The only lesson I’ve learned from life: Jay Blades, 52, says being vulnerable made me stronger

The only lesson I’ve learned from life: Jay Blades, 52, of The Repair Shop, says being vulnerable has made me stronger

Jay Blades, 52, is a furniture restorer and TV presenter best known for running BBC1’s The Repair Shop. He lives in Shropshire with his fiancée, Lisa, and has three children.

Seven years ago, I went through a period of depression. My marriage and my business fell apart and I didn’t think I could ask anyone for help.

As a community worker at the time, I thought I should support those around me and not the other way around, so I kept all my emotions inside.

Jay Blades, 52 (pictured), says being vulnerable has made me stronger. The TV presenter went through a period of depression seven years ago when his marriage and business failed

It got so bad that one day I got in the car and drove. I went off the radar for a week and stayed in a parking lot. The police found me because I was missing and a friend came looking for me.

He said, ‘How are you?’ and I cracked. It was the first time I cried in front of another man and it was a real cry, coming out of my nose.

At first it was scary, but it gave me so much relief. Years of emotions and tears were released, and it empowered me. It made me realize that showing your vulnerability gives you strength.

Before that moment, I hadn’t cried since I was four or five years old. Since my dad wasn’t around, I was told to be the man of the house from an early age, but I had no role model for that. The only ones I knew were outside the house and they were all tough guys; Growing up in Hackney in the 1970s, you couldn’t show weakness or you would become a victim.

But now all I do is be vulnerable, like the BBC documentary I made earlier this year about learning to read at 51. Being on TV has given me a platform and I try to use that to inspire others. I can reach people I’ve never even met, which is an amazing feeling.

I’m opening up like you wouldn’t believe with my male friends now – no one can go through life alone. Today I have a great support network around me.

I almost wasn’t going to be here seven years ago, and look what I’ve achieved since then – I even welcomed King Charles into the repair shop to celebrate the BBC’s centenary.

It’s a geezer who can’t read well and isn’t what you would traditionally call “television material”. But the reason I am where I am today is because I let other people in and asked them for help. When you do this, you can really fly.

  • DIY With Jay, by Jay Blades (£20, Bluebird), is available now.

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