and it’s just a lot when you are a kid. You think it’s the end of the world. You think ‘Why can’t I be normal? Why can’t I have a flat stomach?’ As you get older you think, ‘damn I think it’s pretty quirky!’ I love freckles. I’m like this in the sun trying to get more. I love them whereas when I was a kid, it was a different. I just think when you’re a kid, everything is ten times worse. You worry about the silliest things, don’t you? Age definitely helped me and becoming confident in my own skin through the industry. I’ve always said you can’t please everyone. Why do I have to do something that makes me unhappy like wear loads of foundation to make my skin look flawless when people are still going to say I look shit and they’re going to say why’s she wearing too much make-up? I may as well be myself and let it be that. Who gives a crap?

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