Kerryn Johnston is a journalist who presented regional television news for 22 years, before suffering her first on-air anxiety attack.
Since opening up about my anxiety, I’ve been touched by the number of friends and colleagues who’ve admitted both privately and publicly, that they have trodden the same path. Some have found a way to manage their anxiety, while others continue to battle this insidious, debilitating disorder.
After hiding it and fighting it simultaneously for over two years, I am feeling lighter for sharing, but while I’m coming to terms with publicly acknowledging it, I am now struggling to digest the broader branding of ‘sufferer of mental health issues’.
Academically, I accept it, I am not in denial and I applaud those who want to shout it from the rooftops. Without these champions, it would largely remain a taboo subject.
But I and many others are not so bold.
(Image: Amber Melody - www.thebeautifullens.com)
The transition from private person working to overcome my demons, to a sufferer of mental health problems has been difficult for me and may well be what precludes others from seeking help.
Let me state, for the record, I am unusually introverted for this industry and it’s more luck than good management that I’ve survived as long as I have. The thought of standing on stage or speaking publicly makes me want to contract into the foetal position.
I am definitely not your standard issue television presenter and it was this fear of public judgement and labelling, that forced my battle underground. Watch Mia Freedman discuss how she manages her anxiety. (Post continues after video.)
I had talked myself into believing I’d be belittled as weak for failing to manage a condition, that for so long (and unfairly), I had written off as a weakness in others.
But it turns out most people are not judging. The support I have received has been extraordinary as have the admissions from friends facing similar challenges. I’ve learned that some can’t get through the groceries without wanting to flee the store screaming; some friends are relying on medication just to make it out the door in the morning.