JENNA BALLANTYNE – PAST AVONDALE/LANARKSHIRE YFC
Admitting to yourself you are ill with Depression is the first hurdle. The second, is seeking the help and guidance you require – and sooner rather than later. The third – is facing everyone else.
Having already had undiagnosed depression back in 2008-2009, the signs were all there and this time a lot worse. The short, sharp tempers, the igniting as quickly as a match can light, along with a few other things that made me feel depressed – the signs were all there – and a lot worse this time round. Some days I didn’t want to get out my bed to go to work or even go out on the farm (those of you that know me, know I love both of these). I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and didn’t want to be here – scary thought when you think back.
What caused it? That was the big question that you were asked all the time. I put it down to a multitude of things. Relationship break-up, peer pressure but mainly a lack of support from individuals who seemed to think I was (and still am not) a Robot – although many still seem to think I am. I have learned I HAVE to slow down.
Just because you’re not showing you are ill on the outside, doesn’t mean you aren’t ill on the inside. But the pain on the inside is so much harder to heal and a very long process – it’s not just an overnight illness. A cut you can patch up with a plaster, depression you can’t and as it is, I run the risk of it coming back again in later life.
I had great support from close friends. Standing as District Treasurer at the time I was diagnosed was a big thing, and added more pressure to recovery with the run up to the Drama Competition, the Talent Spot and the AGM. I had good help at home and mum helped with the Talent Spot tickets which helped ease the pressure. My Secretary (Gillian Walker) and my Assistant Treasurer (Robert Harvie) really did more than they had to, and even just a chat on the phone helped. These two really did more than they should have from January to April but it really did help. Tablets are not a quick fix, but they do help, and I had a very understanding Doctor too.
I was signed off work for just over two weeks, not nice over Christmas and New Year when you should be filled with cheer and not sorrow. Unfortunately, all I wanted to do was sleep, I ate what I wanted and when I wanted (not so handy on Christmas Day) and was allowed no alcohol or the side effects could end in tears and reversing the good the tablets were there to do. So what if I was popping ‘Happy Pills’ – they really did give you the pick me up needed, although from the start I always was determined to finish the course and not be hooked on them. It was a long 7-months, having to go through a weaning off process but it all helped – and as Tesco says ‘Every Little Helps’ and it sure did.
I carried on life as normal as possible, with a 2-farm lambing, and calving to contend with over the spring months. I cut my hours at work to 4 days a week; I was off on a Wednesday which gave me a break mid-week from pressure there. I love showing my texels and beltexs at shows, but with everything going on, these had to get cut back only attending the smaller, more local shows and taking a year out from Ayr Show and the Highland Show. The girls looked after me and we still attended Balmoral Show; Highland Show; and Great Yorkshire Show – I was determined this illness wasn’t going to stop me from having a life and I wasn’t going to sit about and wallow. Show circuit friendships and a bit of ‘craic’ is the best cure and helped get me on the road to recovery.
I was never embarrassed about having the illness, in fact I told people when I seen them. To say they were shocked was an understatement, but it is amazing how much a ‘smile’ and a ‘happy attitude’ can cover up. People did laugh about your behind you back but at the end of the day, I will always be the stronger person for coming out the other side and got life back on track.
Now moving forward, I am a lot better, with a different attitude to life. My relationship with my parents is the strongest it has ever been and we talk a lot more now than we ever did. There are people and groups out there who are there to help – all you have to do is seek the help you need – starting with your Doctor.
My Young Farmer days are now in the past, but I am involved with the Lanark and Peebles Blackface Sheep Breeders Association where I have been Secretary and Treasurer now for 6years. Also, Lanarkshire Holstein Club as their Secretary now for 4years.Both these committees have gave me support throughout and did more than expected when required. I am on the Board of Directors for Strathaven Show, whom I wrote a letter to asking for the board’s support and asked for a year out of show duties as I felt work, farm, and tup sales at that time of the year would all be too much. The board supported me and allowed me to be excused for the year ahead.
I was admired by many for opening up and admitting ‘I have Depression, please help me’. Even the source of social media sight – Facebook – I publically thanked everyone, 6 months after being diagnosed – the likes and comments from everyone was over-whelming and again, thank you to you all.