After more than 30 years in Australia, Gibney is back living in New Zealand at her son’s behest. The family moved to the South Island to film the second series of Wanted and Zac, now 14, loved it so much he wanted to stay. They bought a home with 30 acres overlooking the ocean and while Gibney enjoys their open fireplace and watching the storms roll in, Zac relishes walking barefoot without fear of snakes and spiders. “He says he also feels safe because there are no terrorists,” she says, pointing out that he was affected by the Lindt Café siege which occurred just after her 50th birthday.
While work has seen her professional life soar – Gibney has received multiple Logie and AFI nominations and won the Gold Logie in 2009 – motherhood helped her put her personal demons to rest. “Motherhood doesn’t complete you, but being a mother to Zac did help me overcome some of my own issues because all of a sudden it became all about him. I was at a point in my life where I needed that.”
Having grown up with an alcoholic father and a mother who’d suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her own father, Gibney had what she calls an “emotional collapse” in her early 30s. She developed agoraphobia and was having hourly panic attacks, but told friends she had the flu. She started seeing a therapist but initially the selfconfrontation was too painful to bear. “I’d built up a library of self-loathing which I covered up with make-up and roles and pretending, but deep down I was dying inside. I felt like a failure in my first marriage, I felt a failure as an actor because I was pretending and I felt like a failure in my friendships because they weren’t real. A lot about me felt fake and I hated it.”
There was one dark day in particular when she considered suicide, something she hasn’t talked in detail about before and does so now with slight hesitation. “I’d been given prescription medication and on this particular day I put it all out on the coffee table and started writing a letter to my mum,” she says quietly, tears pooling in her eyes. “I got halfway through the letter and thought, ‘She’ll never understand. I can never do that to her.’ I started picturing my brothers and sisters and friends and I thought, ‘If I go through with this it will create way more pain for them than the pain I’m in now.’ I stopped, ripped up the letter and only told my mum years later. She was mortified and sad I didn’t tell her at the time.”
If life is a measure not of what happens to us but how we respond to it, then Gibney is the epitome of empathy and resilience. In the same way every emotion has played out on her face, whether in The Flying Doctors, or Halifax f.p. or Rafters, she now uses Instagram (109,000 followers) to tell stories, highlight causes and showcase the gratitude which has been pivotal in her return to sound mental health. She hopes her experiences might help others. “Perhaps they’ll think, ‘If it can happen to her, maybe I can take that extra breath, maybe I can go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow and do something about it.’” Gibney is also supportive of her Rafters’ co-star Jessica Marais being candid about her struggles:
Pitt plans to compete in and be an ambassador for New Zealand’s iconic Kathmandu Coast to Coast race next February. Since it’s her first event after giving birth, Pitt is limiting herself to the 30km mountain run section.
This particular goal is two-pronged: she wants to get back into training and hopes to showcase to women that setting a goal – however small – can be a motivating force. “I don’t want to achieve anything crazy, I just want to get my fitness back and finish with a smile on my face,” she says. “These sorts of events are good for mums who are going through the motions of going to work, coming home, cooking dinner and doing the washing. It can be monotonous if there’s not something exciting happening or something to work towards and look forward to.”
Like most parents, 31-year- old Pitt admits she presumed her son would be an adorable addition to her life, rather than the 24/7 disrupter most babies prove to be. She laughs at how delusional she was during those months when her scarred skin stretched to accommodate her growing baby. “I thought I could live my life and spend time with Hakavai, but he is my life at the moment. I had no idea.”
Speaking to Stellar on her way to yet another operation – this time to release tight skin on her hand – Pitt reveals that carrying a baby reinforced her appreciation of her body. Whereas a few years ago she would wake every morning, see her hands and be
fitness and family for her attention. “I just have to accept I can’t do everything really well. Sometimes you’ll be doing really well at your business but not so well at home, and other times you’re doing really well at home but work or training slide. But none of us have 10 out of 10 in all areas of our life.”
To keep a healthy perspective, every day she chooses three things to be grateful for. The morning she spoke to Stellar those were, in order: her son; a cup of coffee; and her mum coming