Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig, published in 2015, describes the experience of depression and anxiety from the writer’s point of view.

 

People who have experienced depression and anxiety will be happy to hear that this book has no psychobabble and does not feature the opinion of psychologists who have never experienced depression.

 

Haig describes how even the simplest of tasks resulted in paralysing terror; a trip to the shop made him feel trapped. His three year experience with depression left him unable to leave the house.

 

The most important aspect of this book is that the author stays true to himself and does not sugar coat his experience in any way to fit a more glamorised idea of depression. To feel that they are not alone is so helpful for people who struggle with depression. Even though Haig gives an account of how difficult everyday life is with depression and anxiety, he also states in the first chapter that there is hope and that if he can find a way of coping with depression, anyone can.

 

Haig talks about suicidal thoughts that he had which makes him stand out from other authors who would never cover such a dark topic. He also covers how lonely depression is, but at the same time explains how he couldn’t cope with other people being around him. Therefore, he felt there was no way of escaping.

 

Haig talks about how medication for depression does not suit everyone, and also covers the debilitating side effects; it made him drowsy and he was already drowsy as a result of depression.

 

Several pages in each chapter is devoted to conversations between ‘then me’ and ‘now me.’ This reiterates the message of hope as ‘then me’ is unable to enjoy simple things in life, whereas ‘now me’ is living a normal life which he never thought he would have.

 

‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ consists of short chapters which is easily accessible for people who struggle with concentration.

 

A feature of this book which is quite quirky is how he makes lists. Haig lists celebrities who suffer from anxiety and depression and in the last two pages of the book he lists “Things I have enjoyed since the last time I would never enjoy anything again”. In these pages he lists simple things that are experienced everyday such as a bucket of warm popcorn in the cinema and Will Farrell in the film ‘Elf’.

 

In an article in The Telegraph, Haig said “Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression,” he lists, “having tinnitus, losing a job, breaking a toe, being debt, bad Amazon reviews”.

 

Haig said that he didn’t expect people to react to his book in the way that they did and he believes that because depression is a life-threatening illness “people tend to cling to” aspects of life that are life-threatening, which resulted in his book becoming a best-seller.

 

Although it has become more common for people to talk about depression due to more supports becoming available, there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness.