This article discusses psychosis and may be distressing for some readers.
It was a morning in February, 2014, as Osher Günsberg sat in a Los Angeles cafe with a coffee and a copy of the New York Times, that a terrifying thought descended on him.
The then-39-year-old, who had hosted the first season of Australia’s The Bachelor the previous year, was unemployed and living in LA as he waited to hear whether the show would be renewed.
He was in an intense relationship (his first serious relationship since becoming sober), his father was very ill, and he had been off his anti-anxiety medication for about nine months.
At that time, on that day, and without warning, he started to lose touch with reality.
The article Günsberg was reading on that Friday morning in February happened to be about climate change. In an interview with Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast, he recalled how “something popped into my brain”, and to this day, it hasn’t entirely gone away.
In one moment, he became “100 per cent convinced that the full, catastrophic ramifications of the worst possible case scenario projections of full climate change were happening, and they were happening today”.
It was as though all of a sudden he knew “the seas are going to rise 15 metres, the earth is going to warm up 10 degrees and all food storage and food transportation and everything, our whole way of looking after ourselves and looking after our lives and the lifestyles that we live, will vanish”. Günsberg was certain he was the only person who had full knowledge of, and cared about, this imminent danger.
Listen: Osher Günsberg joins Mia Freedman on No Filter to talk about his book Back, After The Break, where he writes about his life.
Want to hear to more? Subscribe to No Filter.
As Günsberg ruminated on the thought, he decided to go for a run – a coping strategy he’d always relied on when he was experiencing anxiety. But as he started to run, he says he got an “overwhelming urge to run up to people and warn people,” to shout at them and tell them the world was ending and they needed to get home and protect themselves.
As he ran, he started to see himself running underwater, as though the sea levels had risen. “I’m looking above me and the palm trees are over my head… and they’re now kind of weird water lilies,” he told Freedman. “It was very, very hard to tell the difference between am I imagining this, or is it real?”
Then there were the physical symptoms. The TV presenter says he felt as though someone was running up behind him about to flick him, and he was flinching away in anticipation.
Despite his steadfast delusion that the impacts of climate change were in the midst of happening, bringing disastrous consequences to mankind, Günsberg could sense he was “very, very sick”.
Years of cognitive behavioural therapy had taught him to question his automatic thoughts, and he could see that no one else around him was terrified.
Simply the weather, the sunshine, was a trigger for him. At the time, he was terrified the rest of his life would be like this.
What if he felt this way forever? And was always in this state of panic?