Andrea McLean shocked fans when she admitted live on Loose Women that she’d suffered a breakdown. The usually chipper mother-of-two courageously admitted recently she’d secretly been undergoing a battle with depression. So when S Magazine catches up with her during lockdown, top of the agenda is to find out how she’s doing now.
“So much better,” Andrea says as she breathes out. “It’s one of these things that doesn’t just happen overnight,” she adds, referring to her breakdown.
“Mine is a build-up of 15 years of holding things in and thinking, ‘I’m all right, I’m all right.’ And I wasn’t all right. I’d never had therapy before and so it was a game-changer. It made me realise that looking after your mental health is like gardening. You need to keep at it because plants will die and weeds will grow and I realised it’s an ongoing thing.”
“Like this morning I woke up and thought, ‘I feel a bit glum today.’ But I put on The Greatest Showman soundtrack and was singing away in the bathroom and I meditated before this.”
“This is going to sound utterly ridiculous, but I thought, ‘Think of a happy place.’ And I remembered a beach in Ibiza I went to with all the Loose Women – so before we spoke I was in Ibiza.”
Andrea admitted live on Loose Women that she’d suffered a breakdown
The panellist, who says her triggers are “if people are being aggressive or intimidating”, credits husband Nick Feeney for helping her through her darkest times and traumas.
“He’s been brilliant and he understands and that’s what’s important,” she says.
“I thought about it long and hard. Why did I have it [my breakdown] now? I realised, actually, it’s because I know I’m with someone who’ll catch me.”
How did she conceal her demons from other people?
“Someone like me, who likes to make other people feel good, I would much rather walk into a room and go, ‘Hey, how are you?’ than, ‘Oh my God, my life is awful.’ To have someone at home that you can breathe out and say ‘I feel terrible’ to is a compliment to Nick in a weird sort of way.”
Andrea says therapy was a game-changer
Andrea admits it’s also comforting to have the support of her fellow panellists on the ITV daytime show, in which they share the ups and downs of their lives.
“We’re all so different and we’ve all had such different experiences,” she says. “It is nice to hear what everybody’s unique take on life is and what they would do and their experiences.”
With filming of Loose Women starting again last month, the women have applied social distancing rules by doing their own hair and make-up, interviewing celebrities on Zoom calls and putting a stop to trips across the road to private members’ club Soho House for their usual after-work drinks.
“Going back in the studio it was nice to see first-hand how well everyone is doing and we’re all just coping in our own way,” she says.
“And that helps you cope. When I got the call that Loose Women was back again I felt scared because you don’t know what that means and everything was so different.”
“But now it’s been a few weeks, we’ve settled into our new routine. It’s not the same and it’s still very odd. There’s no audience and we can’t sit in the dressing room and chat.”
Andrea finds comfort in the support of her fellow panellists
Andrea met businessman Nick, 47, on a blind date in 2015 and the pair married in London surrounded by her Loose Women copresenters in November 2017.
But despite the couple having been wed for only just over two years, she recently confessed they are having marriage counselling.
She says she believes every couple can benefit from marriage counselling sessions, which she likens to going to the gym.
“It makes perfect sense,” the 50 year old insists. “For someone on the outside to go, ‘When you do that it can be seen as being this.’ Most of the time we’d all go, ‘No I’ve never even considered that before.’ It just helps to talk things through.”
Although she reveals that during lockdown her family barely leave the house other than her trips to the studio and daily walks, she says there have been no marital rows – so far.
Andrea and Nick have recently taken up marriage counselling
“We’ve been pretty good actually,” she says. “Considering we work together, as well, so that’s another added pressure. The key to surviving lockdown is to find your own little corner. Somewhere that is your little space and everyone knows to respect that.”
The couple runs website This Girl Is On Fire, which is, she says, “a little corner of the internet where you can go to feel amazing.”
But she discovered “very early on” it isn’t always healthy to spend so much time with your spouse.
“I said, ‘I can’t sit next to you all day, have lunch with you, then sit next to you again and then have dinner and watch telly with you.’ I need to be by myself. I moved a table in the bedroom and bought a chair from Ikea and that’s my little office. I love it and I can’t believe I didn’t do this years ago.”
Andrea runs the website This Girl Is On Fire with husband, Nick
The website may still be in its infancy, but it’s already flourishing and is full of articles and tips for women. It also has a new marketplace section, where people can buy products and services.
“We have one woman who helps people go through their CV and make sure it’s up to date,” she says.
“We have another woman who’s a career coach. It’s offering things that are really helpful and useful to people. But we also have stuff available that makes you feel good, like candles.”
Andrea and Nick work from their Surrey home and live with her two children, Finlay, 18, and Amy, 13, from previous marriages and his daughters Tia-Lily, 17, and Sienna, 15.
She says that having a mum on national TV every week doesn’t faze her children, who remain blasé about her celebrity profile – an attitude which she “quite likes”.
“The only time they’ve been impressed is when Amy met Olly Murs and she thought that was supercool,” she says.
“Then Finlay came in to see me one day at work and Ricky Gervais was on the show and he still talks about that. He never met him. He just walked past him.
“That’s the only time either of them can remember being impressed by me. I quite like that.”
Andrea admits she likes that her children are unbothered by her celeb-status
And while Amy “has no clue” what career she would like to pursue, Andrea reveals Finlay wants to follow in his mother’s showbiz footsteps and has his heart set on becoming a film director.
He is due to go to university in September to study film production – and Andrea is making sure he’s ready for it.
“I’ve said to him, ‘Right you’re off to college in September so you’ve got to look after yourself.’ I don’t do any of his washing or ironing. You need to train them because otherwise he’s going to get there and not have a clue.”
While leaving some of the housework to her son, Andrea has been keeping herself busy by managing the website and practising self-care, although she admits her fitness regime has become a little lax.
“The only thing I’ve learnt during lockdown is that I hate aerobic classes,” she laughs.
“I tried to join online dance aerobics and I nearly took my trainers off and threw them at the telly because I’m so bad at it. So I’ve put on half a stone and I’m sitting here with the top button of my jeans undone…”
But the TV presenter is looking forward to the future and especially having drinks with her Loose Women co-stars as soon as they can return to Soho House in west London.
“Normally, we would all go over and have a few bottles of wine. I miss that,” she confesses.
“I know it sounds awful and I should say something that’s really wonderful and life-affirming, but I really miss getting a bit dressed up, putting some heels on and going out somewhere lovely and someone else doing something for me.”
Hopefully Andrea won’t have to wait too long.
Marketplace is live now on Andrea’s digital platform thisgirlisonfire.com. It features products and services from female-run organisations and is designed to help women live, learn and thrive.