So I’m going to do something a bit different today, drumroll please…a book review! Now I have no experience in writing this sort of thing, so please bear with me. The book I want to talk about is Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig.
I stumbled upon this book whilst I was browsing Foyles online, trying my best not to buy anything (needless to say I failed). Once I’d read the description I knew I needed to read it. Coincidentally, whilst I was waiting for it to be delivered I saw several other people, who are chronically ill like me, were reading it, so it reaffirmed my belief that I would enjoy it.
The book is divided into five parts, which are loosely chronological. The first two parts (Falling and Landing) deal with when the author first became ill, and how it affected his life. Parts three and four (Rising and Living) are about his recovery, and the last part (Being) is about how he is now, and reflecting on how far he’s come.
I say it’s loosely chronological because the whole narrative is interjected with stories from earlier in the authors life, and with lists such as “things you think during a panic attack” and “how to be there for someone with depression and anxiety”, as well as musings on what depression is, and how it really feels.
We use “depressed” as a synonym for “sad”, which is fine, as we use starving as a synonym for “hungry”, though the difference between depression and sadness is the difference between genuine starvation and feeling a bit peckish.
Now I’ve read my fair share of books about depression, but I’ve never come across one that deals with the toxic combination of depression + anxiety, as this book does, so well. Not only is this book informative and inspiring, but for me it went that one step further, it felt like the author was talking directly to me, it made me understand myself better.
Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. Which is to say, don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars.
I spend so much of my time and energy focusing on how I’m going to get better from all my physical illnesses that I don’t really give much thought to my mental ones. I know this might sound weird, but I’ve got so used to living with anxiety and depression that it’s almost become background noise now, even when it’s at its most crippling, I’ve just accepted that it’s there and there’s nothing I can do about it. My life is dictated as much by the mental constraints as the physical ones, which are in themselves extensive. This book made me feel like maybe one day it won’t be like that, one day I’ll be free of everything. I feel like this book is also relevant to the struggles I face with my physical health, it’s so hard to be in so much pain for so long and still believe that I will get better, but this book helped with that.
I would recommend it to everyone, not just those who suffer from anxiety and depression. In all likelihood (given the statistics) everyone knows someone with a mental health problem, and this book will give you a little insight into their world and help you understand them better.
The last chapter is a huge list entitled “things I have enjoyed since the time I thought I would never enjoy anything again”, which I really loved. I hope I get to make a similar list at some point. I’ll leave you with one final quote.
You will one day experience joy that matches this pain … Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.
Until next time, Rhosyn.