Jes­sica Rowe


Good Health (Australia) - - Front Page -

Ev­ery woman needs Jes­sica Rowe on speed dial. Re­lent­lessly sunny and un­flinch­ingly hon­est, the Stu­dio 10 pre­sen­ter is the girl­friend every­one should call on for so­lace, wis­dom and wine af­ter a soul-de­stroy­ing day. Ad­mit­tedly, you’d have to sit amid piles of laun­dry and scat­tered toys if you vis­ited her home, and you’d likely have to set­tle for burnt toast if you were hun­gry – cook­ing is not the self-pro­claimed Crap House­wife’s strong suit – but you’d leave feel­ing bet­ter about the world than when you ar­rived. “I’m a very proud Crap House­wife – it’s a badge I wear with pride,” says Jes­sica, whose reg­u­lar posts of spag bol and tinned spaghetti on toast make this anti-martha Ste­wart the hero we didn’t know we needed.

“If we’re open and hon­est it gives other peo­ple per­mis­sion to do the same. I’m good at other things, but I’m not a good cook. I have a car you could live in it’s so messy, and I’ve got piles of stuff ev­ery­where. But that’s okay, be­cause more and more I re­alise I don’t want to spend my spare time sweat­ing that stuff. I want to spend it with the peo­ple I love, do­ing things I en­joy and they en­joy.”

Fam­ily and friends are ev­ery­thing to Jes­sica, 47 – anec­dotes about her daugh­ters Al­le­gra, 10, and Giselle, eight, pep­per our con­ver­sa­tion, and she speaks with great af­fec­tion about ‘Petey’, aka Nine news­reader Peter Over­ton, the hus­band who’s been her rock through dev­as­tat­ing pro­fes­sional and per­sonal set­backs. Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly given the roller­coaster decade she’s had, keep­ing her men­tal health in check is the linch­pin of Jes­sica’s well­be­ing phi­los­o­phy. “I be­lieve men­tal and phys­i­cal health are very closely linked,” she says. “I do pi­lates once a week and that’s more for my head than for my body, for deal­ing with stress and anx­i­ety. Be­fore that I did mainly weight train­ing at the gym but I was get­ting a bit bored and wanted to change things up a bit. I do pi­lates with a friend, we have so much fun. We laugh and we try not to fart – be­cause you’ve got to squeeze the pelvic floor and all these dif­fer­ent mus­cles. Be­cause I’m do­ing it with a friend I’m less likely not to rock up.”

Jes­sica is also the new am­bas­sador for So­lar D, a sun­screen which blocks harm­ful rays while continuing to al­low sun­light to stim­u­late the nat­u­ral pro­duc­tion of vi­ta­min D. This is some­thing she’s pas­sion­ate about given vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency has been to linked a range of ill­nesses in­clud­ing de­pres­sion.

Mind mat­ters

As well as ex­er­cise, Jes­sica also main­tains her men­tal health with an­tide­pres­sants, some­thing she has no shame about ad­mit­ting, in­sist­ing de­pres­sion should be

when she de­vel­oped post­na­tal de­pres­sion, speak­ing up wasn’t easy ‘it’s only now that i’m com­fort­able enough in my skin to be my­self’

treated like a phys­i­cal ill­ness – and reg­u­lar mind­ful­ness ex­er­cises.

“Ini­tially when a psy­chol­o­gist spoke to me about mind­ful­ness, I was ‘oh come on, this is a bit of non­sense’ but when I did some breath­ing ex­er­cises with her, and read more about it – I love Ruby Wax’s book

Sane New World – that re­ally changed my think­ing about how use­ful it can be and how doable it is,” she says. “Be­cause it’s not about hav­ing to change your life, it’s just look­ing at some sim­ple tech­niques to bring you back into the mo­ment and make you present. It gets you out of your head and out of those some­times-swirling thoughts that can be­come a vor­tex – that neg­a­tive self-talk.” The in­flu­ence of her mother Pene­lope in shap­ing Jes­sica’s ap­proach to well­be­ing has been pro­found. Help­ing care for Pene­lope as she bat­tled bipo­lar dis­or­der in­stilled in Jes­sica the need to keep her own men­tal health in check. Yet, de­spite all her ad­vo­cacy work with her mum over the years to tackle the stigma around men­tal health, she found when she de­vel­oped post­na­tal de­pres­sion af­ter Al­le­gra’s birth, speak­ing up wasn’t so easy. “When I re­alised I had a men­tal ill­ness I felt so ashamed, and the level of that shame re­ally sur­prised me. I did what so many peo­ple do – I thought, ‘what right do I have to feel like this? I have ev­ery­thing I could wish for. I have my beau­ti­ful hus­band and this beau­ti­ful baby I wanted for so long…’ It took me a long time to ask for help. Once I got that help and I be­came bet­ter, I thought long and hard about talk­ing about my ex­pe­ri­ences [pub­licly] and I re­alised if I didn’t, I’d feel like such a hyp­ocrite. Be­cause my mes­sage be­fore had been ‘you need to talk about it’. And that is why, to me, be­ing hon­est and open is so im­por­tant.” Find­ing con­fi­dence When Jes­sica talks about life, her words are im­bued with a wis­dom that can only come from some­one who knows life isn’t al­ways fair. As well as the de­bil­i­tat­ing post­na­tal de­pres­sion, there was her high-pro­file fir­ing (aka ‘bon­ing’) at the hands of then-nine boss Ed­die Mcguire that left her rep­u­ta­tion in tat­ters. And her gru­elling IVF jour­ney to have chil­dren. But through all this, her in­nate op­ti­mism and steely re­fusal to let any­thing “get the bet­ter of me”, have en­sured she al­ways rises to the top.

“My mum taught me that of­ten we don’t have a choice about what hap­pens to us in our lives but what we can choose is how we de­cide to deal with it,” she says. “I think re­silience is so im­por­tant but you don’t know you’ve got it un­til you need it. There are many times when I’ve felt like I couldn’t get up again – it’s only thanks to the love and sup­port of peo­ple around me who’ve be­lieved in me that kept me go­ing.”

The im­age of her in the grips of crip­pling de­pres­sion is hard to rec­on­cile with the ra­di­ant, ef­fu­sive Jes­sica of today. But she says she wouldn’t be the per­son she is today with­out fac­ing down the chal­lenges that could have eas­ily de­railed her. Af­ter the hu­mil­i­a­tion of her job loss, she was stuck in ca­reer pur­ga­tory for years – “No one would re­turn my calls,” she re­calls. Op­ti­misti­cally, she ap­peared on Danc­ing with the Stars, be­liev­ing if all went well, she could win the pro­gram’s tro­phy and reignite her ca­reer. All did not go well (she fin­ished sev­enth). With gal­lant pluck, she then set her sights on a role on Play School, tak­ing singing lessons to im­prove her chances. She failed to get the gig – twice – but she won some­thing greater. “All those things I did helped me get my con­fi­dence back, and my light­ness and my sense of fun. I then got a gig on Week­end Sun­rise read­ing the news. They were all small steps back into find­ing out who I was again. As a re­sult, I got a great op­por­tu­nity to au­di­tion for Stu­dio 10, which I’ve been do­ing for al­most four years. It re­ally is my dream job be­cause I’m my­self – but I don’t think I could have done this sooner, be­cause it’s only now that I’m com­fort­able enough in my skin to be my­self,” she says. “Life is good. But I’m very con­scious of mak­ing the most of it be­cause things can turn on a dime.”

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