What’s it all about?:
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 to live better, love better, read better and feel more.
What did I think?:
I’ve been dreading writing this review for so long now! Not because I disliked this book in any way – in fact I feel the exact opposite and as you will see, have given it the full five stars but because I’m not sure how my review can do justice to such an important piece of writing that Matt Haig has given us. The author has been very open in the past about his struggles with depression and anxiety and this book feels like both a breath of fresh air and a blessed relief for many sufferers (like myself) and even for anyone who knows someone who suffers with depression and/or anxiety (so, that’s probably everyone – right?).
I think this book is especially important for men. I’m sure we’ve all heard the shocking statistics about the number of young men who contemplate or sadly carry out their suicidal thoughts as generally speaking, they find it a lot harder to open up to people and talk about what they’re going through. Matt Haig was in a similar position at the age of twenty-four – that nasty, black dog had got under his skin good and proper and he considered ending his life. This book is about his journey back from the worst times of his life to his current state of mind, where he has come out the other side. It’s brutally honest, touching, emotional and very real and he gives hope to those sufferers that in their blackest days, there is hope and life is worth living.
“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.”
I read this book like one of those nodding dogs you see in the back of cars, every single sentence seemed to resonate with how I was feeling or how I have felt when depression gets its sharp teeth into your mind, skewing how you think about yourself and rattling your whole world and way of being. Yes, it’s horrible. Yes, you feel like you’re never going to be happy again and the crippling emotion of it all takes over your life. The author knows exactly what it’s like and uses his experience and gentle humour to let you know that you are not alone – which is a huge comfort for those going through it and a fantastic insight for anyone who wants to help someone they love who is suffering. I read this hugely poignant book losing count of the number of quotes I wanted to remember forever and it’s certainly a book I’ll return to at those times when things are getting a bit much. If you know what it’s like to be depressed, read this book. If someone you love is depressed, read this book. If you don’t really like non-fiction – it’s not what you think, read this book. It’s relevant for everyone.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):