I’m not alone …. Jenna Ballantyne

Jenna Ballantyne

Avondale YFC

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 2020) and 6½ years on after being diagnosed with the dreaded ‘Depression’ – I’m still here to tell my tales and hopefully help/support others.

I’m 33 and a past member and office bearer of Avondale Young Farmers, and now latterly the Assistant Club Leader (OMG – I am officially old!). I also was involved at district level (Lanarkshire) being Stockjudging Convenor (Everyone wants a shot at holding the famous Glasgow Herald Trophy and Stocksman of the Year Trophy) and also District Treasurer for 2 years.

FACTS ABOUT ME (This will help you all understand me and how I run my life – military style) –

  • Farm – 2 Beef and Sheep Farms just outside Strathaven alongside my parents.
  • Work – For nearly 16 years, I have been with Lanark based – Lawrie & Symington Ltd – with the odd wee trip to our sister mart at Forfar. Involved in daily sales, general office duties, and Pedigree Sheep Assistant (including exporting sheep to NI).
  • Studies – Part-Time/Off-Site Student with Harper Adams University completing the Livestock Market Operations and Management course (more commonly known as the ‘Auctioneering Exams’).
  • Interests – Roadend Livestock – we have 60 pedigree Beltexs and Texels, and followers and a small herd of pedigree Simmentals. I also have an addiction to……..shoes and boots!
  • Anything Else – want something done, then ask a busy person they say –
  • Secretary & Treasurer – Lanark & Peebles Blackface Sheep Breeders Association
  • Secretary – Lanarkshire Holstein Club
  • Committee Member – Strathaven Agricultural Exposition
  • Avon & Nethan NFU Regional Representative at Forth & Clyde Region


Depression is something that can be so easily covered up (I for one was good at it). Anyone can fake a smile or a happy attitude but deep down, your gut instinct is telling another story.

Mental Illness can’t be seen, it’s not like a broken leg or a cut finger where a plaster can patch you up and be physically seen. When folks find out you are mentally ill, some try and treat you different and tip toe around you in case they trigger something. Some even whisper behind your back.

TOP TIP – Please don’t, treat the person like you normally would, and the respect will be returned.

I carried on life as near normal as I could during 2014-2015, still attending agricultural events such as shows and sales, work, Scotland rugby matches (front row and centre line seats to watch them take on Ireland – couldn’t ask for any better that March). Friends, family, customers and work colleagues are what can make or break a day to being all right or all wrong.

Black Days, Lapse Days, Sad Days, Don’t come near or speak to me days – these are horrible, and sadly those going through depression will experience these. I had my last ‘big one’ back at the end of September 2017. You tend to know these are coming as you feel nervous and the tension builds up inside you and then BANG – all it takes is someone to speak to you, and you are gone. During that week I knew it was going to happen, pressures were building and like clockwork it arrived on the day I expected it to (my give away sign is I usually paint my finger nails black, but a girl like me always adds sparkle to them). I have no idea to this day what the person said to set me off. It was nothing bad but I just remember sitting in the auctioneers box working the computer and crying my eyes out for what seemed no reason – I was fine after a short time and carried on like nothing had happened and hoped no-one had seen me. The next day I was back to normal, as if nothing had happened.

You get the odd moment where you think you are heading down the slippery slope, but something triggers your mind and guides you back to a positive trend of thought and it reminds you, you don’t need to be there, you are strong and will get through this.

This new disease has caused heartache UK and Worldwide, putting everywhere into complete lockdown, and for some self-isolation. At present, I have friends who have had, due any time, or have announced their news of the pitter patter of tiny feet – it is horrible not being able to visit and spend time with people. I am lucky enough to still live at home on the main family farm with my parents and livestock for company. The agricultural sector has certainly seen a shakeup, wither livestock markets or agri-tourism. My place of employment – the livestock market, like many others have measured out their sales rings and penning areas to adhere to the 2m social distancing, some staff have sadly been furloughed, and we continue to trade in cattle and sheep, awaiting further relaxation rules, the market is certainly a quiet and lonely place with no vendors, spectators or tradespeople allowed in, buyers only who are now just a number rather than a person.

At the start of lockdown, like many others, it was certainly a strange feeling of the unknown. Told to pack up your desk and any forthcoming work that could be completed at home was the way to go. My Highland Show caravan became a temporary mart office, until I got sorted out and back to the mart to complete the necessary with home-working behind the scenes too. With an university assignment date also looming at the announcement of lockdown, my brain went into over-drive and I really thought I was on the slippery slope again, I was very close to phoning the doctors for an appointment. I’m now over the hurdle, have re-adjusted life and managing my time – still doing work and some course work; it’s also nice to be able to get caught up with some of the ‘rainy day’ jobs.

The NHS, and fellow Key Workers are doing a tremendous job at keeping the nation going with all aspects, including assistance with home-schooling, and all involved should be given the praise and recognition they deserve – and a well-earned holiday once the pandemic is over.

To the public, this period of time is something very worrying, especially for mental health. Keeping a daily routine is very important, even if it is taking advantage of your daily exercise allowance, and taking a daily walk (within walking distance of your home). Just because the physical visiting of family and friends has been stopped, doesn’t mean communication stops – there are other ways and means. A simple, old fashioned letter is just as nice to receive, or a wee photo-postcard. Such modern tools of mobile phone, video calling, and social media are as popular as ever at present. Even exercise classes are going ‘live’ on Facebook so no excuses. Recently I learned what Zoom was, and this seems to be the way forward for a lot of meetings, group chats, and some more exercise classes. Options are available so remember; you are not alone out there.

I did the crime, and completed the time. The course of tablets is a minimum of 7 months. The tablets you are given to take come in 3 strengths – 10mg, 20mg and 30mg. I was put on the 20mg for the first 5 months, dropped to 10mg on month 6, remaining on these during July where I was to wean myself off and take 1 every 2 days until completed. I did it – so can anyone. Sadly today, not everyone’s mind set is strong enough to do this process, and there are people on these everyday – this doesn’t matter, it just means they are in control of their mind set.

Don’t get me wrong, the depression is still always on the back of my mind. It may appear back in my life at a stronger strength, something I hope it doesn’t but you never know what is around the corner, but if it does, I will deal with it head on like I did all those years ago. I do have all my articles/reports in the house, it’s nice sometimes to go back and read them, it just gives you the wee boost you need some days when you are feeling cold and low.

During the seasonal year, the pressure build up can be emotionally over whelming, and I now know myself I need to stop, slow down, and take a little me time. It’s amazing just how much a deep breath and a cup of tea (just milk please) can help you re-start your mind.

If reading my stories and this modern thing they call a ‘Blog’ can help anyone, even just one person, admitting they are not well, or think they have similar symptoms, then it’s another person helped. Help and support is readily available if and when needed. Your health and your future is important to yourself and  the people (and livestock) around you. I did it – so can you!


  • Every little helps! (As a supermarket says)
  • What’s for you, won’t go by you
  • A problem shared, is a problem halved