Media mogul Oprah Winfrey forced herself to take a step back from her heavy workload last summer after realizing she was on the brink of a nervous breakdown as she struggled to turn her TV network into a success.
The TV icon walked away from her hit talk show in May 2011, after 25 years at the top, to focus on the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) with bosses from cable company Discovery Communications.
However, the channel struggled to attract viewers in its first year on air and Winfrey was forced to take a serious look at reshuffling its programming line-up in order to appeal to audiences.
The superstar admits she was really feeling the pressure to turn OWN’s fortunes around, but it was only when she interviewed Jason Russell, the man behind the high-profile KONY 2012 campaign, about his emotional breakdown which led to his bizarre naked rant and arrest last year, that she recognised she was experiencing similar mental issues.
She tells People magazine, “Jason was talking about having a nervous breakdown, and I was thinking, ‘I have those symptoms’.”
Winfrey’s breaking point came just days later as she headed into the OWN headquarters in Los Angeles to record voice-overs for her shows: “I remember closing my eyes while I was reading. I thought, ‘I cannot have another thing enter my brain.’ I needed to pull back.”
She confesses the harsh press criticism of her network hit her hard, and she credits her longterm partner, Stedman Graham, with helping her soldier on to overcome the disappointing start.
She says, “After 25 years of being number one, I had become accustomed to success. I didn’t expect failure. I was tested and I had to dig deep. The schadenfreude (pleasure from misfortune of others) was very painful for me, because I had never experienced it.
“(Graham) was amazing. He said, ‘You can’t eve think about quitting. You have been in cruise control. It’s gonna turn around, but you’ve gotta do the work.'”