Recovering from any mental-health issue is always complex, as Loose Women’s Linda Robson, 62, knows all too well.
Revealing that she feels ‘back to normal’ now, two years after her life spiralled out of control during a battle with OCD, anxiety and alcohol, the actor – who doesn’t think alcohol was the core problem – has admitted she’s still riddled with guilt for what she put family and friends through. ‘Guilt takes a long time to leave you. I’m always going to think, “What did I do to them?”’ she said.
Taking back control
A year after taking a break from TV, Linda returned to the Loose Women panel in January, having recovered. But, while she’s reaping the benefits physically, she admits she is mentally scarred by the events around her meltdown on holiday with her co-stars. She admitted on air that she felt guilty: ‘I really did, for what I put you lot through, first of all – you’re away for a jolly holiday and everything – and also putting my family through that, and they had to go through it for a long time… How was I over that Christmas? I ruined their Christmas for them,’ she added.
Problem with the pills
Linda’s problems started after years of taking sleeping pills and having white wine before bed. ‘After I’d put the kids to bed, I’d have a couple of glasses of wine at around 10pm, take a sleeping tablet, sleep six or seven hours, then wake up in the morning [feeling] fresh as a daisy.’
But quitting booze caused Linda’s anxiety and insomnia to worsen. ‘I was having a meltdown,’ she said. ‘When I came off the wine I upped the tablets, and then I got concerned about taking the tablets. So I went to see somebody about it and they gave me a [different] tablet.’
After three stints in various clinics, Linda’s behaviour changed. She was drinking again and, over the 2018 festive period, police were called twice to the home she shares with husband Mark Dunford. But Linda claimed her actions were the result of a rare, allergic reaction to the antidepressant.
She said, ‘I got really bad anxiety, really bad depression, and my OCD kicked into overdrive.’
She continued, ‘Police were called because I was drinking… That was my family trying to keep me safe.’
Linda now knows how important it is to ‘find the right professional help’. She said, ‘A lot of the time they just keep medicating you, and that’s the worst thing.’
The ‘cry for help’ holiday
Linda resorted to taking medication and drinking alcohol to numb her feelings. But it caused her behaviour to worsen, to the point where she was unable to think clearly. She explained, ‘I wanted help, but I didn’t know what help I needed.’
Linda went on to describe the ‘proper meltdown’ she had during a girls’ Ibiza holiday in 2018 with her Loose Women co-stars. She recalled, ‘I was looking forward to going. I’d been the year before and had a great time. I just wanted to black out what I was feeling.’ She admitted she’d lost control. ‘I couldn’t get through the day without taking medication and drinking,’ she said.
Linda was risking her life with the dangerous mix, and instead of putting her in the mood for partying, it turned her into a recluse. ‘I stayed in the room. I couldn’t even go out and socialise,’ she recalled.
Her closest friends on the ITV panel show, Nadia Sawalha and Stacey Solomon, kick-started an intervention by contacting Linda’s family in the UK, who arranged for her to fly back early with Stacey and check into a clinic.
While Linda successfully hid her battles from her family, who she said ‘felt really bad too, because they hadn’t noticed’ what she was going through, it was at work where the former Birds of a Feather star’s mask slipped. ‘We could all see you were struggling and you weren’t yourself,’ said co-star Kaye Adams. And co-star Janet Street-Porter recalled the time she urged her to ‘get professional help’. ‘I could see the signs. You were coming into the studio, the anxieties were all stacking up and you’d gone into an inward-looking spiral… Everything made everything worse for you,’ Janet told Linda.
After backing a post-lockdown campaign that highlights how over-55s are ‘rejecting material possessions in favour of doing more things together’, Linda is focused on making new memories with her family – son Louis, daughters Bobbie and Lauren, and grandchildren Lila, seven, and three-year-old Betsy. She’s learning to leave the past behind and make up for lost time.