I’ve been meaning to get round to Matt Haig’s work for such a long time, so when a work colleague approached me and said “I know you love books and can read super quick – so can you check this out to see whether it’s suitable to pass onto one of the patients?” I was more than happy to ‘work’ outside my normal hours! I work within an adult mental health unit and provide psychological support to individuals in an acute mental health crisis. Depression and anxiety is extremely common among the patients I see, and being able to give them something contemporary to understand their experiences is pivotal to their recovery. Here’s my thoughts:
Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Format – Paperback (272 pages)
Publisher – Canongate
Release Date – 31st December 2015
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE?
Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.
A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.
This is a fantastic piece of writing to explore experiences that often leave people feeling so alone. The first thing I noticed was even how the book was printed – large spaces between lines, short snappy chapters, and lists made Reasons To Stay Alive seem very accessible particularly to someone who has difficulty concentrating.
The book contains a lot of validation around understanding experiences, providing support to help someone feel that they are not alone, but also some practical strategies. I am often put off by some books written about mental health because at times they try to explain complicated concepts as if it were a textbook, but Reasons To Stay Alive completely avoided that.
Having recently experienced the most intense and crippling anxiety in my life, I was really comforted by many of the things Matt talked about, and particularly recognising the extremely close link between Depression and Anxiety. The way Matt wrote this really made it feel as if he was simply talking to me and giving advice as someone who knew what it was like.
In short, Reasons To Stay Alive feels like a warm hug, or a reassuring arm across your shoulder to let you know that things will be OK. There are no myths or unrealistic attempts at positivity. Just an honest and kind account to help someone feel less alone. Empathy at its best.
I will absolutely be encouraging a lot of my patients to read this book, and even to friends and family who may be experiencing similar things, but not reaching out for help. I gave it a five star review on Goodreads, and now I’m just about to order ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’!
To get in touch with the author, use @matthaig1 on socials to find him!
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