There is a part of human nature compelled to test our own limits. But what happens when this part comes to define us?
When journalist Jenny Valentish wrote Woman of Substances, a book about addiction, she noticed that people who treated drug-taking like an Olympic sport – forcing their bodies to the edge with an all-or-nothing commitment – would often hurl themselves into a pursuit like marathon running upon getting sober. What stayed constant was the need to push their boundaries.
Everything Harder Than Everyone Else is about those people willing to do the things that most others couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t. Through delving into their heightened experiences, there’s a lot that us mere mortals can learn.
There’s the designer who hangs from hooks in her flesh at weekends, to get out of her head. The ultrarunner who draws parallels with his former life of smoking crack. The bodybuilder who structures every second of her day, bringing order to chaos.
Woven through the tales of these outliers are familiar themes, but amplified: sensation-seeking and euphoria chasing; compartmentalising and the development of double lives; humble mastery versus the need for validation; deathwish versus catharsis; retirement and reinvention; pressure testing and traumatic re-enactment; and that fine line between pleasure and pain.
Jenny’s fascination with their insights leads to her own compulsive, sometimes reckless journey of immersion journalism.