'It was a really rough time' - Author opens up about her mental health

Author Jayne Hardy

Author Jayne Hardy became a mentor for mental health - Credit: Hane Hardy

Mental health might be widely discussed these days, but not so long ago the topic was still considered taboo and there was little in the way of resources or advice. Jayne Hardy discovered this first-hand. Her twenties had been marred by mental health issues, and the isolation she felt was compounded by the fact there was so little support available.

‘In 2004, my doctor diagnosed me with depression. I thought I’d take antidepressants for a couple of weeks and that would be it, I was so naïve. But I was open to helping myself out of this thing, so I went online at the library to try and find some information and soon realised there was nothing out there that would help me to help myself or any advice for my husband, then boyfriend, or my mum. What was there was really bad, and just very scary and I became more and more unwell,’ says Jayne, 39, who lives in Calstock in south east Cornwall.

It was her mum who suggested writing her thoughts down in a notebook (‘I would write nonsense, scared and angry thoughts’) and not long after she began a beauty blog, a relatively new phenomenon back then. 

‘At that point, my self-care was so awful,’ says Jayne who reveals she lost a tooth and ‘hacked’ her off as it had become so matted.  
‘It was a really rough time but I’m a people-pleaser, so I thought if people were expecting another blog post, I’d write one. It gave me purpose and the audience grew, but it did feel like there was a disconnect between my reality and my blog.’

Jayne hadn’t discussed her depression with anyone outside her closest family (‘I was ashamed of it’) but after much deliberation posted a lengthy blog about her experiences in 2010. 

‘The reaction was ridiculous. Within 24 hours, I’d had hundreds of messages from people I knew, as well as strangers. It just blew up. It was such a different landscape to what it is today, and people were more comfortable talking about depression online with each other than in person.’

In response, Jayne set up an online mentoring system, followed by the Blurt Foundation (blurtitout.org) in 2011, a social enterprise aimed at helping people struggling with mental health. Unlike Jayne’s early experiences, the foundation provides accessible and relatable resources and education programmes on topics such as self-care, self-esteem, loneliness and boundaries, as well as how to support people with depression.

‘Over the last 10 years it’s grown in a way I never expected, and it’s been therapeutic to have space to write about my own experiences from the lens of having come through it several times, and to use these negative experiences in a positive way,’ she says. 

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From the outset, it was important to Jayne that she created it in a way that allowed her to work remotely and flexibly ‘mainly for my own mental health’.

That meant that while other businesses were scrambling to adapt to the new working landscape in lockdown last year, Jayne and her team, who are scattered all over the UK, were largely unaffected. 
‘We didn’t really have to do anything differently although my husband, Dom, had to pack up the Buddyboxes on his own,’ she says referring to the care packages comprised of self-care products that can be bought via the website. 

‘We’ve worked with local companies, but that’s something we’re keen to expand this year, and we’re also hoping to create supportive cultures in the workplace, too,’ adds Jayne.

As well as continuing to develop the Blurt Foundation, Jayne’s keen to write more books following the publication of her fourth, titled Kind Words for Unkind Day.

‘We planned it at the end of 2019, not knowing what was ahead,’ says Jayne. ‘Every week, we send kind words to our community via email, which gave us the idea of kind cards for unkind days and that inspired the book.’

It’s designed so the reader can dip into a chapter depending on how they’re feeling that day, whether that’s overwhelmed, frightened, helpless, or frustrated. 

‘You can pick it up and find some kindness when you’re giving yourself a hard time, a tool you can use to pause and recalibrate,’ she explains.

‘One day, hopefully, we’ll be through this [pandemic] but there will always be unkind days. If we can show self-kindness, it impacts everything we do and how we interact with others. It has a ripple effect.’

Born in Plymouth, Jayne grew up in Launceston and bar a stint over the Tamar when Dom served in the Royal Navy, she’s spent her entire life in Cornwall. 

‘I can’t imagine living anywhere else, ever,’ she says. ‘One of my favourite childhood memories is heading to Daymer Bay super early, so dad could stake his claim on the beach. We’d be there all day and then have fish and chips before going home. It’s somewhere really special for me and now I take my six-year-old daughter Peggy. I find the sea so restorative and grounding and calming, which I think is important with the job I’ve got. I support so many people with their mental health, it’s important I have those spaces that restore me and help me recalibrate.’ 

Kind Words for Unkind Days JAYNE HARDY

Kind Words for Unkind Days by Jayne Hardy - Credit: Jayne Hardy

Jayne’s tips for self-kindness 
We’re always learning, so don’t beat yourself up about making mistakes. Once you realise they teach you something, it’s liberating. 

Express your fears to somebody you trust, so they don’t become all-consuming. Or write them down in a journal to help rationalise them. 

It might feel counter-intuitive but if you feel overwhelmed and stressed, don’t plough on. Slow down, or stop, and renegotiate the expectations you’ve put on yourself.

Self-care doesn’t have to mean a spa day. Just take micro moments for yourself throughout the day, even if it’s a quiet cup of tea, as they can be anchoring amongst the noise. 

Loss of hope is probably the worst feeling but remind yourself both good and bad times pass. We’re not held in a state of either forever.  

Kind Words for Unkind Days: A guide to surviving and thriving in difficult times by Jayne Hardy (Orion Spring) is out now.