Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

The true-life experiences of Matt Haig’s battle with depression is highlighted in this compelling book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’

Book Review/Discussion

Essentially, I aimed for this to just be a review piece on the book. But that was before I got to reading Reasons to Stay Alive. My decision was drastically altered as I discovered I had so much more to discuss, thus forming a review-discussion combination that may be a bit out-there when my writing is considered. My predominant intention for this book was to read through it during a time in my life in which I believed it would benefit me most. I do think I’ve achieved that, seeing as I have so much to discuss due to reading it.

Firstly, it must be explained that this book is nothing other than brilliant. I think that will be a constant hypothesis throughout the discussion.

This essentially contemplates and evaluates the dismays that materialise with the existence of depression. Personally, I’ve never been one to acquire the use of the term ‘depression’. Even as a fond explorer of words and the written language, this is one word that I’ve never favoured, even before fully experiencing the turmoils that accompanies the expression. Yet Matt Haig uses this word with such confidence, it comes across admirable once the shock settles. Being exposed to this level of saturation to the word is unfamiliar territory in my own experiences. I’ve never associated the feelings i’ve had with the word itself, and still can’t quite grasp using it, especially when conversing or attempting to explain to others. Nevertheless, this limelight that is brought to the word alone does in fact make me begin to realise that it’s not such a scary word. It is just a word to sum up the symptoms, but possibly made to seem scary by the people that may not experience it themselves or hold much understanding on mental illnesses.

Wonders of the Written Word

The truly wonderful element within the existence of this memoir is how personal the subject is. It is due to personal ties and connections that allow the most real and forthright execution of writing and communication. Indeed, this is the reason why I chose to pursue the reflection towards the book itself and the subject in the ways of the written word – because of personal ties. It is this fundamental part of human formality that encourages us to follow what we deem familiar. When I first came to approach writing about this somewhat sensitive subject, I first wanted to just respond in my own ways to what Matt wrote about his own experiences and opinions towards them. As this is a book driven by personal experiences, it allows a thorough truth that can be considered easily relatable. Couple that with the powerful existence of words and the ability to write thoughts in order to communicate thus has capabilities to lessen pain or urge to express.

That is, in fact, what is initially discussed by Matt within the prologue section before even properly touching further. He observes that it is the existence of words – spoken or written –  that has the ability to connect us to the world. This actually may seem daunting when considering it fully. The world is a big place, especially to someone who believes them theirselves are so tiny. Alas, moving on from that, Matt also confides in explaining that some salvation from the dark can be discovered through reading and writing. This is certainly something that I related to instantly.

Writing has alway been as escape in some form or another. From scribbling random lyrics to overcome difficult experiences or tangled emotions to purely just analysing a still image or moving picture, I may not have consciously realised it at the time, but it was all benefiting in some manner. The fundamental side to what once was solely a pastime now has slowly become more prominent in daily life, now even situated as the main goal for me to carry out after my final year of university.

Despite this, and even though my constructed thoughts are now published online across various sites, these thoughts rarely display any kind of personal touch that reflects my own life or beliefs. Even when reviewing or discussing the latest movie release, I’ve restrained from speaking in the the first person, which is why this kind of manifestation of ‘I’s and ‘me’s in an article is somewhat alien to my writing style. Other than occasionally demonstrating my thoughts on a character or cinematic element, there does lack anything other than generalised debate construction – of which could be compared similarly to another writers belief.

Relishing in the Little Things 

I’m a fond believer in the little things in life. A simple word, statement or act of kindness does indeed go a long way when it comes down to bringing a little joy to someones day. But the antagonist to this endearing thought is that a little thing can also spiral into something a lot worse than it first seems. What could come across as trivial or simply unfortunate to someone could actually mean a lot more to another, without any solid reasoning behind it. Matt expresses wishful thinking of having ‘a real danger’ in order to have a reason for panicky or depressed behaviours, of which can be easily understandable. Being able to explain the emotions going through your unbalanced mind can be difficult, in fact it can sometimes prove to feel impossible. Trying to get across the facts behind the moods is frequently even more troublesome as there isn’t always a reason behind it.

Returning to the theory regarding the little things in life, there is a part of Matt’s memoir collection that I believe contributes brilliantly. As the books’ title suggests, within the pages, Matt does include some reasons that were provided by people online that have encountered feelings of depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. The question put forward encourages individuals to contribute their personal motives to keep them going. One particular reply stood out to me from the rest. The two worded response of: ‘Bacon Rolls’. Two simple words, that may not seem the most sentimental or important in comparison to the rest, yet this was the most thought-provoking. As Matt mentioned “depression makes thinkers out of us all” and it is because of overthinking that allows the demons or dreaded ‘black dog’ to take control. To put life into more perspective sometimes is capable through simplifying the responses we conjure up during a tough time. Even if that is just by two little words. Bacon Rolls.

Don’t get me wrong, even though I do have somewhat of an instantaneous love towards this book and what it stands for, I’m not entirely consenting to everything Matt says. Of course this is to be expected, each individual is to experience entirely alternative instances of depression and anxiety thus conducting slightly differentiating beliefs and ideas towards the illness as a whole. I can still easily understand where he is coming from. Even beliefs we hold ourselves don’t remain fixed. When in search for assistance, those reliefs won’t cure you each time, yet relishing in those little miracles that do soothe the pain is something to keep hold on.

I want it to be that more people read it. Experience it. And discuss what it means to be aware of the topics that are highlighted. This is a book that fully understands depression and can relate to many, regardless of how they personally experience the illness. There is so much that can come from reading through the experiences of others, so many concepts that can be explored further from a contrasting perspective. As Matt mentions himself: “where there is mystery, there will be fear” hence why reading other people’s experiences does indeed help sufferers to realise that they aren’t alone.

I just hope that at least a large portion of that endless word vomit made sense. If anything, this can hold as some reference for future me to come across.

Reasons to Stay Alive
source: Goodreads


Book Information:

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Published: 2015 by Canongate Books


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