The fairy tale I had dreamt up saw me still blazing ahead with my career, sharing the cooking and cleaning duties with my husband and having neat, tidy and well-behaved children who had beautifully brushed hair. But that was not my life.
Jessica Rowe is nothing if not honest. In Is This My Beautiful Life? she doesn’t try to tell us a fairy tale, she just attacks her life head on. We are invited into the recesses of her home and her mind. What we do there, whether we like or dislike her, she is not going to sugar coat her feelings – what you see is what you get.
Jessica freely admits that she always thought she could “have it all” and from the outside, seemingly she has. Two beautiful girls, a caring, loving, husband, no worries of how she is going to make the next mortgage payment, whether there will be food on the table, whether she has the money to pay the electricity bill. So what is her problem? Okay, she doesn’t have a career in television, other than the odd “fill-in” news reader job on weekend mornings. But what is the big deal, it’s not as if she is starving?
It can be easy to dismiss some of what Jessica writes as “first world problems” and perhaps some of them are. That does not mean, however, that what Jessica, or any other woman in her position, feels, does not cause them real pain. There is a popular meme which goes around occasionally which in essence asks us to remember that just because you can’t see a person’s illness, just because they don’t have scars or are visibly incapacitated, does not mean they are not suffering.
In the book Jessica wrote with her mother about her mother’s battle with bipolar disorder, The Best of Times, The Worst of Times, we learned how this illness affected Jessica’s life. In common with many young people whose parents suffer from an invisible illness, Jessica had to be the grown up when her mother was in a bad phase of her disease. One thing she vowed was that she would have a family and she would be a better mother than her mother had been. Jessica and husband Peter went through numerous attempts to conceive via IVF and when they finally had their daughter, Jessica expected her life to be all she wanted. She would be the perfect wife, mother and TV presenter!
If you have ever been sacked from a job you love, you will understand how Jessica felt when she was told, very publicly that her job no longer existed; and you probably lost your job quietly without an announcement to world before it was announced to you. Consider that virtually from the day she arrived at her dream job on the morning show, she was trolled; too loud, too skinny, too blonde, too dumb, too anything but suitable. Just for a moment, put yourself in Jessica’s place. It is all very well for us to say if you go into TV you have to expect criticism, but how would you like to wake every day and be told by nameless cowards what they think of you?
Jessica tells us without embellishment, what this did to her life; the journalist, celebrity, television presenter, wife and mother, became a woman who feared she may hurt her child; she believed herself a failure as a mother and in her professional life. So well was she hiding her self-doubts, her lack of sleep and her fears, she was invited, by beyondblue, to be the patron of its work on post-natal depression!
Jessica’s latest memoir shows us a funny, intelligent woman, who has the guts to reveal that like most of she does not fit the mould labelled “perfect woman”. Mostly her honesty shows us anyone can need help and asking for it is the first step to recovery.
When I started to read this memoir, I doubted it was for me – I’m not 30 something and thankfully I don’t suffer from depression. But the more I read, the more I appreciated how relevant the message of Jessica’s story is even to a woman of my age. I admire Jessica’s honesty in telling her story and highly recommend “Is this my beautiful life?”.