Title: Reasons to Stay Alive
Author: Matt Haig
Category: Nonfiction, autobiography
10-word summary: Mental illnesses are challenging, but you can live with them.
About Reasons to Stay Alive
This book is very different from what I expected, but I still enjoyed reading it. I have mixed feelings about it, but I’d like to share a bit more about the book.
I thought this book would focus on many of the things that make like and the world great, but that we can easily forget when we don’t pay attention to them. The book was not about this – only to a small extent.
Reasons to Stay Alive is about Matt Haig’s struggles with depression and anxiety. It’s not really a classic autobiography, because Haig shares snippets from his life that are not necessarily in order. The book has very short chapters of only a few pages and they are about certain episodes from his life, reflections on mental illness and a bit about the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
It was an interesting book and while it wasn’t really the kind of book that I usually like to read, it pulled me in and kept me interested in it. Surprisingly, I found the book comforting in a strange way.
What I like about Reasons to Stay Alive
1. It is focused on anxiety and depression and this can help raise awareness and fight the stigma of mental illness
There is still a lot of stigma around mental illness in general. Matt Haig even addresses this in the book and he adds that one of the goals of this book is to fight against that stigma. He even points out differently people react when you have a physical illness versus when you have a mental illness. The difference is shocking and illogical, of course.
He also openly talks about how some people questioned his mental illness and how people were more understanding about other life experiences that were often much less impactful.
I think that any piece of content that talks about mental illness can help disperse the stigma around it and this book may do that as well. This alone makes the book relevant and valuable, I’d say.
2. The book is very personal, honest and brave
Haig shares so much of his own experience with depression and anxiety that I cannot help but admire him for the courage this took! He shares his thoughts, events and insights that may be hard to share even with people who are close to you – let alone the entire world.
In a way, this honesty and transparency has the potential to help a lot. The people who struggle themselves will definitely relate to some parts of the book. The people who never had mental illnesses will not relate to everything, but hopefully this will show how serious and painful it can be for the people who do experience them. It can be a window that lets them imagine what it must be like for those who suffer.
3. It can provide some comfort to the people who experience depression or anxiety because they could feel seen and understood
The stories Haig shares are often painful and shocking sometimes. But this is what could matter for some. The people who have their own struggles may find some comfort because they are reminded they are not alone. And reading about some else’s personal experience and interpretation helps you realize that other people know your pain and can still find ways to live a good life! Reading the book was a comforting experience for me.
4. Haig shares some interesting reflections about his illnesses, psychology and the world we live in
Throughout the book, there are some insights that I really enjoyed reading. They are the kind of ideas that make you think and that you wouldn’t want to forget – so I kept highlighting them.
What I don’t like about Reasons to Stay Alive
1. Haig shares very little information about anxiety and depression – but it does share some facts
I would have liked to read a bit more about the illnesses – causes, symptoms, advice. But I understand that this is probably beyond the scope of the book and that’s fine. Haig did share some facts and perhaps this is enough to make people take this seriously and learn more about it themselves.
2. The book feels quite disjointed because it does not have a clear structure
The consists of many very short chapters (usually 1-3 pages each). The order of the chapters seems rather random because they do not follow a clear timeline or an overarching theme. Each chapter can be about anything, so this made the book seem a bit chaotic to me. I would have liked a bit more structure, but I still enjoyed reading the book.
Quotes from Reasons to Stay Alive
Some of the reflections that I found interesting
“The evolutionary psychologists might be right. We humans might have evolved too far. The price for being intelligent enough to be the first species to be fully aware of the cosmos might just be a capacity to feel a whole universe’s worth of darkness.”
“Maybe instead of worrying about upgrading technology and slowly allowing ourselves to be cyborgs we should have a little peek at how we could upgrade our ability to cope with all this change.”
“Maybe to be truly in tune with the modern world means anxiety is inevitable.”
Should You Read Reasons to Stay Alive?
I’m not sure. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you might enjoy this book if you would like to read about some else’s experience and to find some comfort knowing that you are not alone.
If you have never struggled with mental illness and you would like to know what it’s like for those who do, this book could help you gain some insight into it.
If you want to better understand depression and anxiety – how they work, what they are caused by and how to manage them – then I would not recommend this book.