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Ladyhawke speaks about Asperger's

By Greg Cochrane
Newsbeat music reporter

Ladyhawke aka Pip Brown released her self-titled debut album earlier this year

Sometimes it can go undiagnosed. Sometimes it can go ignored. Sometimes it can go unnoticed.

Asperger syndrome - a form of autism characterised by difficulties dealing with people and social situations - affects close on one in every 100 people in Britain.

With 500,000 people in the UK alone having the condition, it's a lot more common than the disability's current profile would suggest.

"People with Asperger syndrome often have a unique way of experiencing the world," explains Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society (NAS). "Many express this with great success through creativity and the arts."

"Without the right help and support [it] can have a profound effect on people's lives."

'Private person'

One high profile sufferer is New Zealand songstress Ladyhawke aka Pip Brown - currently enjoying extensive airplay with her latest single My Delirium.

Pip was only diagnosed with Asperger syndrome a couple of years ago. She is, understandably, still a little wary of speaking about the subject.

"I guess in myself it's not in my nature to open myself up to people and I feel quite exposed."

"I'm a really private person - I don't really go out often," she says. "I sort of regret opening myself up to the public that much."

"On the other side of things I am glad that I've been able to talk to people in a similar situation."

Indeed, since revealing her diagnosis she has been regularly contacted by other people for advice.

Pip Brown live onstage

"I hear from a lot of people on MySpace who have Asperger. A lot of people I can relate to write me messages and stories about themselves."

"I only have a very mild form of it and there are some people who have it so bad that they find it too hard to even write me a message to me - I love that I've been able to talk to people and be able to relate like that."

'Hidden disability'

The condition itself can often go completely undiagnosed. Termed a "hidden disability" it can instead be attributed as shyness, social awkwardness or depression.

"People shouldn't be scared of it or anything," explains Pip.

"Some people don't even realise that they have it. I went through my whole life not knowing until only a few years ago, when it was just doing my head in and I had to get help. "

Early reviews of Ladyhawke's live performances noted her meekness and reluctance to interact with her audience.

She is though, still learning how best to cope with her condition. Her commitment to a touring lifestyle means she continues to confront challenges on a daily basis.

Some people don't even realise that they have it. I went through my whole life not knowing until only a few years ago

"I have real moments, quite often in sound check, when I just don't feel like I can perform," she admits.

"I don't feel like I can sing. I have these voices in my head telling me that I suck and I can't do it."

"There's one side of me saying suck it up and do it. And there's another side that says everybody's looking at you and they're judging you."

"It happens to me every single show without fail, so I'm getting used to it."

In many senses the condition itself is invisible. Symptoms are often subtle, if noticeable at all. For example those it affects might find comfort in routine or possess a unique focus on special interests.

"I'll hone in on something like a game and I'll end up being obsessed with it for a long time," Pip concludes.

"So at the moment I'm just playing Lego Batman on the Wii. I play it so much that I fall asleep and end up dreaming that I'm destroying things and turning things into Lego money."

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