Thursday, April 14, 2016

Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Thursday, April 14, 2016 with No comments

Like nearly one in five people, Matt Haig suffers from depression. Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt’s inspiring account of how, minute by minute and day by day, he overcame the disease with the help of reading, writing, and the love of his parents and his girlfriend (and now-wife), Andrea. And eventually, he learned to appreciate life all the more for it.

Everyone’s lives are touched by mental illness: if we do not suffer from it ourselves, then we have a friend or loved one who does. Matt’s frankness about his experiences is both inspiring to those who feel daunted by depression and illuminating to those who are mystified by it. Above all, his humor and encouragement never let us lose sight of hope. Speaking as his present self to his former self in the depths of depression, Matt is adamant that the oldest cliché is the truest—there is light at the end of the tunnel. He teaches us to celebrate the small joys and moments of peace that life brings, and reminds us that there are always reasons to stay alive.

"I was scared of the quiet. I was scared, I suppose, of having to slow down and soften the volume. Scared of having nothing but my own mind to listen to."

A bit of a memoir, self-help "guidebook," and analytical "note-to-self" all in one, Reasons To Stay Alive truly lives up to it's title. This book contains an amazing and accurate description of what it is like to struggle with depression and anxiety. I myself struggle with both, however thankfully I have never experienced a panic attack such as the ones the author has been through *knock on wood*. The thing about mental illness, of course, is that you never have two people that share illnesses also share the exact same symptoms, experiences, or feelings. Each story is completely unique, and while the name of the disorder may be the same, not everything that applies to one person will necessarily apply to someone else. 

With this particular memoir, a lot of what Matt went through seemed like it was on another plane of existence from what I go through, but at the same time, I would find myself making exclamations out loud to myself because I would come across words or passages that I completely clicked with, and was excited to see were things that I wasn't alone in feeling. 

I mostly read memoirs to step in the shoes of others and see how people live differently from myself, but it is a refreshing feeling to find myself understanding so much of what an author is trying to convey. Each chapter was short, and was its own story in and of itself, while connecting to give a larger picture of not only what the author has gone through in his depression, but to give a feeling of hope - that no matter how difficult or hopeless you can feel, there can still be moments waiting to occur that will bring you out of the darkness and into the light, and there can still be a better tomorrow.

What I appreciate most, however, is how honest Matt was about how depression is not something to be "overcome" or "defeated" - it is always there, and once you have it, even when you manage to find what brings light and hope into your life, it will still be a part of you. He actually delves into how he has found aspects of his illness to appreciate, stating that if didn't have depression, he may not feel the emotions he feels about certain things as strongly as he does. He also adds that the illness causes you to see things in a different way, affecting every aspect of your thought process and how you perceive things, and that many key people who were known for struggling with depression (such as Robin Williams, Abraham Lincoln, and Angelina Jolie, amongst others) were probably not great "despite" having depression, but most likely because of it. 

I'm not going to delve too much deeper into this, because I honestly can't do this book justice by my review. All I can say is that for an illness that has too much social stigma attached to it due to what basically amounts to a lack of knowledge and/or an inability to accept the unknown, Matt Haig does a phenomenal job of writing about it in a way that would allow anyone unfamiliar with the true nature of the disease to begin gaining a more basic understanding of it. For those who are familiar, or who battle depression on a day-by-day basis, this novel is a beacon of hope (as corny as it sounds) that shows that it is always possible for you to start breathing again, and to have a life that you truly enjoy - if you just hang in there and keep working towards it, eventually you will find your own Reasons To Stay Alive

There is always hope.

Thank you, Matt.



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