She added: “Life imitating art or art imitating life? I don’t know which. I just left.
“I didn’t tell anyone so I had a lot of frantic calls.”
Her departure from the popular BBC show comes after a “quite gruelling” five years, in which she used her time off to take on other projects, including focusing on her production company and attempted to finish a feature film.
Mealing told the PA news agency: “It has been a tough year, a tough year for everyone, and I think being on the show for a long time and a character that is inevitably in every scene, the work schedule is quite gruelling.”