I've been taking time out - here's why, says Susie Fowler-Watt

Pic for Eastern Daily Press Norfolk Magazine - New magazine columnist Susie Fowler-Watt.Photo: Kei

Susie Fowler-Watt, pictured here in 2003, started her Norfolk Magazine column just a few years after joining Look East - Credit: Archant

Susie has been taking a break from our screens - here she explains why.

First things first, how are you feeling? The vast majority of you would probably answer “fine, thanks!”, whether or not you really are. But, come on, seriously now – how are you really feeling?

It’s a question I’ve had to ask myself in recent months. And while the 'show must go on' version of me wanted to say everything was OK, I had it all under control, I had to admit that the truthful answer was this: 'overwhelmed'. 

Look East viewers may have noticed my absence from the red sofa for a while. As I write, I’ve been away from work for a number of weeks. At first it was about needing to take time out because of a family illness, but the more I thought about it, I realised I also needed the time out for me.

The stress has built up over the past couple of years, with huge pressure at work, my mother dying without me being able to see her, my father needing a lot of support, and my children facing their own personal struggles. 

The renowned social scientist Brene Brown describes the feeling of being overwhelmed in her latest book Atlas of the Heart. She says emotional and mental depletion is a sign that there’s just too much going on to manage effectively. The cure is 'non-doing'. 

Let me be clear, my 'non-doing' has not involved lying alone in a darkened room, but it has meant a vital mental rest: walking, reading, napping and just hanging out with my kids. An essential reboot for an overloaded mind.  

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I’ve never been a great fan of the sign-off 'take care' in messages. It can read as a bit trite or insincere. But when the pandemic started I began saying 'take good care of yourselves' at the end of Look East. I meant it literally and said it with all sincerity. Back then it was about trying to stay safe physically and being kind to yourself mentally. 

That hasn’t changed. The threat of a deadly virus may have diminished, but we still need to take care of ourselves. We need to recognise when there’s a need for “non-doing”, and not be afraid of how it will look. As Brene Brown writes, “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” 

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Hopefully by the time you read this, I will be well and truly ensconced back at Look East, firing on all cylinders and doing what I love. July 7 marks my 25th anniversary as presenter and I remain as proud of my job now as I did back in 1997, when I arrived in Norwich as a nervous but ambitious 27-year-old.  

There are so many highlights from those 25 years that it’s impossible to remember everything. The special programmes stick out – I’ve presented Look East from Sandringham, from a pirate radio boat out at sea, even from New York City.

But the people who stay in the mind are those who’ve shown extraordinary bravery in awful circumstances: the mother whose child had been mauled by a dog; the boy with dwarfism telling me so eloquently about the bullying he’d faced; the young woman who was paralysed in a car crash but turned her life around to become a top beauty vlogger. 

Look East has changed over the last quarter of a century, and it will continue to adapt with the times, but our mission and purpose remain resolutely the same. For us, it’s all about serving and representing you, our audience; reporting and analysing events where we live, with fairness and impartiality; celebrating success, but not being afraid to ask tough questions when needed.  

Thank you for trusting me to do that for so long, and for “inviting” me into your homes in the evenings. It is a great honour, and one I will never take for granted.