Sunday 16 June 2019

'I know the feeling of loneliness and sadness, but this was different' - Mary Kennedy on burn out

RTE presenter Mary Kennedy. Picture: David Conachy
RTE presenter Mary Kennedy. Picture: David Conachy
RTE presenter Mary Kennedy. Picture: David Conachy
RTÉ One Nationwide Presenter, Mary Kennedy pictured with cameraman and Caherciveen native, Reggie McCrohan during the programmes last visit to Castleisland in June 2012. Photo by John Reidy 19-6-2012
Mary Kennedy
Mary Kennedy in her early days with RTE
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Legendary RTE star Mary Kennedy has opened up in detail about her battle with anxiety and the physical response of her body.

The Nationwide host (64), who is consistently praised for her candour discussing her experience with loneliness and subsequent acceptance of it, said she at first struggled to understand how her body was reacting physically to a mental and emotional problem. She eventually took two weeks off work to take a step back and evaluate her life and where she could improve on self-care.

"I was just too busy doing too much, stumbling from day to day. I was short of breath, I had this general feeling of dull flatness and I was waking at three in the morning in a total sweat. I know the feeling of loneliness and sadness and accept it as part of life's rich tapestry, but this feeling was different," she told VIP Magazine.

"It was like a lot less energy and enthusiasm for everything, even for the ironing, which I was usually always on top of. My wardrobe was chaotic, clothes were pulled over the back of a chair in my bedroom. It was a habit alien to me. I felt ashamed even to admit my messy secrets.

RTE presenter Mary Kennedy. Picture: David Conachy
RTE presenter Mary Kennedy. Picture: David Conachy

"I rang my GP and outlined a shortness of breath that was beginning to cause me alarm. I thought it was health related, something to do with my lungs, but he obviously recognised it and said, 'Are you worried about anything?' and I said, 'Nothing in particular', and he said, 'Just relax, it's anxiety.'"

The last 12 months in particular have been a rollercoaster for Kennedy, who suffered a dramatic fall, which she says left her feeling vulnerable, but eventually with a fresh appreciation of her health.

"It was seismic. I have never experienced anything like it. I don't know what it's like if you have an impact in  car crash, but I mean, I am a tall woman and I went from running to on the ground...there was no stumble...straight down. I ended up with six stitches under my chin, loose teeth and very, very shook," she explained.

"It definitely was an important moment in my life. I felt very vulnerable and my confidence was knocked. But I was lucky it wasn't worse. It forced me to slow down even more.

"We are all responsible for our own wellbeing, you can't depend on somebody else for that. I don't think it's right and I don't think it works."

Earlier this year, she described her burn-out as a wake-up call to be more healthy in all aspects of her life, but she will only be slowing down in certain aspects of her life.

"No, I am not frightened to stop but I do enjoy being busy. You asked me earlier what I got from my mother. That's definitely one of the things. She was always busy, doing things. I was really quite worn out," she told the Sunday Independent. "I feel I am much more controlled about the things I take on and undertake to do. I suppose I gave out this demeanour of being able to do everything, and I don't think anybody is able to do everything."

Kennedy, a mother of four, who is also a published author, poet and a judge on the Rose of Tralee panel, said she "hit a nerve" with her third book What Matters, which was released in 2016.

"Loneliness is a fact of life, and anyone who says otherwise is delusional or not living in the real world," she previously told Weekend. "Even yesterday, there were two letters in the office from women who read the book and found that it struck a chord with them. The thing is that we are all in this world together and are all just doing our best."

"I'm very grateful that my children have a huge respect and love for older people because they have so much wisdom, time, love and compassion to give. There is a quote I really love that says: 'First you were young, then you were middle-aged, then you were old and now you are beautiful,' because we are the amalgamation of all the ages and stages we have been."

Online Editors

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