‘I had a panic attack about 8-9 years ago. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t think it was real. No, that’s a lie. I knew it was real but I didn’t understand how your mind could control you like that. It was something that I’ve never experienced in my life. (...) I think that was my consciousness’ violent way of saying that you need to deal with this. This feeling that you feel weird, that is not just a weird feeling, that is actually a problem.’
We’re in Kayla’s bedroom in South London. It overlooks the train tracks. Her housemate is napping in the living room.
‘I procrastinate a lot on really simple things. From getting out of bed to getting in the shower, to eating. Everyday things. I know I should be doing something but I either decide not to do it or I just feel overwhelmed a lot. By simple shit. And then I get angry at myself for being anxious about a simple thing like getting in the shower or going to the bathroom. And it just starts this vicious cycle. So I try and be kind to myself. But I don’t like the fact that it takes me so long and I’m aware that I don’t like the fact that it takes me so long.’
‘So some days I’m really good. Some days I’m not. And that’s just it. I’ve noticed if I have a routine though! But it’s silly, I feel silly for having to write out a routine like: get up, get in the shower, to have to do things in a certain order. I can’t just get up and have breakfast. Because then it will take me ages to get a shower and everything gets pushed back. It’s crazy. And it’s not that hard.’
In the corner of her room is a small shrine. Kayla makes sure to say her ‘thank you’s’ every day.
Her mirror is covered in self-affirming sticky notes.
‘When it’s bad, I’m definitely an insomniac. I don’t sleep, I don’t eat, I smoke a lot. I try not to though, because I know that if I want to smoke weed, excessively in the daytime I know that this is an issue, I don’t wanna go down that path.’
‘That’s the thing, is it a general thing? Like is this your normal life? But no, because you know when you feel balanced, and you know when you don’t feel balanced. So it’s not normal life. It’s definitely a condition of life.’
‘Before my routine gets bad, there’s a turning point. Because there’s a point where my routine is really good and then all of a sudden, but I don’t know what the red flag is, and what the coping mechanism for me to implement is. And that’s what I need to learn. Because it’s definitely stepping stones. I’ve got the basics I feel. And then it’s the next thing. And then the next thing and the next thing.’
‘That’s really what gets me down, it feels like there’s no end. I can do all of this, I can have 120 amazing days. One day… and that feels disheartening.’
‘Comparing yourself is a byproduct. I can only speak for myself but for me personally, I’ve realised that I’m scared of my own success. And so me comparing myself to people is a byproduct of me being scared of my success. And that keeps me small. Because then I’m like ‘oh I could never do that or I haven’t got that’. Cause it’s like you want these things, but you have to be ready for them.’
‘When you’re in control of the car, but you don’t know where you’re going and somebody else is giving you directions… finished. Where am I going, am I gonna turn left? Am I gonna turn right? That’s literally what anxiety feels like. Because you are listening to, you’re not actually thinking for yourself. Okay, where are we actually going, are we going here? Right, this is what I know. When I don’t know, I’ll ask you. We got petrol? We got petrol. We got money? Cool.’