Recently, I discovered a fantastic writer called Matt Haig, and after reading Reasons To Stay Alive I was hooked. Haig discusses deeply personal issues such as depression and suicide, and deals with them in a way which is relatable, engaging, and insightful. Even if you have never experienced mental health problems or suicidal thoughts in your life, I truly believe reading Reasons To Stay Alive will educate you. Haig brings a sense of normality to topics which are commonly still stigmatized and regarded as awkward, dangerous, or scary, thus he encourages his readers to be open, to talk, and most importantly to see value in themselves.
One of the most striking parts about Reasons To Stay Alive is the underlying message of love. Haig clearly believes that what has seen him through the ups and downs of life is the love, understanding and support of the people around him. It is a cliche, but these things are fundamental in any recovery from mental health problems. We can all offer that to eachother and as Haig writes, we must all expect and accept it ourselves.
Towards the end, Haig presents two lists: ‘The things that make me worse’, and ‘The things that make me better’. After reading his, I resolved to do my own version of the latter. Mine heavily featured types of food, and hot beverages (I can’t go a day without Yorkshire tea). It may seem like a really small, insignificant exercise, but what it made me do was to think about the things that make me who I am. It is the ultimate act of self-care. Now, when I feel low, or tired, or anxious I can refer to my list and find something to do that will (at least temporarily) make all those stresses fade into the background. So thankyou Matt Haig, you are my inspiration.
I am in awe of Matt Haig, and the bravery it must have taken for him to talk so honestly and openly about issues which are still shrouded by misunderstanding and therefore stigma. Apart from being a brilliantly written and considered piece of work, Reasons To Stay Alive breaks the silence surrounding suicide and mental health problems. The very title is one which denotes hope. Haig’s work showed me that on some days, the reasons to stay alive may seem to be few. But there is always one, and that is you. The world will always be better with you in it. Even though on some days the fog may be so thick you cannot see what is ahead, we all have to keep hope that eventually it will lift. Love and support will help that happen, so if you are reading this and thinking of someone you know who is struggling, reach out. Hugs are good. They don’t solve everything, but it is a start.
In The Humans, Haig wrote:
”Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. Which is to say, don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars.”
The storms which we all will face over the course of our lifetimes will at times seem to be too much. You may feel like giving up. But every storm passes. Reasons To Stay Alive reminded me that no man (or woman) is an island. There is always a reason to stay, even if you cannot see it. I hope it does the same for you.
Once you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. Matt Haig and his experiences prove that.