“Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”
This book review isn’t going to be like any other review I have written on this blog. I’m about to get very personal and share things about myself that I’ve been terrified of people knowing. I picked up Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig at a very challenging and difficult point in my life and I think it saved me from falling deeper into the dark pit of doom. In May this year I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and I’ve spent the last couple months dealing with everything that comes after a diagnosis.
Reasons To Stay Alive is a personal account of Matt’s own struggle with anxiety and depression. At age 24 he was standing on a cliff-edge thinking about jumping. This short stunning novel is simply all the reasons he didn’t.
One of the hardest things I had to deal with was accepting that I was depressed. I knew I had anxiety but having depression was something that never crossed my mind. Even after the doctor told me I was depressed I didn’t want to believe because I wasn’t. I couldn’t be. I was still happy, still smiling. Months later, looking back I was very much depressed. There is a quote in the book that simply states: “You can be a depressive and be happy, just as you can be a sober alcoholic.” This quote changed my whole outlook on depression. Did I hide behind a mask? Most of the time, yes but I learned that being depressed doesn’t mean you cry every day or hide away in your room. You can still be you and have depression. I am still me and I have depression.
There are so many quotes throughout this book that I relate to. In fact, while I was reading the book I put sticky notes on pages where I related to something he was talking about. Sure there are a lot of sticky notes scattered throughout my book but I sure feel less alone. That’s the problem with depression you feel like no one has ever felt this bad and no one ever will but that’s not true. This book showed me that it wasn’t true. But as Matt said in his book “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.” – This is a description of me. I worry about everything and anything.
This is probably the first time I’ve openly talked about what I’ve been going through. Of course, I don’t want to go into detail because I am still struggling through a lot. This isn’t a click of the fingers and everything will get better. Some days everything is great and other days, like today, it’s the worst day ever. I’m working on making those bad days good days and it’s challenging. It’s taken me a while to realise that saying I have anxiety and I have depression isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s part of me. This was the quote that made me realise I am just as normal as anyone else: “There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.” I’m still adjusting to my new normal.
I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. This is a must read if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression. If you know someone who has either then read this. It will really open your eyes to what’s going on with them. I found it really hard to explain how I felt some days but turning to a page and showing it to someone made everything easier. They started to understand it better and it was much easier than just saying “I don’t feel like me.” This is just a simple, raw and truthful experience of what it’s like to struggle with depression. I’m ending my review with a quote because sometimes you can’t convey how important a book is in your own words.
“When you are depressed you feel alone, and that no one is going through quite what you are going through. You are so scared of appearing in any way mad you internalise everything, and you are so scared that people will alienate you further you clam up and don’t speak about it, which is a shame, as speaking about it helps.”