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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

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