Reasons to Stay Alive

Author: Matt Haig

Date Of Publication: 03/10/2015

I have wanted to write a book about my experience, to tackle depression and anxiety head-on. So this book seeks to do two things. To lessen that stigma, and – the possibly more quixotic ambition – to try and actually convince people that the bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view.

In an honest, heartfelt and sometimes frank way, Matt Haig eloquently details his experience of both anxiety and depression which left him contemplating suicide, offering the reader insight into his personal experience as well as ideas of things that have (or haven’t) helped in his recovery.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book is the combination of self-help tips alongside a personal memoir. The author manages to blend these two elements together seamlessly, providing a narrative that is easy to follow combining a sense of the reality of the conditions alongside hope that change is possible. By mixing chapters outlining the author’s personal experience with sections such as ‘things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression’, Haig lives up to the description of the book as a “moving, funny and joyous exploration”. He manages to showcase the complexities of the conditions in an upliftingly honest way, engaging the reader throughout the book.

Whilst this book will perhaps be primarily read by those struggling with depression, anxiety or suicidal feelings, this could also be a particularly useful book for anyone that is looking to further their understanding of this stigmatised and often misrepresented area, with self-help tips offered to those suffering as well as those in a supportive role.

In the Chapter ‘A note, before we get fully under way’ Matt Haig perhaps gives a view that may help if you are unsure if this book (or in fact any self-help book) is for you:

Depression looks different to everyone. Pain is felt in different ways, to different degrees, and provokes different responses. That said, if books had to replicate our exact experience of the world to be useful, the only books worth reading would be written by ourselves. There is no right or wrong way to have depression, or to have a panic attack, or to feel suicidal. These things just are. Misery, like yoga, is not a competitive sport. But I have found over the years that by reading about other people who have suffered, survived and overcome despair I have felt comforted. It has given me hope. I hope this book can do the same.

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