Reasons To Stay Alive Review

Friday, 9 September 2016

Reasons To Stay Alive is an autobiographical account of Matt Haig's experience with depression and anxiety. He discusses his first time having a panic attack, the physical symptoms of depression and the various things he does to make himself feel better. It's a relatively short book, especially since there are a lot of lists and pages where there is very little written on them.  

A picture of the book "Reasons To Say Alive" with pink background and purple flowers

I don't think this book would help someone to recover from depression. (I think that's the kind of thing you really do on your own). But I don't think this book ever really claims to be a recovery manual. Rather, I think it's intended to reassure anyone who may be suffering depression that other people have felt this way too and it does indeed get better. And it did do that. There were a number of times when I read something, mentally nodded to myself and said, "yep, I feel ya". 

However, Haig states at the beginning that everyone's mental health is different, saying:

"Minds are unique. They go wrong in unique ways. My mind went wrong in a slightly different way to how other minds go wrong".

My mental health tends to be a jumble of depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, SAD and various other off-shoots. And so my mental health differs from Haig's. What this meant was that whilst there were parts of Haigs description of depression and anxiety that I totally empathized with, there were other bits that didn't match my own experience. 

Additionally I found myself feeling a little lethargic with parts of the book but I don't think this is the books fault really. Depression and anxiety have been with me for a long time now and so I think a lot of the stuff Haig discusses in the book I was already aware of. It felt, in parts of the book, very overdone. I guess because I used to spend a lot of time on Tumblr, I've already read a lot about depression and the way society reacts to people with mental health issues. For example, there is a chapter wherein Haig writes about "things people say to depressives that they don't say in other life-threatening situations". This was something I felt like I've read a million times and so some parts of the book were already very familiar concepts to me. 
Something that stuck out to me was how much Haig repeated that medication did not work to help his depression. Whilst he does say that that was simply not for him and it may work for others, I found it to be a slightly dismissive view of depression. Some people can only function on medication. Some people need CBT. But neither of those things are mentioned in any good light in the book. Haig chooses self-care as the best method. It seemed that anyone reading this book that chooses CBT or medication may not really gain that much from this book. Again, this comes down to Reasons To Stay Alive not being a self-help manual, more of just an account of someone's experience with depression. 

Nonetheless, I liked this book. I always love a good list, and this book has no end of them. I particularly liked the chapter "How To Live (forty pieces of advice I feel to be helpful but which I don't always follow)" and "Things I have enjoyed since the time I thought I wold never enjoy anything again". Its a good book for reminding of the joy you often forget about during the bad times. 

If you have depression, or anxiety or any kind of interest in mental health, be it personal or passing, then I think you should read this book. It offers an insight into feelings which are often hard to get down on paper. And if you're a fan of The Humans you'll definitely enjoy this book!  

Have you read this book yet? What did you think of it?

Thanks for reading!

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