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

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