“Isn’t it funny how the worst thing in my life led to the best thing?”
Inspiration hits when we come across figures who fulfil their potential, regardless of difficult personal circumstances. David Williams is one of those people. The young Liverpool entrepreneur has fended off debilitating bouts of anxiety and depression to grow two of the city’s most popular businesses – food hall Baltic Market and culinary magazine, Independent Liverpool. He also finds time to document his mental health experiences on his blog The Secret We All Share. We caught up with David to chat food trends, self criticism, and Sister Sledge.
What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?
Honestly? Love Island. No, I’m only kidding (partially). At the moment I’m reading ‘The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck’ by Mark Manson. It’s incredible. It teaches you that unhappiness is found in the search to be better, richer, skinnier and more and that if life gives you lemons, learn to like them. It has done wonders for me. I’m also watching The Staircase on Netflix, a murder mystery about a woman found dead at the bottom of stairs.
Where’s the sweet spot between a healthy but tasty meal? What dishes would you recommend that tick both boxes?
For me I can’t get enough of a falafel bowl from Hafla Hafla at Baltic Market. It’s full of falafel, salad, charred peppers, couscous, spicy dips, yoghurts and more. It’s absolutely packed full of veggies, vitamins and all that other good stuff but feels naughty.
Do you think people are getting more adventurous with their eating habits? If so, what is influencing that?
Massively. I think social media has played a huge part in this but also it’s a natural progression from a multi-cultural society. We’re not only so lucky to live in a multicultural society in Liverpool but also to embrace it. On Bold Street for example you could travel the world through food whilst walking down one street. It’s that sense of intrigue to start new stuff that makes people want to try.
What are you favourite places to eat in the UK?
That’s such a good and hard question. For me though my favourites have to be: Maray, Mowgli, Neon Jamon, Little Furnace and I better stop before I keep going/order a takeaway.
What do you predict to be the next food trends?
The next food trend will be Korean food. If there isn’t a Korean BBQ concept in Liverpool in the next couple years I’ll be so shocked. Also, South American street food is becomingly very popular as it’s very vibrant and largely vegan.
What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?
I’d say the hardest thing I’ve ever had to overcome was life after my first ever panic attack. Whilst it was happening I had no idea what was happening, I honestly thought I had gone insane. Life hasn’t really been the same since that day… some good ways and some bad. I slumped into a crazy depression after it and spent every minute I was awake trying to stop myself having another panic attack. I cut all friends out my life and spent months in my bed and trapped in my head. Funnily enough it was Independent Liverpool that helped me overcome it. It got me out the house, meeting people and writing about my experiences was so lovely. Isn’t it funny how the worst thing in my life led to the best thing? I think that’s why Independent Liverpool means so much to me. It literally saved me. Not a lot of people know that.
What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?
I’ve spent my whole life being so incredibly overly critical of myself. In many ways I’ve been my own worst enemy and it can be hard. I’m slowly learning to be my own best friend again and to stop myself in my long-drawn thought processes that spiral out of control and to remind myself I’m a good person doing good things. I think I also learned that I’ve actually been suffering from depression and anxiety my whole life and it’s not a recent thing and the problems started within the family at a young age. But the older you get the more you realise your parents are just people trying to get by, trying to give you the best life they have with whatever resources they’ve got. That animosity towards a hard start in life can eat you alive unless you release it.
What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?
I’m a big believer in it’s not what you do, it’s who you’re with. As long as I’m with friends, girlfriend or family that’s always a pretty good start. A perfect day for me though would be a huge cycle in the morning, a cup of coffee and a walk around Sefton Park in the afternoon and then a pub quiz with my mates or to go camping. Nothing like a date with nature to sort you out. Either that or a day of cooking. I absolutely adore cooking. See, I don’t ask for much!
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My job. I’m so lucky I get to talk about the city I love, meet interesting people every day and help local businesses achieve their dream. That is just the most incredible feeling for me. Also, having an audience we can encourage to be open about mental health and notify them about organisations yourself.
Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”
Feeling content. Happiness isn’t something that is given, it’s earned and if you can manage to enjoy the little things in life, it goes a big way.
Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?
I try to cycle to and from work as much as possible. If I don’t cycle I try to walk it instead. I’m also doing a couch to 10k at the moment and despite the lycra and crippling pain – it’s going alright. I could definitely do more though. My day is so much better when exercise is involved.
Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?
A big thing for me was playing kerby as a kid. I think I’d still be outside playing that now if it weren’t for my Mum calling me in each night. I was lucky enough to live on a street with loads of kids a similar age to me so we’d ride bikes, play cricket, play footy and then end it with kerby at the end of the day. Those summers felt like forever, the days felt so long and times felt so innocent. There was nothing on my mind apart from throwing the ball at a kerb. I miss those days.
What three songs lift your spirits?
Sister Sledge – Thinkin’ Of You
Earth Wind & Fire – September
Sweet Female Attitude – Flowers
(Who knew I had such guilty pleasures, eh?)
What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?
Talking is the biggest thing. Obviously it doesn’t fix everything overnight but sharing a problem with someone who’s willing to listen who obviously cares does wonders for the mind. I always say to people helping someone with depression isn’t about changing the metaphorical storm they’re under, it’s about holding up the umbrella once in a while. Depression and anxiety slaughters our vitality and our want to do things so I always try push friends to get out the house, go for a walk, see an old friend or go for a cycle to get the happy hormones going again.