“Reasons To Stay Alive” by Matt Haig (2015, Canongate) is a non-fiction book about Haig’s development of, and recovery from, depression.
I found it to be quite different from other books of this type. The writing is punchy, broken up into little chunks, and the whole thing is very easy to read.
Haig chose not to have counselling or medication for his depression. He instead relied on his relationships with his family and girlfriend. Some people choose medication, some therapy, some both, some neither – there is no right or wrong answer. Not everyone has all options open to them, or wants to try everything at once. Haig went with what was right to him personally, but doesn’t criticise anyone who chooses differently.
Haig describes his feelings so well, so vividly, I felt like I was right there alongside him. His descriptions of small moments of joy – and his realisation that he was experiencing those moments more often – were detailed and touching. It felt very real, very honest, and full of very gentle hope. I particularly liked the little “scripts” between himself in the present talking to himself back then, if he could time travel. If you are suffering depression, it can seem like things will never get better – but Haig wanted to reassure himself (and the reader) ‘back then’ that they could and would. What do you think might your ‘future self’ say to you? What do you hope they might say?
The section on “advice” was excellent – simple, clear ideas to try without pressure. It was particularly strong on self-care, which is something I have written about several times before. The suggestion of a breathing exercise, and the reasons for it, have inspired me to write about this for my next blog post.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has depression or is trying to help a loved one through it.