At 24 Matt Haig was standing on the edge of a cliff in Ibiza, contemplating ending his life. When severe depression and anxiety struck, he could see no way to go on, but he did. This book is his story of the worst days of his life and how he learned to live again.
I can remember the day the old me died.
I know so many people have loved this book already as it shows them they are not alone. For that, it certainly deserves its place in the world. Matt does stress at the start that depression is different for everyone. This is his story, a mix of memoir and self-help, littered with his trademark lists and the odd conversation with his former self.
The sections “Things people say to depressives that they don’t say in other life-threatening situations” and “Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression” highlight a real problem in wider society. Depression is so often not treated with the same respect as other illnesses. I also really appreciated the parts where he talks about depression that doesn’t have an obvious cause. It’s easier to talk about a trigger, something people can identify with as being traumatic, than just every day things that get out of control.
Maybe love is just about finding the person you can be your weird self with.
For its subject matter, Reasons to Stay Alive is quite a cheerful little book. It is proof of light at the end of the tunnel. That you can suffer from depression and be successful. You might not feel that you are a success, but that’s the depression talking.
I think if you see much of your own experience of depression and anxiety in this book, it would be a good one to give to a friend or relative to help them understand. However I’m not entirely sure it’s the best book for those generally wanting to understand depression. It is one perspective after all. It would have been quite nice to have a few words from Matt’s wife Andrea (who sounds amazing) on living with and supporting someone with depression and anxiety.
There are few bits on the general nature of depression and anxiety though, as well as (if you pardon my wording, depressing) statistics. Like all good non-fiction, there’s some further reading listed at the back if it piques your interest in the subject. However I get the feeling this book will be picked up most by the people who have already felt comforted by Matt’s words online.
Reasons to Stay Alive is published by Canongate and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
Also reviewed @ The Little Reader Library
Shelve next to: The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.