Reasons to stay alive – book review

This could be a very short blog post, because my thoughts on this book are simple: it’s excellent.  Published a mere three months ago, the buzz about this book turned into a roar very quickly.  The internet collectively cried, “Someone described how I really feel,” and how.  The author, Matt Haig, suffered a breakdown in his early 20s, eventually turning to reading and writing in order to overcome his new state of mind (I’m not convinced that depression is something which we can “cure”).  Initially, Haig published a handful of fiction books, some of which received a good deal of positive attention.  It is Reasons, however, which has catapulted him to a different level.

As someone interested in learning more about depression, I was looking for an autobiographical account of it, and there are many currently available.  However, my reading habits over the last few years could probably best be described as erratic: when I left young adult fiction behind, I wasn’t sure where to go with proper, grown up books, so my tendency is to buy something which sounds exciting, but this hasn’t been all that effective.  I’ve got more books than I’d like to think about sat around having lost me after about 40 pages – if I don’t finish a book within 48 hours of picking it up, odds on I won’t go back to it.  So when selecting my book from this category, I took the recommendation of a few friends who raved about it before purchasing.

I was pleasantly surprised: it’s an incredibly clever book, as no chapter is more than about eight pages long.  It’s a book written by a depression-sufferer for fellow sufferers, contained within manageable chunks in an engaging style.  There are lows – of course – and there is hope.  There is practical advice (in a gentle way, a “this worked for me, you could try it, I have no proof, but you could also leave it and try your own thing” style), and there are true accounts of the author’s experiences.  It is a brave person who opens their brain like this, showing the world what it’s really like: that it’s a mess in there, and you have no idea how to untangle it.  Not only do you not have the practical resources, but you also don’t have the energy, because whatever has short-circuited in your brain is demanding all of your body’s physical energy in order to try and fix that problem before you can address the emotional ones.

It’s a book everyone should read, whether you are depressed, have been depressed, or know someone who is (or may be – statistically, given the amount of people we all connect with, you either currently know someone who is suffering in silence, or will know someone in the future who faces this problem), you should read this book.  Because there is help for supporters too, it is useful to see this perspective, as it is something many people are not able to articulate.

One of my favourite lines came about half way through the book, and it’s worth noting even if we’re not discussing mental health issues: “Normal is subjective.  There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.”  If we all began by taking a minute to let that sink in, the world would already be a more comfortable place.  Take 48 hours to consume this book, and things could improve enormously.

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