This is the story of Matt Haig, when age 24 he suffered a mental breakdown. It is about his experience primarily with Depression and Anxiety. It is also about his experience of living and also his experience of wanting to die. It is moving, it is funny but most of all it is actually live - affirming. I hope that it has and continues to achieve what he hoped it would.
It was with some trepidation that I purchased this book, because yes I wanted to read it. But it was more important than that. I needed to read it. In the back of my mind was a doubt though, surely this will be another one of those books that scratches the surface or doesn't explain things correctly. One of those books full of medical jargon and little to no empathy about the illness and only a minor touch of compassion.
One day I will learn to stop being so cynical, from the moment I opened this book I knew it would be everything I hoped it would be. What it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in stature. There are very few books that I would actually say are essential but this is one of them. I know it sounds like I am gushing, but really it is true. What I like so much is that it is real, not sugar coated. It is about real illness, real experience and real feelings.
Most interesting for me is the part about mindfulness, depression is just one small part of you. It isn't you or me, it is an illness like any other.
I haven't had depression nor anxiety. Although we all get sad and anxious at times, it is not the same as out and out medical depression and/or anxiety. My experience with depression comes from the fact that my Partner has it, it isn't easy and I have found very little literature that can help with the understanding for sufferers. Whilst I appreciate that depression isn't catching, it has sometimes felt like I am being consumed too. All of the doubts and thoughts that depression can bring are exhausting for the person but also for the loved ones standing by, who feel helpless.
From personal experience the main way we have tackled this is through talking, cognitive behaviour therapy (minor success) and essentially more talking. Reassurance, understanding and love can make a day a bit better. Although depression seems to be cyclical from what I have found. There are good days and bad days but what I have learnt is that the wave just needs to be rode out.
“I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”- Rudyard Kipling.
I really hope that the stigma surrounding mental health changes, i think it is bit by bit. That is why people like Matt Haig and others who speak up and speak out are so important. It can only serve to educate others. Words are so important, that is why I love that Rudyard Kipling quote so much. Words; speaking, listening, reading, writing are quite possibly our most powerful tool.
You might be forgiven that given the subject matter this book is not very positive, but it exudes positivity. We could all learn something from Matt Haig's Forty pieces of advice to live by. A tear was shed by me when I actually for the first time ever, really got 'it'.
Anyway that is it from me, go outside and stand in the sunshine. Listen to the rain. Most of all appreciate the moment you are in right now. For good or for bad that moment will never come again. Life is beautiful and you and I, us, we, are only here once.
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”- Henry James
That is my Reason to Stay Alive.
About the Author:
Matt Haig is the Author of several best selling books that have translated into 29 languages. He was born in Sheffield and now lives in York with his Wife and Children.
www.matthaig.com, also on Twitter @matthaig1