But today, Jess says cheerfully: “Many people go through awful things, mine was just so discussed. I don’t want this to be ‘poor me’ – that’s not how I feel now.”
Recently, she invited former colleague, Karl, to be the first guest on her new podcast series, The Jess Rowe Big Talk Show. The first time they had spoken face to face since the Today debacle, they both cried.
“Karl said sorry for not being a better, more supportive man back then. I had not expected that and we had a few tears,” Jess explains.
And has Eddie ever reached out to apologise? “No,” she says, crisply.
Not even after she accused him on-air of making her life hell? “No, but my happiness doesn’t rest on that. I have far more meaningful, joyous things in my life. It was awful at the time, but those tough moments teach you what’s important. When everything is great, you learn nothing.”
Life has undoubtedly offered the feisty 51-year-old plenty of learning experiences. There were three failed IVF cycles before she fell pregnant with daughter, Allegra, now 14. And then, faced with breastfeeding problems, Jess tumbled into severe postnatal depression.
“It was so lonely. My heart breaks for new mums bringing their babies home in lockdown. Having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re a failure. I thought I had to be invincible, because I thought that was part of being successful, but that’s crap.”
Confessing her anguish to her husband, Peter, 55, was the first step towards recovery. “Being the beautiful man he is, he took me in his arms and told me it was going to be OK.”
Therapy helped and Jessica still takes antidepressants. But it’s clear “Peetee” remains her rock – 20 years after she asked him out after a chance encounter at the Logies.
“We are a fabulous team. He lets me be me, he doesn’t try to quash my quirkiness.”
Right on cue, Peter appears. And he’s puzzled why Jess is sitting in her car, doing a phone interview. She says she doesn’t want to disturb daughters, Allegra and Giselle, 12, who are busy with online schooling.
“I consider myself very lucky,” smiles Jess, whose tireless mental health advocacy earned her an Order of Australia. “If people can look at me in some small way and realise they are not alone – we all have our struggles – that’s huge. None of us is perfect, let’s be gentle with ourselves.”
Read more, in this week's New Idea, on sale now.