SAINTE’s Tay Jardine Talks Candidly About Her Mental Health
Having suffered from depression while she was out of the spotlight for a few years, Tay Jardine of SAINTE is now seeking to increase discussion around mental health issues and to provide a beacon of hope to anyone who might recognise something of themselves in her story. Here, she very kindly opens up about what the last few years have been like as she struggled to make sense of what was happening to her, and how she managed to fight back.
You’ve been increasingly open about having had a few tough years with your mental health. When did it first become clear that things weren’t quite right?
As soon as I decided to give We Are The In Crowd a break and try new things, in my mind it was like, ‘Wow, this is a big move.’ I had been searching for something new, to make me feel like myself again. It’s interesting to look back now and think how that decision meant more than just a fresh start. I was seeking a place that would make me happier. But when we were first in the studio [with SAINTE], that was when I realised that something was wrong. For years I’d been touring non-stop and I didn’t have any time to be self aware. I was waking up, doing press, doing soundcheck, playing shows and trying to be as happy as possible, but going to bed at night feeling extremely unhappy, and not putting any thought into why. It just developed into this really dark place, gradually. So when I was in the studio writing songs for SAINTE, I found myself leaving multiple times just to go outside to cry, non-stop. I thought, ‘Why am I sad? I thought I was doing something that would make me feel better?’ That’s how my depression affected me. I know the symptoms are different for everybody, but I was mostly sad, more than anything.
SAINTE – Eyes Are Open
So essentially, depression crept up on you after years of ignoring the warning signs?
Yeah and I didn’t open up about it like most people do. At first, the guys I was writing with with were like, ‘What is your issue?’ Some days they were probably frustrated with me, because I was leaving and they’d be like, ‘Are you okay? What is going on?’ and all I could say was, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know what this is, I’m just sad – actually <extremely> sad.’ I didn’t know what it meant because in the past, any friends or family members that I’ve dealt with who’d had anxiety, or depression, or either, were just extremely anxious or angry or they’d put themselves down. I wasn’t really doing that or telling myself that I wasn’t worth anything, I was just extremely sad, to the point where I would wake up with an alarm but just not move, completely paralysed in bed. I’d think, ‘This is obviously something strange’, but I was super embarrassed to talk about it. I called my mom. I think that’s important, you have to find that person who you can talk to. For me, that was my mom and I appreciate that for some people family might not be the right place to turn to.
So maybe it’s a friend or a person you feel most comfortable talking with, but tell them. I somehow knew I was not going to help myself. I told her, ‘When I’m done writing, if I don’t make any moves to help myself you need to realise I’m going to be stubborn about this, and you need to know that I’m going to have days where I’ll say I’m fine and sweep it under the rug’, so she was calling me regularly and she realised that I was definitely still not okay. I ended up flying to Florida where she lives and that’s where I first spoke to a therapist. Spending time in the sun, on the beach and literally taking time which I’d previously thought to be selfish. I thought, ‘I need to be home, I need to be busy’ and one of the things the therapist asked me was, ‘What do you have to do there that’s more important than your mental health?’ and I couldn’t answer that question. She said, ‘If you feel like going to the beach and putting your head under the waves, letting that be your happy place right now, let that happen – that’s more important than anything.’ That really helped me: prioritising my mental health.
When you were scared to do so previously, were you in the habit of making excuses to avoid the underlying issues?
Totally, and I think that’s what happens to a lot of people. Sometimes they wait too long and it bottles up to this thing that…. Sometimes it builds up to the end of their life. Sometimes it means losing friends, sometimes it means losing jobs, and they can’t justify what went wrong really, just the fact that they didn’t put themselves first and realise that it was okay not to be okay, and act on that. It’s important for people to know that it’s totally okay to seek help, in whichever way you find is the best fit for you. The other things is: I hid it completely. Especially on tour. I would get tweets like, ‘Why aren’t you coming outside after the show?’ but I had to go back to my bunk to be alone, because I just couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t that I didn’t care or that I thought I was bigger than that. The fact was that I was so much smaller than it. I couldn’t do it. It’s really about coming to that point, where now, I’m so incredibly grateful.
Making that first step, talking to a stranger about your problems, must have taken a lot of courage. How difficult was that?
It was terrifying. I couldn’t even drive, I was so scared. At that point I was 25 and I needed my mom to drive me to my appointment. But I needed her and I needed that. I think because it was my mom, I didn’t feel as vulnerable, but those feelings were definitely still there. And the first meeting was awful. I didn’t talk about anything, I wasn’t able to open up and every question the therapist asked me, I was hysterical. It took us a while, and four days a week, before I could actually open up. And with doing that, I began to realise things were bothering me I hadn’t even considered. Like, maybe it was some sort of childhood trauma, or… for me, it was a lot of experiences in the last few years that I had not given myself time to interpret. Whether that be working non-stop, or feeling like I didn’t have friends, because I was with the same group of people on the road all the time. Not to say that they weren’t my friends, because they were, but I didn’t have another person to call or talk to, and I didn’t allow myself to. So a lot of that started to make so much sense, which helped me start to be okay with it. Once we were identifying where all those feelings were coming from, it became so much easier to fix them and help myself.
If you’re okay with sharing, what were things like at your lowest points?
I was extremely, extremely sad. My face was swollen from crying everyday. At the peak of it all, it was turning into that stuff that you don’t want to talk about like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t care what happens to me tomorrow’. The reason I want to share this stuff is that I want anybody that can identify with me, or that looks up to me, to know that it’s all good, and that this is normal. But I’d find myself in a car or in an Uber and thinking, ‘I don’t really care if I get into an accident today, I don’t really care’ and it wasn’t thoughts of suicide so much as genuinely not caring about what happens. There was that sense, which I think is so relatable, that you just don’t care about yourself. You have to turn that around to caring about yourself, and it’s not just how you think it might be like, ‘Today I’m going to eat well and shave my legs!’ It’s way deeper than that.
Talk to someone and really analyse why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling. You didn’t just step into it, you didn’t get poisoned by this. It’s not like you touched something and all of a sudden you’re depressed or have anxiety. There’s always a reason. Some people can help themselves. I know my sister, she read a lot of self-help books and did breathing exercises and things like that. That’s a good first step, especially if you don’t want to talk to anybody. Go on Amazon, see if there’s something that you can relate to and read it to see if it helps. I tried all that and I couldn’t even get through a few pages without sobbing. So eventually I had to seek professional help. But now, things are great. Now that things are stable and I feel like I’m way more emotionally balanced in my life, I can go back and look at those books when I’m slightly anxious. I have certain things bookmarked, where I can go back and read something that helps kind of put my feet back on the ground.
What are your coping mechanisms now?
I’m on medication for my depression and that’s something a lot of people won’t talk about. I went through the loops on everything. I did not want to be on medication, I didn’t want to feel like I needed something, or I relied on a substance to help myself. But my suggestion with that is, go through all the other possibilities first. Because honestly, being on an antidepressant… it is helping me, but there are days when I feel like, ‘God, I wish I didn’t have to take this.’ To this day, I’m still working on not being on it. I guess my message with that is, the pills aren’t going to fix you. There’s no medicine that’s just going to make you better in a second. Even getting on one of these medications is a nightmare. There are side effects, and it’s not fun. This was my last resort. So I definitely suggest other methods before that. But it’s definitely <helping me> today. There’s also a book called Big Magic that I think might help anybody struggling with depression or anxiety or any kind of mental health problems. That one really helped me.
Has focussing on SAINTE helped you feel on top of everything again?
So much. There’s a big reason why with SAINTE, I went with bright colours and all these happy feelings. Because I needed it. I’m shooting two new videos this weekend and it’s making me so excited to create these things. SAINTE, for me, is a place in my head. It’s not really a project as much as it’s my biggest outlet.
If you’re struggling with your own mental health, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone you can trust – it could be a friend, a family member, a teacher, a doctor, a counsellor or a helpline – or visit YoungMinds for more information about how to find support. If you’re passionate about improving young people’s mental health and wellbeing then take a look at all the ways you can get involved with YoungMinds’ good work here.