Tom Bradby suffered with insomnia

Tom Bradby“One day I had to admit that I couldn’t go on.”

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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Journalist Tom Bradby reported on ceasefires, riots and royal weddings during assignments as ITV’s Ireland, Foreign and Royal correspondent respectively. Today he anchors the channel’s iconic News at 10, but recently took time out due to a mental health issue.

“I wasn’t sleeping well, then one night I couldn’t sleep at all and that became quite a crisis. I mean you try and do News at 10 with two or three nights of no sleep in a row. It just gets to be a brutal business. One day I had to admit that I couldn’t go on.”

Tom believes that the onset of his insomnia was linked to unresolved grief following the death of his parents. He told Seán how his attitude to faith at the time didn’t help, almost forcing him to just move on.

“I had a hard, atheistic attitude to faith, I thought it was all nonsense and that’s a hard basis on which to process loss. I’d struggled a bit and then ploughed on. Instead of giving myself time to work it out and absorb it, I doubled-down in the other direction and went into manic over-activity. I didn’t say no to anything. I was always doing things.”

When the inevitable crash happened, Tom sought help. His psychiatrist told him he’d had the mental health equivalent of a heart attack. Signed off work for three months, Tom largely slept, walked the dogs and cooked dinner. He told Seán it was like shutting down an internal computer.

“Then when you reboot your computer system, the idea is to think differently about things, to let a lot more go, to not worry about half the things you worried about before. It’s a very obvious evolved human trait, working out how to fix and mitigate the threats of tomorrow… it’s just if you allow it too much reign in your day to day life, in your psychology, it becomes a problem.”

Tom is feeling better now, back at work and celebrating the publication of his seventh novel Secret Service, which centres on an MI6 officer trying to prevent a Russian agent becoming Prime Minister. Reflecting on the experience, he explained to Seán that:

“Happiness and contentment are not the same thing. You can be happy and anxious because in a way the happier you are the more you’ve got to lose. Learning to be content as well as happy is ultimately the benefit of this process.”

Secret Service, is out now published by Bantam Press

You can listen to Tom Bradby’s interview in full on Today with Seán O’Rourke, here.

© The Listener 2019

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