Laura Lexx has had a trying couple of years but has come through it stronger. Jamie Walker talks to the Brighton-based comedian about her battle with depression, trying to start a family and how it led her to her new Edinburgh Fringe show.

Looking at Laura Lexx as we greet each other on a blisteringly hot day outside the Komedia in Brighton, you would never in a million years think she is the sort of person who would struggle with depression.

She is bubbly and smiley with a tone to her voice that you just can’t help but smile back at.

The idea that depression has a certain “look” is exactly this type of assumption that Laura is trying to subvert.

She is currently in the process of building up to her 2018 Edinburgh Fringe show, Trying.

The show is simply that – it is about how Laura has been trying, for the last two years, to fight many battles.

“It had got to the point where I thought I had to change the world by myself,” she tells me.

It is this pressure that Laura put on herself that was a factor in her spiral into depression.

It was at the back end of 2016 when Laura took a bit of a dip with her mental health.

She talks about how she has suffered from depression since the age of 16 but, in her own words, what she experienced around a year and a half ago was “a whole different ball game”.

“I found myself in therapy for anxiety and depression. I found myself on anti-depressants and really struggling to hold my life together,”she explains.

“Call it a breakdown, call it whatever you want to call it, it was different, that was really tough.

“Part of the problem with that was that my husband and I were trying for a baby at the time.

“I suddenly found myself trying for a baby, trying to cheer up, trying to carry on with my life, trying to hold it all together. I was really just trying too hard, on all accounts, to do too much and be perfect.”

It was all this trying, the pressure to try and be “perfect”, as she puts it, that has inspired Laura’s latest show.

She says that she wants people to be able to realise that they can laugh about a serious issue.

She adds that, despite it being talked about more, the stigma surrounding mental health still has a long way to go.

She says:“I think the world is moving to a place where you can be a bit more open and I see people retweet things about mental health issues all the time.

“I would like this show to be me putting my hand up and saying that I’m one of those people; I’m not sitting in the corner rocking backwards and forwards, I’m not a statistic, I’m not someone you don’t know.

“I’m a perfectly ‘normal’ person, who regularly falls apart, and this is what it looks like.”

It is that stigma that Laura initially felt when she went on anti-depressants: “I didn’t tell anybody because I was terrified about not getting work – who wants to book a depressed comedian?

“I thought they wouldn’t want to book me if they think there’s a chance I won’t turn up or if I get it wrong on stage.”

It was a conversation with someone who was on the same medication as her, with them not realising she was on it, that helped her see she was not the only one with those fears.

She goes on to add that while those who are comfortable opening up about mental illness should do so, those who aren’t so comfortable should not feel pressured into doing so.

The most important thing, in Laura’s mind, is showing people what mental health problems look like and that people should not be treated different because of them.

Depression can surface in many forms, at any time, that is one of the main reasons people can struggle with it.

For Laura, hers came in the form of the impending end of the world.

“I had been having these obsessive thoughts that had slowly, and I’m not exaggerating, crept into every second of being awake. I thought about the same subject over, and over again. I was terrified about the end of the world, I thought that there was probably only a few more years left of life on earth, and I really thought the end of the world was on its way, and everything I could see in the world was a sign of it coming,” she says.

Anyone who saw Laura perform around this time may not have even noticed that anything was wrong.

That’s because depression is not something that always shines through clearly, and for Laura it was her shows that seemed to be the only reliable constant: “I struggled to do pretty much everything, except gig. It was one of the things that meant I didn’t get help for a long time.

“I’m not very destructive or addictive, I didn’t turn to alcohol, I’m very lucky in that way.

“I didn’t turn to drugs, or cheat on my husband, or ruin my career, or trash my house. I just got on with it, whilst being confident that my life was over.

“Gigging was a bit like being asleep, it’s a different mental track for me, so it was quite peaceful, it was a chance to switch off those thoughts that I couldn’t switch off the rest of the time.

“For 20 minutes, or an hour, or however long a night it’s like dreaming. You get to relax all that consciousness.”

As well as being on anti-depressants, Laura also sought help from therapy, in the form of a cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT).

She adds that being able to open up to someone was a key factor in being able to overcome her fears.

“I definitely think the CBT was a huge part of coming back. I do talk to my husband a lot, but I think it’s really great to have a third party in there.

“When your thoughts include things like ‘I can’t see the point of carrying on being alive’ and I have to say I wasn’t at a point where I’d made plans to end my life, but I was so desperate and so miserable that I didn’t think I was going to be able to carry on being alive, that’s a very difficult thing for someone who loves you to sit and listen to.

“There’s no way you can tell the person you’re sharing your life with that you’ve got no reason to live, and not have them be upset.”

Somehow, Laura is attempting to fit this entire journey she has been on into an hour of comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Throughout August her goal will be to show that mental health is something that people can openly discuss without it having to be uncomfortable.

She says: “What I hope people in the show will be doing is realise they’re absolutely laughing their head off about something they didn’t know they could laugh that hard at.

“I don’t find it therapeutic. I like that I can do it, but for me to put it into the show I detach myself slightly from what I’m doing. But, I love that it would be therapeutic for somebody else.”

Fortunately, Laura is back on the upslope now, feeling much more like herself.

She says that while she still has blips, she now knows how to cope with them.

In preparation for her run in Scotland, Laura will be appearing at Brighton Komedia to preview her Ed Fringe show.

She says that previews are often more important than the run itself, as they helps hone that perfect Fringe set.

“You have the idea for a show and you think the jokes are great and then you say them out loud and start to see the issues with it,” she explains.

“The more you say it out loud to people the more you see these different paths.

“It sounds stupid but just learning one hour of talking is a lot of stuff.

“My process is do a preview, which I record, listen back to it, and reshape the script based on that, then I repeat the process.

“About two previews in to this show, I wanted to talk about this big family holiday I had been on last year and I knew I wanted to talk about playing with my brothers and sisters, on a campsite in France, at the age of 31, but I didn’t know how I wanted to put it in there.

“By my second of third preview I decided to try and cut up the material and thread it through the show, so it follows the holiday in France and then the other stuff hangs off it.”

Laura is becoming somewhat of a regular in Edinburgh.

This will be her fourth appearance in six years and that’s not including all the shows she guests on – trust me, she showed me her diar. It’s a lot of shows.

She says that at this stage one of her favourite things about the festival is seeing how her show will develop.

She says: “I know that the first week it will be really good, but I’ll be a bit tight with it, and then as I get into day 14 I’ll know the room, I know how it all works, after that I’ll feel more relaxed.”

She adds that while, like many comedians, she likes the stability and structure that a month of shows in the same city provides, there is a beauty in hitting the road following the festival.

“I love it when I get to the Fringe, walking round Edinburgh, and then when I get back from that I love getting into my car and driving into someone’s community and you get a little snapshot about how that town works, and then you never see those people again, and I think there’s something quite beautiful about that.”

You can almost picture it now; there you are in your quaint little town, and Laura Lexx comes riding in on a white horse, the saviour of boredom that the townsfolk would have faced that evening. She puts on a rip-roaring show and rides into the sunset as the civilians stand in the foreground waving her off on her next journey,

OK, maybe it’s not quite like that, but it’s certainly the image that Laura conjures up in my mind. She’s very good at that, is Laura. She has that innate ability to put you in the heart of a story, as if you’re seeing it with your own eyes.

I think it’s one of the thinks that endears her to the audiences she plays.

Something else that makes her stand out are the quirks in her comedy, little tid-bits that she adds, completely off the cuff, that make you chuckle.

For example, at the time of our chat Laura has just returned from holiday in Corfu – lucky – and was out there when I emailed her to set up the interview.

What I didn’t expect to receive was an email that started with the line “I have quit comedy to…”.

At first I jump out of my seat.

There’s no way that Laura could have quit comedy is there?

My fears are allayed when I open the email to discover it fully reads “I have quit comedy to live in Corfu for at least ten days, possibly the rest of my life.”

It’s another silly bit of comedy that ensures one extra joke at the expense of the person trying to contact her.

“I love writing out of office emails,” she says.

“It’s really lovely to be creative on something so silly.

“I never thought I needed an out of office email, I’m a comic, who cares, and then in the last couple of years people will ask me for availability for shows and then send follow ups and that’s when I thought I needed one.”

As we sit outside the Komedia, a seagull knocks over a tray of food while trying to steal a chip from the neighbouring burger joint, someone dressed as French chef drives down the road on bike being filmed – what for I’m not sure – and holidaymakers buzz through the streets in swarms.

These surroundings are what Laura loves about Brighton.

She says, “What I like about Brighton is that it’s renowned for accepting the weird and wonderful but it also accepts the absolute, bog-standard average.

“I feel no more out of place here as a straight, cis, white woman, that I would if I had a blue mohawk, and was every label that the Daily Mail hates.

“You can be who you like here, and nobody cares.”

One thing people in the city do care about though is comedy. With the Fringe gearing up to start, July is the perfect time to take in the best the country has to offer and Laura is hopeful that her show will shine this summer.

She says: “I really don’t think there will be anything else like it, in terms of stand up this year.

“I think trying is the show to come and see because it’s going to be belly laughs about something serious, and if it wasn’t perfect I wouldn’t be doing it because of how important the subject matter is to me.”

As we head our separate ways, it is hard to not be impressed by how far Laura has come in the last 18 or so months.

She’s battled her demons and come out on top, and got a cracking stand up show out of it. Laura Lexx is definitely trying, and absolutely succeeding.