Joanita Wibowo

Mind

"I couldn't breathe or talk": Natalie Bassingthwaighte opens up on her breakdown

"I couldn't breathe or talk": Natalie Bassingthwaighte opens up on her breakdown

Natalie Bassingthwaighte has opened up about the six-week breakdown she suffered last year and her road to recovery.

In a new interview with Stellar Magazine, the actor and singer revealed her epiphany began when she woke up feeling “frozen” in March last year. 

“I couldn’t breathe or talk,” Bassingthwaighte revealed.

The night before, she was speaking to a colleague about their “full-on” work schedules. “We started talking about our kids and she said, ‘My son hates me; I’m always working’. Even though it may have been said in jest, it really hit me,” Bassingthwaighte recalled.

“The next morning, I couldn’t breathe. It was terrifying. I was curled up in a ball. That lasted six weeks.”

Bassingthwaighte said her breakdown could partially be explained by the precarious nature of her chosen career. Since her breakthrough in 1998 as a cast member of the musical Rent, Bassingthwaighte has continued to explore various paths in the entertainment industry, including acting (NeighboursThe Wrong GirlUnderbelly), music (dance band Rogue Traders) and talent show roles (So You Think You Can Dance Australia, The X Factor).

In 2017, she agreed to appear on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! after a long deliberation. At first, she asked casting agents if it would ruin her career: “I thought I might not be taken seriously again.”

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A post shared by Natalie bassingthwaighte (@natbassingthwaighte) on Jan 29, 2017 at 12:43am PST

She added, “Financially, it had been quiet… In this industry people don’t talk about that enough. I know one high-profile actor who told me he’d been living in his car. Sometimes you only work three months a year, but the perception is you’re rolling in it.

“There’s a lot of fear in this industry. There’s always this façade, but everyone feels crap about themselves sometimes. I don’t even think of myself as a celebrity; I’m a person who works in an industry I sometimes love and sometimes hate. I didn’t only do the show for money, but... you have to pay your bills.”

She was also affected by a four-year long grief that she buried following the death of her friend and longtime agent Mark Byrne, who passed away from a heart attack in 2014 at the age of 45, as well as another close friend who died by suicide.

“After Mark passed, I was always searching: ‘Who am I? What am I good at? What am I supposed to be doing?’ Not having that person to speak to five times a day has been challenging. I was so lost.”

In an interview with Marie Claire earlier in February, Bassingthwaighte described her breakdown as “a very scary and emotional time”. She said, “I didn’t want to see anybody. I took myself off social media and closed down my email. I was broken.”

The mother-of-two – daughter Harper, 8, and son, Hendrix, 6 – said she had her “defining moment” when she received an advance copy of a magazine, of which she was on the cover. At that point, she had spent almost six weeks “curled up, crying” and was booked in at an event to deliver a speech. 

She cried after seeing the cover that she shot three months prior to the breakdown. 

“I was so joyous and happy on the cover, and now I had tears running down my face,” she admitted. 

“That was a defining moment for me. So, that’s how I started my speech. I said that we all think life is perfect, and it’s not.”

From then, she began building a routine to help her cope, including reiki, acupuncture, counselling, kinesiology and antidepressant medication.

“The truth is, I was taking a very small dose of antidepressants and had done for a long time – around 20 years. Every time I tried to come off them, it didn’t work. I would get really panicky,” she said. “I slowly built myself back up. I went back on medication, just a tiny bit, but it’s the thing that worked.”

The 43-year-old, who is married to the Rogue Traders' drummer, Cameron McGlinchley, also started dealing with her grief. 

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A post shared by Natalie bassingthwaighte (@natbassingthwaighte) on May 27, 2019 at 11:55pm PDT

“I hadn’t processed it, I didn’t deal with it. So in a crazy way, I’m grateful [the breakdown] happened because I’m in the best place I’ve ever been. I’m more grounded. I feel more together. My priorities are in the right order. I feel like this evolution has happened in me.”

She also incorporated pilates, yoga and mediation into her schedule. 

“I meditate every day,” she said. “It’s changed my life. I’m inspired. I’m a much better mum.”

If you are experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.org.au.