Thursday, 2 April 2015

Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig

You are no less or more of a man or a woman or a human for having depression than you would be for having cancer or cardiovascular disease or a car accident.” P69
 Rating 5 stars out of 5
There has been much hype about this book online.  Reasons to Stay Alive is mostly a memoir of Matt Haig’s experience of depression (comorbid with anxiety) and his musings on depression. Matt Haig’s purpose is two fold (1) to lessen stigma and (2) to remind us that you can have a positive future if you have depression.  I really enjoyed this book.  It has no clich├ęs like “Every cloud has a silver lining now get on with it”.  It treats depression as the serious (and deadly) illness it is, but it also raises the point that depression is a thought-disorder – when we hear a voice saying, “life looks bleak“ who is it that is talking?  Overall, it is a well-balanced book and I highly recommend giving it a read.

The first thing that I noticed was the smallness of the book.  The book is dainty and the chapters are a few pages.  I think this is a very clever idea.  It makes the book manageable.  You feel like you can read this and you can make progress with the book very quickly which helps encourage you to carry on.  (There is nothing worse for motivation than reading a 100 pages and being only 10% done, you can end up feeling disheartened especially when all you hear is "What's the point?")

Its smallness is impressive for another reason.  It is a lot harder to write a story in 500 words than it is in 5000 words - with 500 words every word counts that little bit more, you can't waste them.  Having a small book can easily go wrong.  Haig chooses his words wisely; there are no repeats and everything has importance so much so I enjoyed this book from start to finish.

The other thing I liked about this book was that it addresses the ‘personal crisis’ that arises when you come into contact with depression.  Now you have depression, you often have questions you have of “Where does this leave me? What am I – who am I?”  It is Ok having a list of symptoms from the NHS, but that doesn’t help you come to terms with being diagnoses. It doesn't cover the feelings of failure, doubt over what your future looks like, will this change me a person for better or worse.  The sheer fact of having a mental diagnosis of any kind can easily feel like you’ve somehow wound up on Death Row, but you are constantly in your own pyjamas than state-sponsored ones.  This book helps address these worries in a positive (but realistic) way.

Side-note: how Harry Potter didn’t end up with PTSD after 
Voldemort tried to kill him for 7 odd years is beyond me. 

My most favourite chapter was “How to live”.  I also think Nietzsche had a bigger influence on Haig than Haig admits, I saw sneaky bits of perspectivism in there (pg 109?).  Also, I would recommend reading Sextus Empiricus' Outlines of Scepticism for Pyhrronism if you found the Schopenhauer interesting.  Phyrronism aims at achieving tranquility (ataraxia) and it does this by encouraging brute acceptance of what appears to us; it doesn't approve of looking beyond to hidden meanings, discovering the future etc. It also argues that trying to achieve and maintain goals/ends also makes us unhappy.   

Anyway, back to Reasons to Stay Alive - I would definitely recommend this to anyone with or knows someone with depression.  It was only after I googled 'Matt Haig' that it dawned on me that I already have his book The Possession of Mr Cave.  If this book is anything to go by, I will be sure to give it a read.

Book facts
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 264
Publisher: Canongate 


  1. This is on my amazon wishlist. Must buy next time I have a splurge!

    1. It's definitely one you won't regret. Waterstones have a signed edition for a little bit more if you want an extra splurge ;)

      Thanks for commenting! :-)


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