Reasons to Stay Aliveby Matt Haig Published 23 Feb 2016
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Matt Haig’s accessible and life-affirming memoir of his struggle with depression, and how his triumph over the illness taught him to live.
"Destined to become a modern classic." —Entertainment Weekly
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.
"Reasons to Stay Alive" Reviews
FINALLY! A book about depression that makes sense, that those with depression will read and sit nodding their heads and agreeing all the way through it. No psychobabble here (from Psychologists who have never experienced depression) - just real raw telling of Matt Haig's journey with the dreaded black dog. This book should be given or bought by EVERYONE battling depression, or has a loved one battling it. It's everywhere you know.
Matt so simply explains how it feels, he is so darn honest and all of what he says is true (trust me I know). He breaks it down into simple formats, like lists of what you feel like on a bad day or what you are thinking and it's all stuff that NONE of the other books cover, it's really what is going on in your dark mind.
He tackles the issues of suicidal thoughts and tendencies and how scary it can be, nobody wants to talk about that right? But we need to.
A bit that resonated with me was about how withdrawn you become from the world, scared to go out on your own, or even with others, you need people but you can't cope with them. It's overwhelming. Matt mentions staring out of a window and watching people go by and thinking he just wants to be normal like them. I have done that, hundreds of times, with my cat by my side, wishing normal was in my scope.
It made me laugh in places too, it's gutsy and so freaking RIGHT. Loved this book, I read it in the wee hours of the morning relating to everything Matt has gone through and cheering for his moments of coming out of the darkness that is so devastating.
Let's get real about depression, it can hit anyone, it's not a choice, you can't just positive self-talk your way out of it. Just buy this book. 5 paw prints from the Booklover Catlady for this little gem.
Nice job Matt, this one will help so many people. It should be given out at every counselling and therapy session for anyone with depression around the world.
For more of my reviews, book talk, giveaways and much more go to:
4.5/5 stars. If you've suffered from depression and/or anxiety yourself at some point in your life or you know someone that has (and it's very likely that you do) this book is an absolute must-read.
Beautiful. Informative. Powerful.
Around the Year in 52 Books Challenge Notes:
- 34. A book about mental illness
One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Inspiration almost drips off the pages. It's honest and vivid enough to make difference even for people who have done no personal trips to the hellish planet of Depression.
And the imagery! Don't get me started on it or I won't get any sleep today! I love when concepts are mixed with guidelines and wisdom of someone who has been there and done all that.
I can't imagine why I never knew about this author before! It's a sure must read and a must reread and even a must keep copy on my bedside table at all times!
NB! Careful if you have the tendency to trigger negaive emotions via empathy as this book is honest about what the author went through regarding his psychological experiences.
Maybe love is just about finding the person you can be your weird self with. (c)
So every human inhabitant on this freak wonder of a planet shares the same core. I am you and you are me. We are alone, but not alone. We are trapped by time, but also infinite. Made of flesh, but also stars. (c)
How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe. (c)
Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. ... Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars. (c)
You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it. (c)
The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them. Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind.
That is how we must be with our minds. We must allow ourselves to feel their gales and downpours, but all the time knowing this is just necessary weather.
When I sink deep, now, and I still do from time to time, I try and understand that there is another, bigger and stronger part of me that is not sinking. It stands unwavering. (c)
So, as was often the case, a big fear was beaten by a bigger fear. The best way to beat a monster is to find a scarier one. (c)
This isn't a question of strength. Not the stoic, get-on-with-stuff-without-thinking-too-much kind of strength, anyway. It's more of a zooming-in. That sharpening. ... You know, before the age of twenty-four I hadn't realised how bad things could feel, but I hadn't realised how good they could feel either. That shell might be protecting you, but it's also stopping you feeling the full force of that good stuff. Depression might be a hell of a price to pay for waking up to life, ... But it is actually quite therapeutic to know that pleasure doesn't just help compensate for pain, it can actually grow out of it. (c)
THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy.
If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more?
How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing.
How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration.
How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything.
How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws.
How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out.
How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind.
To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business. (c)
You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames. (c)
I’d always considered myself to be a person who liked books. But there is a difference between liking books and needing them. I needed books. They weren’t a luxury good during that time in my life. They were a Class A addictive substance. I’d have gladly got into serious debt to read (indeed, I did). I think I read more books in those six months than I had done during five years of university education, and I’d certainly fallen deeper into the worlds conjured on the page.
There is this idea that you either read to escape or you read to find yourself. I don't really see the difference. We find ourselves through the process of escaping. (c)
MINDS ARE UNIQUE. They go wrong in unique ways. My mind went wrong in a slightly different way to how other minds go wrong. Our experience overlaps with other people's, but it is never exactly the same experience. (c)
Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. (c)
Talk. Listen. Encourage talking. Encourage listening. Keep adding to the conversation. Stay on the lookout for those wanting to join in the conversation. Keep reiterating, again and again, that depression is not something you ‘admit to’, it is not something you have to blush about, it is a human experience. (c)
Things people say to depressives that they don’t say in other life-threatening situations:
‘Come on, I know you’ve got tuberculosis, but it could be worse. At least no one’s died.’
'Why do you think you got cancer of the stomach?’
‘Yes, I know, colon cancer is hard, but you want to try living with someone who has got it. Sheesh. Nightmare.’
‘Oh, Alzheimer’s you say? Oh, tell me about it, I get that all the time.’
‘Ah, meningitis. Come on, mind over matter.’
‘Yes, yes, your leg is on fire, but talking about it all the time isn’t going to help things, is it?’
‘Okay. Yes. Yes. Maybe your parachute has failed. But chin up. (c)
Never say 'pull yourself together' or 'cheer up' unless you're also going to provide detailed, foolproof instructions. (c)
We are all echoes of each other. We are all humans and feel both despair and happiness. Our similarities, as a species, are staggering. And our mental fragility is directly tied up with our humanity. We have nothing to be ashamed of in being human, any more than a tree should be ashamed of having branches. Let’s accept our own nature. Let’s be kind to ourselves and to each other. Let’s never add to the pain by blaming ourselves. We are all so weird that, really, none of us are. There are seven billion versions of strange on this freak wonder of a planet. We are all part of that. All freaks. All wonderful. (c)
Goals are the source of misery. An unattained goal causes pain, but actually achieving it brings only a brief satisfaction. (c)
Life is hard. It may be beautiful and wonderful but it is also hard. ... Life is so infinitely hard. It involves a thousand tasks all at once. And I am a thousand different people, all fleeing away from the centre. (c)
That's the odd thing about depression and anxiety. It acts like an intense fear of happiness, even as you yourself consciously want that happiness more than anything. So if it catches you smiling, even fake smiling, then - well, that stuff's just not allowed and you know it, so here comes ten tons of counterbalance. (c)
The weirdest thing about a mind is that you can have the most intense things going on in there but no one else can see them. The world shrugs. (c)
Where talk exists, so does hope. (c)
If you have ever believed a depressive wants to be happy, you are wrong. They could not care less about the luxury of happiness. They just want to feel an absence of pain. To escape a mind on fire, where thoughts blaze and smoke like old possessions lost to arson. To be normal. Or, as normal is impossible, to be empty. And the only way I could be empty was to stop living. One minus one is zero. (c)
I wanted to be dead. No. That's not quite right. I didn't want to be dead, I just didn't want to be alive. (c)
What doesn't kill you very often makes you weaker. What doesn't kill you can leave you limping for the rest of your days. What doesn't kill you can make you scared to leave your house, or even your bedroom, and have you trembling, or mumbling incoherently, or leaning with your head on a window pane, wishing you could return to the time before the thing that didn't kill you. (c)
Forcing yourself to see the world through love's gaze can be healthy. Love is an attitude to life. It can save us.(c)
Unlike a book or a film depression doesn’t have to be about something. ...
Books were about movement. They were about quests and journeys. Beginnings and middles and ends, even if not in that order. They were about new chapters. And leaving old ones behind. (c)
Misery, like yoga, is not a competitive sport. (c)
On books and emotions:
People place so much value on thought, but feeling is as essential. I want to read books that make me laugh and cry and fear and hope and punch the air in triumph. I want a book to hug me or grab me by the scruff of my neck. I don’t even mind if it punches me in the gut. Because we are here to feel. (c)
... we are humans. We are a clandestine species. Unlike other animals we wear clothes and do our procreating behind closed doors. And we are ashamed when things go wrong with us. But we’ll grow out of this, and the way we’ll do it is by speaking about it. And maybe even through reading and writing about it.
I believe that. Because it was, in part, through reading and writing that I found a kind of salvation from the dark. (c)
I CAN REMEMBER the day the old me died.
It started with a thought. (c)
I had put off being an adult for as long as I could, and it had loomed like a cloud. A cloud that was now breaking and raining down on me. (c)
... the mind is infinite, and its torments – when they happen – can be equally infinite. (c)
But this was illness. This wasn’t having a crazy thought. This wasn’t being a bit wacky. This wasn’t reading Borges or listening to Captain Beefheart or smoking a pipe or hallucinating a giant Mars bar. This was pain. (c)
In a world where possibility is endless, the possibilities for pain and loss and permanent separation are also endless. So fear breeds imagination, and vice versa, on and on and on, until there is nothing left to do except go mad. (c)
The woman I wanted to be was not particularly fast at her job. I think she was the slowest person there had ever been at her job. I think she may well have been the incentive for the later move towards self-service checkouts in many shops. ...
‘Do you need a bag?’
I sort of did need a bag, but I couldn’t risk slowing her down any more. (c)
So, annoyingly, scientists aren’t all singing from the same hymn sheet. Some don’t even believe there is a hymn sheet. Others have burnt the hymn sheet and written their own songs. (c)
THE DEMON SAT next to me in the back of the car. He was real and false all at once. ... This is weird. Mum is talking about Matthew Bourne and her friends who have seen this production and there is a happy demon on the back seat licking my face. (c)
How to live
2. Sip, don't gulp. (c)
10. Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind. (c)
14. Look at the sky. Remind yourself of the cosmos. Seek vastness at every opportunity, in order to see the smallness of yourself. (c)
17. Do not watch TV aimlessly. Do not go on social media aimlessly. Always be aware of what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Don’t value TV less. Value it more. Then you will watch it less. Unchecked distractions will lead you to distraction. (c)
18. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it. Let it go, like the Snow Queen... (c)
22. Live. Love. Let go. The three Ls. (c)
21. ... walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. (c)
25. 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. (c)
24. Beware of the gap. The gap between where you are and where you want to be. Simply thinking of the gap widens it. And you end up falling through. (c)
30. Jules Verne wrote of the 'Living Infinite'. This is the world of love and emotion that is like a 'sea'. If we can submerge ourselves in it, we find infinity in ourselves, and the space we need to survive. (c)
31. Three in the morning is never the time to try and sort out your life. (c)
32. Remember that there is nothing weird about you. You are just a human, and everything you do and feel is a natural thing, because we are natural animals. You are nature. You are a hominid ape. You are in the world and the world is in you. Everything cconnects. (c)
39. Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you most need to make time to relax. (c)
40. Be brave. Be strong. Breathe, and keep going. You will thank yourself later. (c)
Things to engoy!
SUNRISES, SUNSETS, THE thousand suns and worlds that aren’t ours but shine in the night sky. Books. Cold beer. Fresh air. Dogs. Horses. Yellowing paperbacks. Skin against skin at one in the morning. Long, deep, meaningful kisses. Short, shallow, polite kisses. (All kisses.) Cold swimming pools. Oceans. Seas. Rivers. Lakes. Fjords. Ponds. Puddles. Roaring fires. Pub meals. Sitting outside and eating olives. The lights fading in the cinema, with a bucket of warm popcorn in your lap. Music. Love. Unabashed emotion. Rock pools. Swimming pools. Peanut butter sandwiches. The scent of pine on a warm evening in Italy. Drinking water after a long run. Getting the all-clear after a health scare. Getting the phone call. ... Cities twinkling at night as you drive past them, as if they are fallen constellations of stars.
“How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.”
― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
This was OK ! There were some bits i related to, others not so much. However, the writing style was simple and accessible, the paragraphs; short and concise. This is a good read if you're beginning your journey of learning about depression :)
I won this proof on twitter from Matt and though I don't often review books here, I thought that probably I owed him that. Not just for giving me a free copy, but for writing the book in the first place.
Let me be honest, I started reading this and thought "This book isn't written for me". But then I thought "There are people I would like to read this, because it feels so familiar to me." I would like to give it to people who are close to people with depression and anxiety, but don't really understand it. I would like every depressed person to have an unlimited supply of copies to hand out to anyone who tells them to pull themselves together. I would like to just leave it on tube seats and cafe tables because I just think, if a few more people could understand how depression and anxiety felt, then maybe the world would be better.
And then I think it became a book for me. Because if you've ever felt otherwise, it's always good to collect more reasons to stay alive. More ways to stay alive. Because there will come a time again when you need them.
So I think, maybe, this is a book for everyone. Required reading.