31 January 2017

"Reasons to Stay Alive" by Matt Haig | Book Review

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

This is a short (under 300 pages) non-fiction account of the author’s experiences with depression and anxiety. Pretty much every review of this book that I’ve seen has said how incredible it is, how heart-breaking and heart-warming, and honest and raw, and I can now confirm that it’s all true. I’ve never suffered from depression, though I know several people who have, and it was actually amazing how much I learnt from this book (and I wasn’t clueless going in, I’d done research and thought I knew a bit about depression already). I’m sure reading this book pales in comparison to actually suffering from the illness itself, but I would still recommend every person on earth reads it. It’s an incredibly brilliant little book on a huge and terrifying and incredibly important topic, and deserves all the attention it can get.

I don’t normally take the time to pull out quotes from books (in fact, it hardly ever happens), but as I was reading Reasons to Stay Alive there were so many sentences that jumped out at me that I just had to. So here are some of my favourite parts:

“Depression is one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. It kills more people than most other forms of violence – warfare, terrorism, domestic abuse, assault, gun crime – put together.” – p25

“A human body is bigger than it looks. Advances in science and technology have shown that, really, a physical body is a universe in itself.” –p39

“The evolutionary psychologists might be right. We humans might have evolved too far. The price for being intelligent enough to be the first species to be fully aware of its cosmos might just be a capacity to feel a whole universe’s worth of darkness.” –p40

“Later, when I was properly depressed and anxious, I saw the illness as an accumulation of all that thwarted intensity. A kind of breaking through. As though, if you find it hard enough to let yourself be free, your self breaks in, flooding your mind in an attempt to drown all those failed half-versions of you.” –p62

“Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile.” –p112

“Depression, for me, wasn’t a dulling but a sharpening, an intensifying, as though I had been living my life in a shell and now the shell wasn’t there. It was total exposure. A red-raw, naked mind.”
–p126

“[Some reasons to stay alive:] That particularly unspecific musical genre with access to your spine.” – p206

“You need to feel life’s terror to feel its wonder.” –p218

“Being good feels good because it makes us remember that we are not the only person that matters in this world. We all matter because we are all alive. And so kindness is an active way in which we can see and feel the bigger picture.” –p227

Self Help:
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.” –p228

“But when I was at my lowest points I touched something solid, something hard and strong at the core of me. Something imperishable, immune to the changeability of thought. The self that is not only I but we. The self that connects me to you, and human to human. The hard, unbreakable force of survival. Of life.” – p236

I would recommend this book if:
     - you’ve never suffered from depression and want to read about how it feels to actually have it
     - you have suffered from depression and want to read about someone else’s specific and personal experiences with it
    - you’ve read any other of Matt Haig’s books and like his style of writing
    - you’re participating in the Diversity Bingo 2017 reading challenge and are looking for an excellent own-voices book with a neuro-diverse MC (though this is non-fiction, I definitely think it would count)

My rating: ★★★★

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