Here's a full report from the best media commentator in the business, Peter Ford.
You'd be hard pressed to find an Australian who doesn't know and love Julie Goodwin after she won the first series of Master Chef.
Lately Julie's been working doing breakfast radio at the Central Coast's Star 104.5 station.
She's just penned this note from her inpatient bed in a hospital mental health unit where she's been receiving treatment for the past few weeks.
It's immensely moving and I know it will do a great deal of good for a great number of people.
God bless you Julie!
A special note from Julie:
If you’re a regular listener of our show you may have noticed that I have been missing in action this year. I didn’t want to go into too much detail on the show this morning. Being the last Rabbit and Julie Goodwin breakfast show we wanted to keep it fun and positive, a celebration as well as a goodbye.
But I did want to provide a bit more information for anyone who is interested, for a couple of reasons. Partly because disappearing like this has created difficulty for a lot of people. I have essentially disappeared from my scheduled life, failed to meet my obligations, and I owe an explanation.
Also, as difficult as this time has been, there are some things I’ve realised that may be helpful to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.
I’ve had depression and anxiety on and off over many years. On the surface I know I don’t seem to be depressed or anxious. I’ve denied it to myself for a long time, and certainly put a lot of energy into making sure it wasn’t obvious to the people around me.
I have never been one of those brave people who can lay these things out in the open for others to look at and comment on. I’ve considered it private, even though other people may benefit from knowing that they are not alone. But this time around the happy façade didn’t just slip a little bit, it fell off and smashed. And I find myself thinking, stuff privacy. Let’s talk.
Four years ago I had a fairly new business – Julie’s Place cooking school - and also I started doing our brekky show on the radio. Either of these things on its own is a major undertaking; combined they made for a ridiculously full schedule. In this time I have worked hard to stay on top of everything. I have changed my sleep and social habits, I have exercised and been to see counsellors and hypnotherapists, I have done my level best to keep on juggling and keep all those balls up in the air.
The things that have taken a back seat during this time, have been my family, my friends, my rest and recovery time. Six months ago I reluctantly decided to acknowledge that my mental health wasn’t great and I finally allowed myself to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and put on medication.
Late last year I decided to give notice to Star and cease doing our morning radio show as of Easter this year. It was a massive and difficult decision, because I love doing this job, respect and adore my colleagues, am in awe of the listeners and the relationships we’ve built. I’ve had nothing but support and love from this workplace. But still I needed to do it for my wellbeing and my family.
The Christmas break came around, usually a time of rest and healing and restocking the energy bank. This year was different. A whole list of things went wrong, and I just didn’t have the resources to deal with any of it. I was physically sick in the guts for weeks, my mouth and nose full of ulcers, my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. Emotionally I was just spent. Anxiety kept coursing through me like electricity. I felt like I was trapped under a wet woollen blanket and every move was a massive effort.
Eventually all of this became so much that I just had nothing left. No joy, no excitement. I couldn’t see a single thing to look forward to, and putting a smile on my face involved remembering which muscles to use and arranging them properly.
It felt like being in the middle of the ocean, not knowing which way to swim to reach shore, just treading water more and more slowly. Stopping seemed like it would be such a relief.
I reckon this was the darkest place I’ve ever been. I already had January clients coming to the kitchen and was days away from returning to Star. I just couldn’t make my brain and body do the things they needed to do to meet those commitments. The wheels fell off.
My beautiful husband Mick, the person who loves me most, recognised the crisis I was in and took me to the emergency room. I was referred to what’s known as the acute care team, who referred me to a psychiatrist, who recommended in-patient care in a mental health unit.
And that’s where I am, and have been for more than five weeks now.
The whole thing has been an enormous shock. I’ve always considered myself to be strong and resilient, energetic, capable of doing many things. I’ve prided myself on my work ethic and always taken it as something of a compliment when people say “I don’t know how you manage it all!”. I’ve always thought “soldiering on” and “putting a good face on things” were values to aspire to.
As it turns out, those things are positive and good – but only in moderation. If you stick to these ideals too rigidly, if you don’t cut yourself any slack, if near enough is never ever good enough – then maybe you’re not thriving. Maybe you are in the process of breaking.
And I guess that’s the main reason that I wanted to provide a little bit more detail around what is happening to me. Because I don’t think I’m out of the ordinary, to be honest. I’d just like you to have a quick squiz at your life, your workload, your family and friends, and ask - is it working for me? Or is it just working me into the ground?
In the past few weeks while I have been away I have been asked to challenge my ideas of being a productive, energetic, even a good person. I’ve had to take stock of what’s important, what’s possible, and what little things we need to do sometimes just to get through a day.
I have a lot more to learn, and a lot of work to do, but one thing I do know is this: If the comment “I don’t know how you manage it all” comes my way again, I won’t be taking it as a compliment. I’ll be taking it as a warning sign that I perhaps need to step back and take stock. Before I break again.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned, and this is what I’d like to pass on: treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love. Don’t work more than you would allow your partner or child to work. Don’t speak to yourself with harsh words you’d never use towards your friends or colleagues. Be as kind to yourself as you try to be to others.
And if you’re overwhelmed, if you’re struggling, ask for help. Do it before you can no longer hear the logical voices, the clear and good voices. Do it before it’s too hard to see a way forward. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the ones who love you the most.
No-one needs to face their problems alone.
Help is available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14