Reasons to stay alive


Reasons to stay alive – Matt Haig*

I’m in two minds about reviewing this.
Part of me wants to convince everyone I know to pick this up, it might help some of them tackle their own problems, but it would also help those who don’t need to vanquish demons during their usual daylight hours understand how it feels to be someone that does. I figured if I review it though I need to explain why this book was such a great find.
I love the internet and I love sharing my adventures and pictures of my parent’s cats etc, but I don’t think I share much of who I actually am and that’s because you’ll need a hazmat suit and an accompanying adult to enter my head – its a dark and scary place. Loads of people feel the way I do, so its not shame that stops me from talking about real stuff, it’s lack of understanding that make me want to keep this part of myself hidden.  Which is bad. Caving in to those dark thoughts makes them stronger. Which is why I want everyone to read this book. Read it, so that if you see me irl and I am staring into space wondering if anything would change if I just stopped and you ask me if I’m ok, I don’t have to lie to you for an easy life. I don’t care that I fall into despair and think about death sometimes, its a part of me that I accept, but I do care that when I try to explain that to other people… Well, I get a lot of comments about being dramatic and it’ll all be fine. It will be fine. I just don’t need to hear that at the moment. With me there is also a level of guilt about my first world problems. Because you know, I got to go to school, I live in a nice area, I have clean water and food and heating and a job and supportive parents. I don’t have any reason to feel the way I do sometimes. Oh, would you look at that. I explained the thing, guess now we’re not in two minds any more.

I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt. I hate depression. I am scared of it. Terrified, in fact. But at the same time, it has made me who I am. And if – for me – it is the price of feeling life, it’s a price always worth paying.
Reasons to Stay Alive is about making the most of your time on earth. In the western world the suicide rate is highest amongst men under the age of 35. Matt Haig could have added to that statistic when, aged 24, he found himself staring at a cliff-edge about to jump off. This is the story of why he didn’t, how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how live better, love better, read better and feel more.

I try to avoid books on mental health.
Partly because most books I read on mental health are either written by people who have never experienced a problem in their head before or they’re young adult fiction books that feature a quirky special snowflake who is sectioned and then makes a miraculous recovery often after meeting an equally troubled teen of the opposite sex. Aint nobody got time for that. I’m not saying all books about mental health are bad, there are some great books about mental health, this is one of them.
Prior to hearing about and tracking down Reasons to Stay Alive, the two books that I related to the most in terms of the mental state of the characters is The Catcher in the Rye (Holden just gets me) and the Bell Jar (which considering what happened to Sylvia Plath is somewhat troubling). Both those books helped me because it made me feel like I wasn’t the only person feeling the way I was, but they are both works of fiction. Well… I guess we can say the Bell Jar is semi autobiographical…. This on the other hand, this is a non fiction memoir of sorts from a guy who actually battles with depression and anxiety and talks very candidly about his breakdown and though it is a book that is full of darkness and pain, it also has a hopeful undertone. Matt made it through, you can make it through. If you are someone that has wrestled with anxiety or depression in their many varied forms, you will read this and nod, thinking to yourself, yep. Been there. You will laugh and some of the… shall we say less rational things your brain will convince you of during a bad time. You will relate to just about every sentence because every sentence is something that you will have experienced. If you are someone who hasn’t ever dealt with depression and anxiety, firstly, I am super jealous, do you know how inconvenient it is to try and hide a panic attack while you’re trying to be social? Secondly, you will read this and have the feelings, the thought processes, the warning signs and the symptoms explained to you in a non patronising and completely understandable way. You will get it. You’ll get it without having to go down that road.

I’ll level with you, February and March have not been great for me. I am in full blown insomniac mode right now. Which is a symptom of and exacerbates depression. My mind has not been a great place to be for most of those two months, I’m feeling ok now though, thanks for asking. For me, these things come in waves, the tide has now gone out and its calm and peaceful and I am so glad I found this book because the next time I feel the waves coming, I won’t have to reach for the Bell Jar to connect with someone, I can read this and actually use it to get on with my life until the wave passes. You have no idea how good it was to actually be able to read a book that lays everything out so honestly that is written by someone who felt way worse than I ever have and is still here to tell the tale. I want this to be required reading, stick it in schools, give it to doctors, go to your nearest bookstore/library and get a copy. One in every four people will have a mental illness at some point in their lives, you never know when you might need to give someone a reason to stay alive, or when you’ll need one yourself.



*it is super annoying that the cover is white so this literally looks like its just floating there on the page.
Also Facebook tells me it is World Bipolar Day today. So this turned out to be very apros pos.


8 thoughts on “Reasons to stay alive”


    Thank you for this long detailed review. I love books that tackle mental health, especially in YA but I get what you’ve said. I sometimes get really annoyed that there always has to be a love interest. Like, why? It’s the last thing you’re capable of thinking about when you’re in that mindset – unless it’s to beat yourself up about how alone you are and how no one will ever love you and you’ll be a spinster found months after death with your cats eating you….. anyway…

    Yes. I really think mental health should be talked about a lot more in schools. It’s so important. People still don’t understand it, which amazes me. And I think a book like this could be a really good bridge because it sounds like it’s written in an interesting way but also very informative.

    Sorry to hear you’ve had a rough few months. I know dats feel in my own way. Remember, I’m always here at the end of an email if you ever need to vent about random stuffs or talk about books stuffs or I don’t know…KITTENS! I usually find talking to someone who barely knows me about this stuff really helps. Sometimes people in real life just don’t get it, or they’re too busy!

    1. Thank you for all of that! I was a bit scared of reviewing the book tbh because I knew I wouldn’t be able to without talking about my experiences and its kind of hard to do that because well… its not an easy subject to broach – which annoys me because if we don’t talk, people won’t know and mental health provision is so poor! Definitely give it a read, like I said, its great if you’re going through/have been through tough times and its great if its a subject that interests you and its generally just a handy thing to have read just in case you end up experiencing/ knowing someone who is experiencing these things. Its a book that really spans generations and isn’t too psychobabbly so its really accessible, check it out when you can!
      Also, thank you for the venting offer, you may come to regret that! I do need to start talking about my problems more instead of insulating them because I know it makes me worse and like you say, its easier to talk to people who are outside your circle, like wise if you need someone, I’m always happy to help 🙂

      1. No problem. 🙂

        Yes, I feel exactly the same way when a book tackles something that is very close to me. I have some experience with mental health problems myself, but like you, I haven’t really talked about it on my blog. Sometimes I feel like I should and other times I feel like I shouldn’t. It’s a difficult thing to decide on!

        I love that we have a lot more programmes about it on TV now, but so much more needs to be done. I was actually thinking about doing a blogging series through mental health week (I think it’s in May), posting mental health related things (in general and in some cases bookish), and getting some people to guest post on the topic. Let me know if that would be something that would interest you. 🙂

        Haha, never! And thank you. 🙂

      2. It is difficult and i think part of that is due to it being misunderstood or trivialised or looking like a cry for attention rather than help (that’s my fear anyway). A series during mental health week sounds amazing! I was thinking of doing something on YouTube about it, but I worry about being able to handle it sensitively and accurately, so I’m on the fence about it – a blog series with guests sounds like a brilliant idea! You’ll get to talk about a broader range of topics and experiences that way, if you do it, sign me up!

  2. I wonder if the season / weather has some bearing on things as I have had a pretty bad time with depression and insomnia the past 8 weeks or so too. Thanks for letting me know about this book, I will have to give it a read. Be strong and stay safe x

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