"Anxiety takes away all the commas and full stops we need to make sense of ourselves" - Matt Haig
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig was a book that I first heard about when one of my favourite YouTubers, Amy, from the channel 'shoutame', posted a review about it. The link to that video is here, go watch her if you're a book lover like me! Amy's review on the book really did draw me in and make me want to buy the book and read it. I'd never come across a book quite like it and I wanted to read about somebody's personal experience and how they overcame the difficulties that come with living a 'normal' life with a mental illness. From the title, I was concerned that it would be based more on depression and suicidal thoughts rather than anxiety, which aren't illnesses or feelings I suffer from and debated if it was for me, but because of Amy's review and the description she gave of it, I gave it a go and downloaded it onto my kindle.
The first thing I have to say about this book is the words and language that Matt Haig uses to describe mental illnesses are spot-on and explain exactly how I feel about my mental illness.
Here are a few examples:
"Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind. This is how we must be with our minds"
"The weirdest thing about the mind is that you can have the most intense things going on in there but no one else can see them. The world shrugs."
"If you're the type of person who thinks too much about stuff then there is nothing lonelier in the world than being surrounded by loads of people on a different wavelength"
I have honestly never been able to relate to a book so much in all my life and reading about Matt's experience with his anxiety not only gave me hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it taught me so much about depression as well as anxiety that I didn't know. I found myself reading personal things Matt talks about and thinking to myself 'why did I never realise this?' As I said, the title did scare me a bit and made me worry me about what I was going to read on the next page, but I believe it is the perfect title to describe Matt's life and Matt's strength.
I think I related to this book a lot because Matt wrote the book for the very same reason that I write this blog - as therapy, and as a result of the therapy, to help others. Matt sold his brave story to the whole world to make people like me feel less alone, make people like me recognise that they're not crazy, and to give people like me hope that life will not be dark forever. Having said this, it must be noted that Matt remains very truthful in that he never denies that he is 'cured' from his mental illnesses, as he believes, as do I and many others out there, that mental illness do not disappear. It become a part of who you are and you learn to handle it better.
For anyone reading this who suffers with a mental illness and needs a bit of 'ah, so I'm not so strange after all', please read this book. I must warn you though, some parts may be triggering for those who maybe a little unstable in their mental health so please please please be careful. Nevertheless, even the darkest chapters make you realise the strength that Matt has and the strength that anyone can have when you learn to accept who you are, and learn to handle and live with your illness.
This book is also the most amazing book for a family member, a friend or someone in your life that you feel needs a little more explanation into what on earth mental illness is and how it makes you feel. As I said, the words used throughout this book are nothing but the truth for me, and I'm sure they will be for a lot of others too. The way he uses symbolism and examples made me scream "YES. THATS IT!", and for those of you who get tongue tied when people don't quite understand your illness, you'll understand what I mean about the language in this book. I'd really love my parents to read this, as reading the journey of Matt's life and reading all the symbolism in the book I think would benefit them a lot in the part they play in my own journey. Acceptance is one thing, but having someone you love understand how you feel or how you work, even just a little bit, is on a whole other level.
This book will stay very close to my heart for a long time, simply because it's the first book I've read that discusses mental illness in such an honest, personal and relatable way. Matt Haig - you have given me the strength I need to, pick myself up, brush myself off and get back on track. You really are an inspiration to me. Thank you.
Here's a link to Reasons To Stay Alive on Amazon.
Love Luce xo