British Soul Singer Laura Mvula Opens Up About How Anxiety Nearly Destroyed Her Life

Laura Mvula was a welcome addition to the soul music landscape with her 2013 debut Sing to the Moon. Now, she's preparing the release of her second LP, The Dreaming Room, and sat down with The Guardian for an in-depth interview on her life and music.

In the profile, Mvula reveals that she began to suffer from debilitating anxiety shortly after her parents' separation.
She was seized by panic attacks. “At first it was the shortness of breath… Dizziness… Why do I want to run out of the house naked right now?” As time went on the attacks “began to manifest in different ways. It’s difficult to explain. My body starts spasming, I think I’m going to collapse… Difficulty swallowing sometimes… A feeling of struggling to stay in your skin.”

She became unable to escape the attacks.

 “The freak-out in the shower. And I wish that was the term for something good – it’s not. When it happens I feel like my head’s about to explode. So I start shaking it violently, bang the door open, water spills out, this whole episode. When all I want is to have a fucking shower. After that, you have to deal with getting over the shame of calling for help.”

The episodes began before she became a star, but they only worsened as her fame grew. This manifested itself as an inability to be alone.

Her anxiety – and in particular her difficulty with being left alone – got worse. In London for gigs or other engagements she had to be accompanied at all times by her younger sister, Dionne, who was then a student in the capital. 

Mvula was diagnosed with clinical depression. Like many who suffer from mental illness, she was hesitant to tell anyone.

“There’s a natural fear that nobody will understand,” Mvula says. “Or they’ll think you’re making it up, or you’ve become a diva. I was ashamed. Embarrassed. Also, at that point, I was so ignorant of what the industry was, I thought: ‘If they find out about that they’ll drop me.’”

Mvula was able to record her second album with the support of her brother and assistant. It appears she's turned the corner. Her first single "Overcome" is a hopeful meditation on what life might bring.