MasterChef judge Melissa Leong has opened up about her battle with clinical depression and has revealed that she uses a codeword on the set of the cooking show to tell producers she’s struggling.
Speaking to Neighbours actress Sharon Johal on her podcast We Are The Real Ones, Leong said that she occasionally needs to leave the set to gather herself.
“I have a codeword with our executive producer,” Leong said. “There are some times when I just need to go into a quiet space and shut the door and have half an hour to myself.
“If I need a day like that where I just need that little bubble of time, it could be 10 minutes, I will tell them and they will find the next available opportunity for me to just have a minute. It doesn’t take long, it could just be five minutes, just to kind of be quiet and then you gather yourself and keep going.”
Melissa Leong and Neighbours star Sharon Johal.
Leong told Johal that she has “grown up with clinical depression pretty much my entire life” and spent years working with a therapist.
“I started going to therapy in my early to mid 20s,” Leong said. “I had a breakdown, I’ll be really honest. I don’t hide it but I don’t obviously advertise it either.
“It has been part of my life and my story. It was an instance of too much on the plate and the plate ended up breaking under the weight of all those things, so I started seeing a therapist.”
The MasterChef judge said she put a lot of work into therapy and got to a point where “I know how to be in touch with how I’m feeling and how to express that”.
Leong said she uses exercise and meditation to help cope with her depression.
“The only person who can pick you up and put you back together and help you navigate all of the struggles in life is you.”
Leong has won over MasterChef viewers this season with her bubbly personality and food knowledge. But being a star on one of Australia’s highest-rating TV shows presents a whole new set of challenges.
“Going to these big crazy events that we go to for this side of work … if I know you, then great, (but) if I know I’m walking into a room full of people I do not know then I’m racked with anxiety,” she said.
“Being self-aware is a choice and not everyone chooses to be self-aware.
“Empathy and vulnerability is really powerful, kindness is really powerful. Not just words we have to tag on Instagram, they’re real things,” she said.
“For me the most important part of being alive is that human connection. You’ve got be awake in order to accept that.”