Reasons To Stay Alive, by Matt Haig

This is the true story of how Matt Haig came through crisis, triumphed over a mental illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. Moving, funny and joyous, ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’ is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

I have been reading this book slowly, in sections, since the middle of November, and finally near the end of January I am turning the final page. I would feel bad about how long it has taken me to finish, but as Haig himself says right at the end of the book;

“Read a book without thinking about finishing it.

Just read it.

Enjoy every word, sentence and paragraph. Don’t wish for it to end or for it to never end.”

So in the spirit of the advice in this book, I took my sweet time finishing it.

What did I think of this book?

It was honestly worth every moment that I spent reading and thinking about it. I have thought of myself as reasonably educated when it comes to emotions and mental health – I am a nurse and mortality/ difficult discussions are part and parcel of the job. I studied mental illnesses as part of my degree and have cared for more than my fair share of depressed and suicidal people, but even considering regular exposure, I gained a large amount of understanding from this honest, eloquent account of living with and managing depression and anxiety.

Perhaps because Matt Haig has a way with words that none of my patients were ever able to conjure up in the midsts of their crises? Perhaps because, as he references several times throughout the book, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Or perhaps because of the many different approaches he takes throughout the book to express a rounded understanding of both being depressed and being with a depressed person.

I also love his voice, and the way that he explains things to you. The difficulty in reading this book was not in needing to concentrate on the words, it was on having time to actually think about what was being said. This is part of why I dipped in and out of it, and why I have sent so many pictures to friends over WhatsApp with instructions to read this book.

Why is it relevant to you?

On the back of the book, Rev. Richard Coles is cited as saying “Brilliant…. should be on prescription”, which I must wholeheartedly agree with. If I had anything to do with the school and university reading lists I would be putting this book at the top. While we as a society are significantly better at acknowledging mental illnesses we are still abysmal at knowing what to do about them.

A fellow book blogger recently commented on Twitter that people are really supportive of people who have successfully fought through a difficult patch with their mental health, but don’t seem able to step in and discuss it when you are in the midst of that crisis. Part of what I love about this book is how truly applicable it is to people who are not, nor have been depressed. We all know somebody who is anxious or depressed – I’m not convinced that we all have the understanding or tools to really truly help.

One of my favourite sections in the book, the one that I have thrust under the noses of my friends and family the most, is ‘Things that people say to depressives that they don’t say in other life-threatening situations’. I wont quote it – I’ll leave you the joy of discovery. There is advice for how to help yourself, and also how to help others. I strongly believe that everyone needs to read this section (the whole book to be honest, but specifically this), along with the section on why depression is so hard to understand.

This book is not a magic wand, in much the same way that a pen will not write a book by itself. However understanding is an important tool, much like compassion and empathy, and I thought that this book was insightful, informative and approached the topic in bite-sized, manageable and comprehendable way. Non-fiction can be a bit daunting sometimes, but bear in mind that this is the author of ‘The Midnight Library’, and ‘A Boy Called Christmas’ – you are in safe hands.

If the author himself ever reads this review, I really want to say I read what you wrote, it wasn’t all for nothing. Thank You.

Published by BeckyBookBlog

My name is Becky and I run a blog about Books

3 thoughts on “Reasons To Stay Alive, by Matt Haig

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