‘Growing up with Nina Proudman from Offspring helped me to accept my own anxiety’

With Offspring’s 10-year anniversary quickly approaching, Abbey Lenton reflects on the ‘Nina moments’ that taught her to make peace with her mental health. 

When Offspring first aired on our screens almost a decade ago, no one could have predicted how dear in the hearts of Aussie women it would become.

Set between bustling obstetrics appointments and chaotic Melbourne homes, it quickly became the show that had it all – cute babies, hot doctors, and enough explosive family hijinks to make anyone feel better about their own dysfunctional Christmas dinners.

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But what it also had at its helm was something refreshingly complicated – a highly anxious but completely lovable main character. And all these years later, I am so, so grateful that it did.

Asher Keddie’s award-winning portrayal of Nina Proudman brought the house down. Nina was the doctor with a mind that ran amuck. She was as known for boho scarves as she was for her raunchy fantasies. But – as is the tradeoff with an overactive imagination – she would also go down deep depressive spirals, right in front of our eyes.

Every hospital hallway kiss was usurped by a panic attack. Every small win was swamped by the dreadful, gut-wrenching feeling that something uncontrollably awful was right around the corner. As viewers, we were given a front-row seat to her panic-riddled thoughts. And as a panicky girl that grew into an anxious woman myself, I’m glad I got to see this. Because growing up with Nina Proudman on my screen helped me understand what was going on inside my own head.

I’ve always been prone to panic attacks. The kind that can knock the wind out of your chest and melt you into a puddle. I’m one of those unfortunate folks with an inner monologue that can make a mountain out of a molehill, a minor setback into a major catastrophe. And countless times I have found myself breathless, kicking myself for feeling this way. All until one day when I called my mother in hysterics, and she changed my perspective completely.

“Are you having a Nina moment?,” my mum asked me on the phone, referring to the many mental health meltdowns Offspring put on display. And with those few words, she managed to reframe my outlook entirely.

I didn’t feel irrational or silly or overbearing, I was simply experiencing something that a lot of us go through, even someone as wonderful as Nina Proudman. I felt so much less ashamed about my anxiety, and so much more comfortable seeking the right help for it.

From then on out, a panic attack wasn’t a shameful moment of weakness. It was simply a ‘Nina moment’. And by choosing those words, I got the power back.

Offspring gave us all a glimpse inside an anxious mind. And watching a successful, attractive character battle with her own brain normalised ill mental health in a prime-time television spot. Dig beneath the sexcapades and countless pregnancies of the show and you’ll find a realm of characters dealing with their own troubles in their own ways. And sure, they’re all a little strange, but they’re loveable nonetheless. This is an important lesson to learn.

And better yet, on the flipside Offspring taught me how joyous it can be living with a wild mind. Nina could slip into a raunchy fantasy in a split second. And let’s be honest, I think we all enjoyed seeing the odd shirtless, grizzly bear-slaying Patrick Reid, or emotionally available Chris Havel whispering sweet nothings.

Because oddly enough, it can be wonderful to escape inside a vivid imagination. It’s impossible to feel restless and bored when you have the ability to step inside a fantasy world of your own making. Not only did Offspring teach me to understand my anxiety, it helped me accept the fun parts as well.

Almost 10 years on, Nina Proudman continues to serve as a beacon of light and representation for those of us out there with anxiety. And if it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if I’d be so accepting of help and advice about my own mental health.