The book that could save a life

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig  

I know I am late to the table with this review, but I feel so strongly about this book if it makes just one person who is having a bad time pick it up and have a read it will be worth it.

I am lucky to have reached this age and not suffered from depression but I won’t pretend I haven’t been through bad times and struggled to see how things could get better, I am sure like the best of us. Yet I am a strong believer there is always light at the end of the tunnel, a rainbow after the storm etc like Albus Dumbledore told us “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Take what you will of that, but it is a quote, Harry Potter fan or not, that gives hope to any situation. Things can and do get better. It’s about finding that thing or person or place that makes you see the light.

I have always been fine in admitting that I suffer from anxiety, I always believed it was just part of my genetic make-up, how I worked and the type of industry I am in and I have always believed that talking is the best therapy but there is still a massive stigma attached to mental health that makes people, especially men not talk about their own mental health. 1-5 people will suffer from depression in their lifetime, so there is a good chance wherever you are reading this there is someone in close proximity who is fighting an invisible battle that you don’t know about.  We wouldn’t be embarrassed to tell someone we were ill with any other illness so I don’t understand why there is such a taboo with your own mental health. We do so many things to look after our bodies, we eat healthily, we exercise we do all we can, but what do you ever do to take care of your mind?

I have wanted to read Matt Haig’s book, Reasons to Stay Alive for over a year now, not because I need reasons to stay alive but more for his bravery and courage in actually being honest about his situation, and to see what I could learn from someone else’s experience.

Things I learned from this book

  • There is no wrong or right way to handle your own mental health
  • Different methods suit different people, none of us are the same and that is fine
  • Be mindful of what you say to those suffering from depression, you wouldn’t tell someone with cancer, ‘chin up, buy a nice outfit and a cocktail and you’ll be as right as rain’
  • Live in the now, out of everything I took from this book, this is the one that resonated the most with me. I am always looking forward to the future, going home, going to bed, the clocks going forward, summer, winter, my birthday, Christmas, holidays, being abroad, being at home. Learn to appreciate the moment you are in and the simplicity of what life can be.
  • There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just finding those things that make you happy to be alive, these are usually the simplest of pleasures, such as reading, running, long walks etc.
  • ‘Happiness is not good for the economy’ we are programmed to be unhappy so we buy something to make us happy- We are made to worry about how we look to buy cosmetics, we are encouraged to worry about missing out or being left behind to buy new clothes, we are made to worry that our house will burn down to buy insurance etc. The economy needs us to worry to want all these things that aren’t life.
  • Mental health can affect anyone, so all those times when you say ‘when I have this’, or ‘when I meet the one’, or ‘when I have a new house‘ I will be happy, remember there are a host of famous, successful seemingly ‘have it all’ figures out there who suffered from depression.
  • You can’t see mental illness like you would a physical illness but it doesn’t mean someone isn’t suffering just because they look and seem healthy.
  • Suicide isn’t selfish, death is not something people look forward to or want but the fear of death is not as terrifying to some people as living the rest of their lives with depression.
  • You can go on to achieve things, do things, see places that you would never have believed possible, but there is no crystal ball to look into the future you just have to have confidence in yourself.

There were so many parts of this book that rang true for me, and it was reassuring to know those times when I felt alone, like I could only be the one feeling this way, I am actually in a situation I share with so many others. If you have been feeling a bit out of character this Christmas I urge you to read this book, not because you are depressed or need reasons to stay alive, just because you might actually learn something about yourself that helps set you up for the best version of 2017 you could have.

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig  £3.99 

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