This month it is Mental Health Awareness Month in Australia. I wanted to publish a post relating to mental health every day of the month so that I can personally raise awareness. You can find all posts, posted & upcoming on my schedule. In this post, I wanted to give my official review of Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive.
I first bought this book after seeing it talked about on twitter. I was a bit apprehensive at first due to the title. I hadn’t been feeling suicidal, though I certainly was struggling with depression. I didn’t want to give my family the wrong impression that I needed a book to give me reasons to stay alive. I’m glad I didn’t dwell on it though because this book gave me comfort in my darkest of days and perspective on my okay days.
This is non-fiction, a part-memoir, part-self help, part everything book from the author’s perspective. He isn’t a doctor ready to ‘cure’ you, it’s just his personal life journey through his mental health.
It is split into 5 sections: falling, landing, rising, living & being. Each one documents his personal journey with his mental illness starting with his suicidal thought at age 24. It includes personal feelings, statistics, philosophical thoughts & highly quotable and relatable phrases.
My Favourite Quotes
THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.
I love this because social media encourages living a flashy life. A world in which you are encouraged to feel validated (or invalidated) by the number of likes you get. Which photo will get more likes, the 12 year old Corsa you have just bought outright, or the 6 month old Audi that you have had to buy on finance? Feeling comfortable & happy with what you have is easier when you are not comparing it to what others have but that can be hard to do when we are constantly seeing people’s show-reel of life, just the good, not the bad & the ugly.
If you are the type of person who thinks too much about stuff then there is nothing lonelier in the world than being surrounded by a load of people on a different wavelength.
I found this really relatable because I have never been the type to make superficial friendships. I don’t have friends for the sake of friends, all of my friends are genuine people who I don’t have to censor myself for. They are true friends where I know that all I need to do is send them a message and they will be there for me & I would do the same for them. Whilst this is a positive thing, it does mean it takes a while for me to feel genuinely comfortable around new people and I wait it out and observe a lot before I make a judgement. This sounds calculating but it is a way I protect myself, it is a lot more feeling than you would imagine. It means that if I am in a room filled with people who are on a different wavelength to me, maybe it’s the techno gang at a party, or the group of friends who stab each other in the back, or those who have different moral values to me, it can feel doubly lonely. Especially when it is people that I have to be around regularly like at work, or family, or extended friendship groups. I can like people as a person but still feel lonely around them. These experiences do make me value my true friends more though so it’s not all bad.
You can be a depressive and be happy, just as you can be a sober alcoholic
The idea of but you don’t look depressed was one of the main factors in not confiding in people about my depression & anxiety sooner. I was wearing a mask hiding my depression but I also wasn’t depressed 100% of the time. There were times when I felt genuinely happy in a moment but then I would slip back into my emotional cloak and be struggling. It is rare for people to physically see us when we are at our worst in the fight. I felt my worst at night when everyone else was asleep. Nobody saw that. Perceptions without full awareness are not helpful. You can have depression as an illness and still feel happy. It does not invalidate your illness.
“Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
This kind of speaks for itself.
People who know me will be aware that I fully recommend this book. I have gifted this book on multiple occasions to those who I think should read it. I have lent mine out to people & encouraged others to buy it themselves. You don’t need to have a mental illness to want to read this. It is brilliant for wanting an understanding into how others can feel. Gift it to your struggling friends. This book is comfort like no other. I read it & felt for the first time in my struggles that I wasn’t truly alone and that in itself is a lifeline.
Find it here: Reasons to Stay Alive.