The Comfort Book – by Matt Haig

23 04 2022

Matt Haig has written some stupendously good books including Reasons to Stay Alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet, The Humans, and The Truth Pixie; so my expectations were extremely high!

He describes this book as a collection of thoughts that have kept him afloat; have comforted him. It’s a mixture of mostly his own stuff, but also some quotes from others at times.

It’s good, it’s certainly what I needed after the misery of The Bell Jar last week, but something felt lacking. I wonder if this is just because I was expecting too much, or was in a different place to when I’ve read other ones, but to me some bits felt a bit repetitive, and there was a greater focus on some certain philosophies and religions than there has been in his other books, which I guess just shows where he’s at at the moment.

But I don’t want to be too negative, ‘cos if I hadn’t read his other stuff I imagine I’d have loved this! Of course, I have some favourite quotes:

  • “No physical appearance is worth not eating pasta for.”
  • “You don’t stop the rain by telling it to stop. Sometimes you just have to let it pour, let it soak you to the skin. It never rains for ever.”
  • “I hope this email finds you well but, you know what, it is okay if it doesn’t because we all have bad days.”
  • “Forgiving other people is great practice for forgiving yourself when the time comes.”
  • “Introversion is not something you fix via extroversion. You fix it by seeing it as something not to be fixed.”
  • “When a dog lies in the sun I imagine it does it without guilt, because as far as I can tell dogs seem more in tune with their own needs.”
  • “Maybe we aren’t meant to know everything about our lives. And maybe that’s perfectly okay.”

The Truth Pixie – by Matt Haig

25 10 2018

Yes it’s a children’s book.
No I didn’t choose it to get my book total up this year, that was just a handy coincidence.

If you’ve followed these posts for a while you’ll know I’m a bit of a Matt Haig fan, so when he said he’d written a book that was a bit like a Reasons to Stay Alive for kids, I thought I had to give it a try.

At a little over 100 pages, but only a couple of lines a page, it’s definitely a one-sitting read, and very easy, but teaches some really important points to kids. I’ve put some of my favourite bits below.

  • “There will be people you love, who can’t stay forever,
    And there will be things you can’t fix, although you are clever.”
  • “As the dark in the sky makes the starts shine brighter,
    You will find the bad stuff has good bits too
    The bad days are the days that make you you.”
  • “You’ll never know happy unless you know sad.”
  • “Yes, the night has dark bits, but it has stars too,
    And you’ll feel when they shine, that they shine just for you.
    You will step outside, and see from the park
    That the light is brighter when it’s next to the dark.”
  • “If everything was perfect, every single day,
    You’d never know the good from the just-about-okay.”

He has a very good way with words – if you enjoy this stuff, please can I recommend his twitter and instagram accounts!

Notes on a Nervous Planet – by Matt Haig

19 07 2018

This is the fourth Matt Haig book I’ve read, but only the second non-fiction. The author describes this book not as a sort of follow on to Reasons to Stay Alive, which was a look at his journey through anxiety and depression, (but is nowhere near as miserable as that sounds!).

This book looks more at the state of our society and all the stress we deal with. But again, it’s not miserable, yes some bits are a bit low, but so much of it is uplifting and helpful. The chapters are very short (one is only about 5 words!) which makes it very easy to read. It’s the only non-fiction I fly through!

Normally when I read Matt Haig’s books, I fold down the corners of pages I want to go back to to put quotes on here, but there just wasn’t any point with this book as I would have folded down most page corners, (like I did in Reasons to Stay Alive) and this blog would be 300 pages long!

All I will say is, please read Reasons to Stay Alive and please read this book, they’re good for you! This has highlighted things I will change to try and help myself!

Internet highlights – w/c 14th August 2016

20 08 2016

Excuses for sleeping in church

People who followed instructions too closely

A visual history of which countries have dominated the Olympics

Some incredible face swaps

Thank you notes for those with social anxiety to use

Does the media now display a bias against Christianity?

Tips for introverts in church

Read the rest of this entry »

Internet highlights – w/c 31st July 2016

6 08 2016

Survival tips for introverts at Christian Festivals

Things more famous than ‘celebrity’ big brother contestants

Phoebe was never meant to end up with Mike!

Things to do in a boring sermon

Read the rest of this entry »

Reasons to stay alive – by Matt Haig

17 03 2016

This book is brilliant, everyone should read it, it should maybe even be on the National Curriculum.

I believed this before I even read it. The quotes on the front, back, and inside covers set the bar very high indeed – here are a couple of my favourites:

  • “Brilliant … should be on prescription” – Rev Richard Coles
  • “A small masterpiece that might even save lives” – Joanna Lumley

And they’re correct. Technically an autobiography, we travel with Matt Haig through his experience of anxiety and depression, through five sections: “Falling”, “Landing”, “Rising”, “Living” and “Being”.

One of my favourite things about the book is that I don’t think there was a chapter longer than 6 pages, and most chapters were 1-4 pages – it’s well and truly bite-size, which is handy for something that while massively educational for some, has the risk of being triggering for others. It’s not a long book either – it’s quite small in size, well spaced, and only ~250 pages, so really not too intimidating. For what can be a very heavy subject, it’s broken down brilliantly.

For me this book had two very different sides to it. I’ve said before that I have anxiety disorder, and so for that section of the book, I was reading him put into words things I’ve felt but never been able to explain, and just reading about others that have the same struggles is encouraging in knowing you’re not alone. The other half, depression, I have friends that struggle with this, but don’t know a tonne about it myself, and so for this side of the story, it was hugely educational. As someone experienced, and someone clueless, this book had something to say to me.

Some chapters are simply lists: How to be there for someone with depression or anxiety, Things that (sometimes) make me better, and of course, Reasons to stay alive, among many others. There’s also a further reading list at the back.

I’ve put some of my favourite nuggets below, but please please read this book.

  • “Doubts are like swallows. They follow each other and swarm together.”
  • “Adding anxiety to depression is a bit like adding cocaine to alcohol. It presses fast-forward on the whole experience. 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.”
  • “If pills work for you it doesn’t really matter if this is to do with serotonin or another process or anything else – keep taking them. If licking wallpaper does it for you, do that. I am not anti pill. I am pro anything that works.”
  • “When every bit of you is panicking, then walking is better than standing.”
  • “I was starting to find that, sometimes, simply doing something that I had dreaded – and surviving – was the best kind of therapy.”
  • “I have been ill before, then well again. Wellness is possible.”
  • “Depression is smaller than you. […] It operates within you, you do not operate within it. [..] You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.
  • “To panic without a reason, that’s madness. To panic with a reason, that’s sanity.”
  • “We cannot save ourselves from suffering by buying a [expensive gadget]. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t buy one, it just means we should know such things are not ends in themselves.”
  • “Just as none of us are 100% physically healthy no one is 100$ mentally healthy. We are all on a scale.”

reasons to stay alive

Internet highlights w/c 25th January 2015

31 01 2015

The internet was made for things like this: If Disney Princesses had realistic hair

Or maybe you’d just like a Disney Princess in your hair?

Cats that love water

Emma Watson is going to play Belle in new live action Beauty and the Beast

Mentally disabled man sentenced to death in the USA

Best date ideas ever

All female line-up for Ghostbusters 3 sounds brilliant!

So so many plot faults in Friends – also they missed the one about Ross being a medical miracle vs Jack and Judy having to get married quickly because they’d gotten pregnant…

Study shows that parents of two children favour the younger one

Mind and Soul have launched the Mental Health Access Pack to help churches support those with mental health conditions

Uber static dog

First four Celebrity Bake Off contestants announced – Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Dame Edna Everage and Lulu

The problem with being punctual

Robin Williams

12 08 2014

When a celebrity passes away, I often think it’s a shame, but don’t get too upset. The news this morning of Robin Williams’ passing I actually found really sad.

I think there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, he was an incredibly talented man. I went on his IMDb page this morning and just the immense list of quality films is amazing.

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#RIP Robin Williams.

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For me the top one of all has to be Mrs Doubtfire, (although there are several of his films I’m still yet to see) I think this film was the first thing I watched that dealt with the idea of divorce, it was a film that dealt with all emotions. But the mark of a good actor, I feel, is that you don’t even realise it’s them, and I found it so hard to believe that this woman could actually be the same Robin Williams!

Other favourites include Flubber, Aladdin and Good Will Hunting. Dead Poet’s Society is on my list of things to watch soon.

The other reason this has upset me is just the circumstances of his death. Depression is a frightening illness, and mental illness still doesn’t get as much exposure as it needs to reduce the stigma around it.

If any good comes from this, I hope it’s that more people become aware of the dangers of mental illness, more people open up about how they’re feeling, more people ask others how they’re doing. As I drove home this evening the guy on the radio was urging people to just talk to someone if they’re feeling low, to get help. You would never normally hear something like that on a drive time commercial radio programme. The change in attitude, the openess of the presenter, the frankness of it all reduced me to tears, we need more of that, that needs to be normal.

It saddens me that the people who seem the most bright and cheerful are often the people that suffer the most with this. He was a talent that could never be equalled or replaced.

Tributes have been pouring in over social media, and possibly none more emotive than this one

Uganda – testimony

30 10 2013

I just wanted to share a little bit of testimony from the week

I have problems with anxiety disorder, have done for years, and last year got bad enough to go on anti depressants. Sometimes panic attacks are triggered by nothing particular, but high pressure situations are often tricky. E.g. last month I went to the theatre and in the interval I had my worst panic attack in 6 years.

So I never expected to get through a week in a new country, new continent, new food, new people, new all sorts – it was going to be difficult. I thought that even if I managed to remain in control all week I’d at least be fighting it and it’d be hard work.

I was fine ALL WEEK. Other than a slight issue with breakfast on the first day which didn’t even feel that anxiety like, I didn’t even feel a slight hint of it. I had many friends and colleagues praying for me over the week and God massively exceeded my expectations!!!

Praise God!!

Anxiety – One year on

8 08 2013

This time last year I wasn’t very well.

Reading through my personal diary entries from this time last year and seeing what a state I was in, it kind of surprises me. I didn’t really realise how bad it was until I started missing work. So I can’t help but feel so utterly blessed and grateful for how much things have improved and are better now!

Thanks so much to my wonderful friends and family for their prayers and support and for helping me through this. I may be on [very mild] medication, and I may not be 100% 24/7, but I am so much better than this time last year that it’s barely comparible! Last year it was dehabilitating, this year, barely noticeable!

Praise God! 🙂

This last year I have learnt:

  • Medication is not a bad thing. – Yes there is a massive stigma that comes with anti-depressants, and it really put me off taking them, but if I could have known then the change being on the smallest dose you can take would make, I would never have hesitated!
  • It’s good to talk. – A year ago barely anyone in my day to day life knew I suffered with anxiety, but when I was going through a bad attack, it was so much easier once I knew I could text people to ask for prayer without having to explain, or for the people I was with to know and so not to make a fuss and knowing how to handle me, again without me having to explain in any detail what was going on.
  • Loads of people suffer from mental health issues. – I really thought that all that “1 in 4 people are affected by mental health problems” stuff was over exaggerated, but as I talked with more people, the amount of them who said they either are or were at some point battling a mental health issue, on medication etc, really did surprise me! This is possibly what encouraged me most. Particularly one friend who I massively respect and would never had guessed in a million years was battling anything like this, turns out is – it doesn’t make you a bad person at all!!

I’m sure there’s more lessons to come out of this for me, but thought I’d share what I have so far.

Mental health is getting so much more press lately too. BBC have been doing a season on mental health. And more and more noteable people e.g. Stephen Fry, seem to be speaking out as charities like Mind and Time to Change work to increase awareness and decrease discrimination in this country. There’s really some great stuff going on and some fantastic progress being made.

Let’s not be afraid to talk about it!