‘It was nice not to be crazy, but it wasn’t nice to be fat and frigid from the meds’
The TV host opens up about his mental illness and the devastating toll his anti-psychosis medication had on his life.
Image: Instagram @osher_gunsbergSource:BodyAndSoul
“I remember it was in 2007, it was when I was running on the beach past the North Bondi Surf Club and I actually felt someone’s hands around my throat even though there was nobody there, and I felt pressure on my chest even though there was nothing there.”
Osher Günsberg climbed to the top of his career ladder faster than he could cope with – from earning his fame as a Channel [V] presenter, to hosting Australian Idol and then landing his gig as the host of The Bachelor Australia franchise. But along the way he let his mental state spiral downwards, which saw him trashing his body with an overwhelming amount of drugs and alcohol, and ultimately landing himself “face down in the gutter.”
He had to reach this startling moment on his run through Bondi for him to finally realise he needed help.
“I was seeing things that weren’t there, I wanted to warn people of impending doom. It was terribly, terribly frightening and a great amount of physical pain,” the TV host recalls speaking to journalists yesterday.
And amongst his psychotic episodes, suicidal thoughts, and visualisations, he buried himself in a deep state of denial.
“It got to the point where I was lucky enough if I got four hours of sleep at night and when I woke up I’d thrash around so much that I’d strip the bed like it was laundry day.”
He recalls having “to put the elastic covers under the mattress every single morning” but he just ignored it because he didn’t want to be sick.
Fast-forward to 2018, turn on the TV to The Bachelor, and although you may see a host who is clean-cut and healthy, Osher explains that he is just one - very fortunate - example of why you should never judge someone based on their appearances.
And this especially rings true for when he was filming Season Two and Three of the nation’s most popular dating show.
“What many people don’t realise is that they’re watching the television, particularly in Season Two and Three of The Bachelor, this bloke that was handing out the roses was someone that was on two different kinds of anti-psychotics and dealing with visualisation.”
On the flipside, the anti-psychotics were healing him mentally; however, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when it came to his physical appearance.
“It was nice not to be crazy, but it wasn’t nice to be fat and frigid because I was putting on a kilo a week,” the reality TV host explains.
“We walk around and see someone carrying extra kgs and we think ‘come on mate, I can go to F45, can’t you?’
“Mate, I was riding 250kms a week and still putting on weight because [the anti-psychotics] messes with your body’s ability to metabolise food and how your insulin production works. So you can judge someone’s size on the street and think they’re lazy or whatever, but you have no idea what they’re going through. You have no idea what medication they might be on.”
And the anti-psychotics were also taking a toll on his relationship with his partner, Audrey.
“It’s so important to talk about it because people want their wives and husbands to get better, and they start to feel better and get better, but they’re not interested in sex because the drugs turn down all the really intense thoughts, but they can also turn down sexual desire and that sucks.”
While the 44-year-old has always been open about his struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anxiety, psychosis, and addiction, his new autobiography Back, After The Break, disrupts the status quo and lays it all out on the table in a society where the issue of mental illness is heavily overlooked.
“It’s a difficult thing because we don’t talk about it, but today, before we go to sleep, eight Australians will die by suicide.
“Just imagine what it would be like… if that was domestic air travel in the last week; if eight people had died every day from domestic air travel. We’d f*cking stop airports. But because it’s suicide, we don’t care.”
And just like Osher warns you should never judge a book by its cover, he also wants you to think twice about the words you choose to use.
Is it okay to make an assumption someone is ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’? A definite no.
“Those a really heavy words to use for somebody, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with something as intense as psychosis, because not a lot of people know about it, and if they do know about it, all they know about it is from some knock-off B-Grade Netflix show or some podcast about a serial killer.”
He points out that the biggest symptom of addiction is convincing yourself it’s not there. While Osher wasn't necessarily out partying, he was just hanging out at home but for him that "meant 12 straight hours of internet pornography and online poker, drinking by myself.”
“That’s the strange thing about it and it challenges you. You could’ve said something to me but I wouldn’t have listened. You kind of have to wait until you’re face down in the gutter, when you go ‘oh wow I’m down here, I can’t blame anyone but me.’”
One in five (20 per cent) Australians aged between 16 and 85 experience a mental illness in any year, with the most common being depression, anxiety and substance abuse; but making sure it doesn’t exacerbate to a level as severe as what Osher experienced is as simple as “checking in” and speaking with others.
“There are apps you can get online to check if you’re suffering from symptoms, and we as humans have this extraordinary ability to adapt to circumstances and make them feel normal – that’s how we stay in terrible relationships and jobs we hate,” he explains.
“It’s really important to take it seriously and understand that with a small amount of treatment that only lasts 10 or 12 weeks, you can come out the other side and be alright. But if left untreated it will get worse and it won’t just end up taking down you, but your family and friends.”
While he’s brave enough to have now presented the world with an open journal of his life to break the silence on the issue of mental illness, he has also opened up a whole other barrel of judgement and criticism.
But regardless if you decide to read his book or not, or watch him host TV’s most famous dating show or not, there’s one clear message he wants to leave for everyone:
“Until you know me, you can make up your own mind about me, that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me, I know what I believe in and what I feel strongly about and what I care for, and I love my family and how hard I work to the work that I do, and if you want to make up your mind about my intentions then that’s fine. It’s not true, but it doesn’t bother me.”