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After Rebecca Gibney had a nervous breakdown, she was able to forgive her abusive father. 

CONTENT WARNING: This post deals with domestic violence and depression and may be triggering for some readers.

To most Australians, actress Rebecca Gibney is instantly recognisable as everyone’s favourite “cool mum” Julie Rafter from beloved television drama Packed to the Rafters.

The New Zealand-born actress is one Australia’s most appreciated talents, whose warmth both on and off the telly has made her a household name and enduring screen presence.

But life hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the 54-year-old.

Sitting down with Andrew Denton on tonight’s episode of Interview, the mother-of-one – who lives  in Dunedin, New Zealand with her husband of 19 years Richard Bell and 15-year-old son Zac – spoke about her previous struggles with mental health, and how a nervous breakdown in her early 30s forced her to address her difficult upbringing in a family of domestic violence.

It’s an issue she feels passionate about discussing to aid those in a similar situation, and ultimately break the stigma surrounding mental health.

Watch a snippet from Rebecca’s chat with Andrew below. Post continues after.

“I think it’s so important that we talk about it now,” she told Andrew Denton.

“Life is a struggle. If we don’t talk about it and don’t share it then there are going to be people out there struggling the way I did, and I know what it’s like to be in that pit. It’s a horrible place to be.”

Raised in a family of six with a barely present father who had “a lot of issues”, Rebecca said she spent years bottling up the feelings that stemmed from her childhood.

“No one would know that we were being raised in a family of domestic violence,” she wrote in an Instagram post from 2017, touching on the isolation of coming from a family of domestic violence. How from the outside looking in, things can often appear normal, with the victims suffering in silence.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

This is a happy snap of my sister Stella and me when we were kids. No one would know that we were being raised in a family of domestic violence. Last night on the Sunday program fellow actor Melissa George talked about being attacked by her former partner. I am currently in NZ and didn’t watch the program but have been really disturbed by the reports of the online response to Melissa’s interview. That somehow she deserved what happened to her. As a victim of domestic violence myself – I grew up in a household where violence toward our mother was a common occurrence – I am appalled that anyone can accuse a woman of ‘ asking’ to be beaten. Domestic violence is wrong – violence in any form is wrong. Please let us remember how difficult it is for anyone that has been in this situation to speak out. Regardless of how you may perceive someone in the public eye please remember they are as human as the rest of us and deserve as much compassion as the next person. And for anyone in a similar situation there is always someone who will listen. And you can get through it. My mother and my family is a testament to that. Just reach out. #love #peace #pleasetalkaboutit #domesticviolenceiswrong @melissageorgeofficial

A post shared by Rebecca Gibney (@rebeccagibney_) on

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As the years went by, she told Andrew Denton, Rebecca’s mother managed to forgive her husband. But for Rebecca, it took years for her to do the same.

“All through my teens growing up I really didn’t like my father, in fact I can probably say I hated him,” she said.

“I blamed him for so much misery and not having a normal life. I could never bring friends home because he’d always be drunk. At that stage he wasn’t violent anymore he was just a drunk, and he’d fall over.”

It wasn’t until her nervous breakdown that she was able to let go – to some extent – of the angst her father caused.

“I started seeing a counsellor and I was able to fully understand then how [my mother] was able to forgive him. I realised that… he’s gone, you hating them or being angry at them is doing nothing for them and everything to you, it’s ruining your life.

“You’ve got to cry and get angry, but when you finally let that go, it’s quite an extraordinary experience. and I realised that’s what mum would have done a lot.”

While Rebecca now presents as a woman who has overcome the demons of her past – and an open book when it comes to discussing them – she admited it hasn’t always been this way.

“As an actor, you’re so used to putting on a face. Even my own family didn’t know the struggle that I was going through,” she told Andrew.

In an interview with Yahoo in 2017,  she said she was stuck in a “constant battle with depression” in her 30s, letting it build up before it culminated in an emotional breakdown.

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“I had a nervous breakdown and emotional collapse in my early 30s so I just let it build up and build up,” she said.

But she was reluctant to face the cause of her panic attacks, and kept up a persona that was far from how she truly felt.

“It was ultimately a self-loathing that I developed from quite a young age,” she said. “I didn’t love myself. In fact, I hated myself; I was crumbling on the inside.”

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph last year, she revealed she had been haunted by suicidal thoughts.

“I suffered severe depression in my 30s and contemplated taking my life,” Rebecca told the publication.

So now, how does she deal with the “little voice” that tells her she’s not good enough? It gets easier with age, she said.

“It used to crush me, but I don’t dwell on it anymore, I take a deep breath and go ‘I’m OK with me’,” she said.

And for those who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel: “You just need to seek help, you need to talk about it because you can get through it. There is a path.”

Catch-up on Andrew Denton’s Interview on 7plus. Podcast available wherever you get your podcasts. 

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please seek professional help and contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If someone is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately.

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