Monday 13 April 2015

Review: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

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. [summary from Goodreads]

My rating: 5 stars

It's quite difficult to review this book in terms of doing justice to it's greatness and it's goodness. Before I attempt to put my thoughts into words (I am still contemplating this book long after having read it three times over), I will just say this: read this book now, whoever you are, just find a way to read it, you absolutely must.

The thing about depression is that it's just so hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it. Matt Haig manages to accurately describe depression and anxiety and how he personally manages these illnesses without ever sounding maudlin, trite or preachy. I now feel I can just press this book upon people and say 'here, read this, this is me, you will know me now'. Matt Haig's writing is frank and beautiful and he manages to put into words thoughts that have been following me around for years. 

"If you have depression on its own your mind sinks into a swamp and loses momentum, but with anxiety in the cocktail, the swamp is still a swamp but the swamp now has whirlpools in it." - Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive.

I found myself constantly nodding along whilst reading, there were just so many truisms, so many little realities and descriptions of feelings that I recognise so well and that I would never have been able to put into words. It was just such a relief to read.

The structure of Reasons to Stay Alive is very helpful both for those attempting to understand depression, and for those in the midst of it. The book is separated into short chapters which are honest, insightful and beautifully succinct. I personally have found that when I am low and unwell I find it difficult to concentrate for long periods, so the short sections are very helpful in this respect and the book is never too heavy or overly academic.

Little notes of humour made Reasons to Stay Alive light and hopeful as well as intensely emotional. One of my favourite sections is: 'things people say to depressives that they don't say in other life-threatening situations' with an example being 'Ah Meningitis. Come on, mind over matter'. I would love to be able to hand this book to every single person who has told me to pull myself together or be grateful for everything I have. I would like them to understand that I can happy and grateful at the same time as being depressed just like, as Matt Haig says, a person can be a sober alcoholic.

As I said earlier, it is difficult to review this book when all that really needs to be said is that this book is incredibly important and EVERYONE should read it.

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