HLN ANCHOR ROBIN MEADE FINDS PEACE.
Meeting Robin Meade for the first time is like walking from a dim indoor room into a sun-filled landscape. When the petite, longtime HLN news anchor of “Morning Express with Robin Meade” show flashes her brilliant smile and twinkling eyes, the effect is dazzling.
Though her put-together on-air image appears effortless, the Buckhead resident is generous in sharing her struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. While no one would wish for such challenges, they have helped Meade shape her life in unexpected ways.
Meade was raised in the tiny town of New London, Ohio. Her father was a preacher, and she grew up singing at church. “[Being on stage] seemed natural to me. The idea of having stage fright had not entered my brain yet,” she says.
When a high school career test revealed her aptitude for reading, communication and writing, Meade decided to pursue broadcasting, working her way through the small Ohio markets of Mansfield, Cleveland and Columbus before heading to Miami and, finally, the top-five TV market of Chicago. “I was all about the news. It was my entire identity,” the former Miss Ohio says.
One weekend in the ’90s, she was at the anchor desk in Chicago when someone handed her a new, detailed script for a breaking news story. Producers started the countdown until the cameras went live. In an instant, Meade had a thought that would change everything. “It was, ‘I bet my boss is watching,’” she says. From there, her mind catastrophized everything that could go wrong. She thought, “What if I can’t read all the way to the soundbite, and I lose my breath?” Her hands started tingling, and she couldn’t breathe. “I was so wrapped up in the idea of ‘this is what I do. I must be perfect,’” she says, that those moments of intense anxiety kept happening with alarming regularity when she prepared to go on-air. Each time, her thoughts ran wild, and she struggled to catch her breath, worrying that she would fall short of perfection.
“I was mortified, and I thought I’d lost my mind,” she says. “The more I feared it, the more it kept happening.” Curiously, once she got past the first segment, her nerves would settle, and she’d read the news with aplomb.
Filled with fear that gossip about her panic attacks would become public, particularly in the 1990s when talking openly about mental health wasn’t en vogue, she began to dread the job she loved. Her concerned husband, Tim, sought out a talk therapist and made Meade an appointment. “Through years of working with her I was able to see that to get rid of the panic attacks I had to welcome them,” Meade says. “I asked myself, ‘What are the benefits?’ Now doesn’t that sound crazy?”
Flipping the Script
Once Meade came to terms with the fact that anxiety was a part of her life, her therapist helped her explore what she could do to give those attacks permission to stop coming. Acknowledging the panic, rather than trying to hide it, helped lessen its hold. She examined all facets of her life and habits, and made some meaningful changes. Getting more sleep, trimming her caffeine intake, choosing nutrientrich foods and prioritizing exercise all had a net positive impact.
Meade also discovered practical, in the- moment strategies that brought her awareness to the present rather than fixated on the future. For example, she often sipped hot water and snapped a ponytail holder against the inside of her wrist, both of which created physical sensations that helped calm her restless mind.
Perhaps the best outcome of Meade’s ongoing talk therapy was ridding herself of the shackles of perfectionism and people-pleasing. “I had to ask myself, ‘What would be the benefit if people find out?’ People would think that I was not the perfect journalist,” she says, recalling all of the ways she’d tried to fit the mold of what TV consultants and station managers preferred.
From toning down her natural laugh to never wearing red lipstick, Meade accepted every suggestion. “It wasn’t their fault that I took their word as gospel. But in doing so, I threw out the imperfect parts of myself that made me interesting.” Over the years, she’s embraced her quirks, preferences and even the mistakes and occasional flubs that come when you talk for a living, all of which have forged a more authentic connection with viewers.
While everyone’s wellness and mental health journey can look different, Meade knows that the tools she’s gained in working through them have enriched her life. “It is such a gift,” she says. “Isn’t it funny that the things that are so trying in the moment end up being a gift down the line? That hard part of my life eventually set me free to be myself and to be authentic.”
Shining a Light on Mental Resilience
The first time Meade was open about her anxiety was when she was approached by a publisher to write her book, “Morning Sunshine! How to Radiate Confidence and Feel it Too” (released in 2011). “I thought, ‘What is there about me that would be helpful?’ That’s when I went totally public,” Meade says. Subsequently, her vulnerability has invited others to be open about their struggles, prompting everyone from college students to new reporters who identified with the emotions she shared to reach out. “We all think we’re the only ones going through this, but you’re not alone,” she says.
PHOTO: Sara Hanna
Senior Contributing Editor and Beauty Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Travel, Food and Design Writer and Author.