Are there any more practical things you’ve found that are working?
In the last couple of months, I’ve just started taking CBD oil. A friend of mine wrote a piece on micro-dosing LSD, which a lot of people swear by now. All of the effects he described made it sound like exactly the thing I needed. But LSD can be quite hard to get hold of, and someone told me you can get similar effects from CBD oil. There was an anger that used to be the ugliest part of my depression and that I hated – since I’ve been taking CBD, it seems to have gone for the most part. I’ve also been sleeping like a hibernating bear and that’s a game-changer too.
I’m also walking, running and swimming and exerting myself whenever possible. I live in Brighton, so I’m by the sea and we’ve got the South Downs on our doorstep. We’re in the downs a lot.
All of this has helped me let go of a lot of stuff. I’m not cut out for high-stress, high-octane living, but that’s a standard that a lot us aspire to and measure ourselves by. I’ve accepted now that, for me to do that and perhaps make the big money, I would have to put my mind through some serious stress. I’m no longer prepared to do that. I prefer to live and have time to do the things I want to do in order to be content and happy.
For some people, seeing the money roll in gives them a big dopamine hit, but we need to remember the lifestyle it demands doesn’t fix everything for everyone. Instead of getting down on myself about not being cut out for that, I’m actually quite proud for going, okay, that’s awesome for you, but I don’t really want all of that if it also means being a nervous wreck.
More generally, then, it’s good we’re starting to talk a bit more about mental health?
As I said about myself, I think it’s important to distinguish between talking about mental health, and talking about talking about mental health. The first one is still a lot harder to do than the second one because we don’t personally want to appear vulnerable or pathetic or anything like that.
Towards the end of the walk, I was at peak fitness and I decided to run home from Edinburgh. I had a bit of a social media following at that point and people could follow me. As I passed through towns, I’d be helped out and put up by total strangers for the night. So many of the people I met in those five weeks knew I was on a sort of mental health-framed adventure, and they had something they wanted to talk about. It was much easier for them to drop their guard to a transient guy they probably won’t see again than to a friend or someone they loved. There wasn’t the same fear of being judged, which I think is still a big fear for a lot of people.
I can’t remember all of the names and faces of the people I met at that time, but they were a diverse mix. I spoke to them and they spoke to me about things I had never talked about for 30 years, which had made me feel so alone. As I said in my Ted talk, depression’s best trick is convincing everyone that they’re the sole member of the biggest club in the world. If you can see that, the world opens up for you.
Have you got any advice for anyone who might be struggling?
I’m not a huge fan of giving advice because I think everybody needs a slightly different approach. Personally, if I’m low, I kind of like having the piss taken out of me. I’ve got certain friends who can do this to me, make me laugh about myself and I’ll snap out of it. But I can see that getting mugged off by your mates is not an approach that’s going to work for everyone.
I think trying to understand what you need is a good starting point. If you’re the sort of person who needs reassurance, ask for reassurance. If you need to be around people who make you laugh, surround yourself with them.
And put trust in the people you love. They do like you. They do care about you. If they hear you’re going through something tough and you’re hiding it from them, it’s probably going to hurt them as well. Because they want to help you.
Finally, Jake, any guidance for someone who might know someone who’s struggling?
That’s a good question. A lot is done for people who are struggling, but there’s been very little offered to the people around those people. Just being present is probably the simplest thing I can say. I don’t think you have to sit people down and try to get them to start talking. Be gentle in your encouragement: perhaps a surprise gift, or a visit, or some other little step up in friendship that lets them know you’ve noticed something might be off. My partner is very good at being around a bit more, but not swamping me. She might bring me a cup of tea when I’m not expecting it and that makes me much more inclined to have a conversation that isn’t stilted or forced. So, yeah. Up your friendship. Be more present. That’s a cool piece of advice.
Check out A Walk From The Wild Edge by Jake Tyler here.