This book had been on my radar for a while. I first heard of it on Facebook, when a friend had posted about the book and how it was wonderful and she felt like it had saved her life. I then added it to my to-read list on Goodreads and, even though it kept popping into my mind, I never did anything about it. And then, in May, I read my fill of fantasy and contemporary and could feel a slump coming on: I needed a change. A palate cleanser. I needed to read this book.
Spoiler Free Review
Title: Reasons to Stay Alive
Author: Matt Haig
Published: Canongate Books, 2015
(from GR) I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt. I hate depression. I am scared of it. Terrified, in fact. But at the same time, it has made me who I am. And if – for me – it is the price of feeling life, it’s a price always worth paying.
Mental health is something that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. I have to admit that, up until a few years ago, it wasn’t something I considered much. No-one close to me had been diagnosed with any type of mental illness. I was in the dark, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t think about it. I wondered about it. I wanted to know more about it. I can now say that I am becoming more knowledgeable – about my own mental health, and about all those other people in my life that kept there own mental health issues under the rug – and it’s partly through talking, and reading, about people’s experiences. Matt Haig’s book is another way of reaching out and understanding something that is still quite misunderstood. It’s another feather in the duvet, and it packs a punch.
Matt Haig, even before the book truly starts, talks about the fact that everyone’s mental health is different. There are millions and billions of different experiences, even if some of them are umbrella-ed under the same diagnosis or term. This is just his story, his feelings and experiences. But that doesn’t discredit them. He tells his story truthfully and honestly. There is no sugar coating here, no hiding – just plain truth. I think that’s one of the reasons that this book is so powerful and well received. On this topic, people don’t want, or don’t need the sugar coated version. We want the honest version, so we can relate to it and understand it more.
He says himself that this book can’t really be put into one category. It is part self help, part fact, part auto biography. It’s a mixture, and this mixture was a significant part of his life. The book is broken into lots of parts and put back together, detailing his breakdown and the steps of his recovery, with inserts of advice and knowledge gleaned on the subject from what he’s researched. It is an excellent introduction into mental health itself – and is for any reader. The one who is unsure of their own mental health. The one that is coping, or not coping, with their diagnosis. The one who is supporting someone else with mental health issues. The one who needs more knowledge. I really do think it will reach out and touch anyone, and it’s so important that ideas surrounding mental health are spread.
One of the most important parts about the book, I feel, is that there is no blame culture present. There is no one-idea-fixes-all mentality. There is no judgement or rainbows or anything of the like. He simply talks about what has worked for him personally, and how he has personally struggled, without limiting or discrediting any other theories. He’s not preaching, just tell it how he has found it and that’s likeable. It’s subtle and it’s likeable. And it’s just another way of getting word out about something that, despite being mentioned widely, not many people actually talk about.
Go on, have a read.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Pick this book up if you can. You might learn; you might empathise; you might understand. It’s worth it.