Reasons to stay alive

by Matt Haig

Paper Book, 2015





Edinburgh : Canongate, 2015.


THE NUMBER ONE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLERWHAT 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.'I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven't been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.'… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member HenriMoreaux
A short (264 pages) but meaningful book on what it's like to live with depression and anxiety, and why it's worthwhile to keep fighting the black dog.
LibraryThing member sturlington
I bought this because I follow the author on Twitter and his words are always so inspiring to me. This is a frank, honest, sometimes funny, often inspirational account of dealing with depression and anxiety, and I really needed it right now. If you are a sufferer or care for someone who does, you will find yourself underlining passages and flagging pages to return to later.… (more)
LibraryThing member jphamilton
Let me warn you readers, this review is going to be from a very personal level. I have always hated the term self-help, but since losing Vicky, I have actually invited some of these book into my life. I have also suffered from a level of depression and anxiety much of my adult life, and this book actually helped me. Unfortunately, from my current standpoint, one of the key things that worked for Haig in his battle with nearly crippling depression, was the love of a good woman in his life, which is exactly what I have recently lost.
There were many other factors that helped the author in his struggles, and he presents them in lists and in many different stories about his life. He often speaks to how he didn't use heavy medications in any treatment plans, and felt that many times it smothers thoughts and doesn't allow people to deal with their problems.
The book presents his painful story of extreme depression and suffering with a simple, casual, and, yes, humorous style. This book pulls that off, and that's an impressive feat. Like those old lines: he takes you up, and he brings you down. He takes you through a horrible story, one were a simple shopping trip at the corner store, became a searing, shocking experience when viewed from inside his head.
Time and time again, he speaks of how he often appeared to be doing just fine to others, but internally he was right up against the edge of hell. He presents how common depression and anxiety are almost joined at the hip with many people. As I said earlier, I have suffered from depression and anxiety, but after reading the harrowing story of Matt Haig's life, I am so thankful that while my suffering form depression was painful, I didn't drop to the depths that he suffered.
Upon finishing this book, I found myself feeling much better, more hopeful, and amazed that Haig told the story of his suffering, the ups and downs of his life, with a style that wasn't preachy, simple-minded, or telling people how they MUST do things to fix themselves. Far from any workbook that guides you through tried and true methods, and lays down rules and plans, Haig simply tells his own personal story, how it felt from inside, and what worked for him. He's no doctor, no medical researcher, he's simply a man who suffered an illness, was once filled with thoughts of suicide, walked through his own personal hell, found what worked for him, and came out of it intact and able to enjoy life. Not everything is rosy, love is not perfect, life can be dark at times, but his life is an impressive accomplishment, one that I found inspiring.
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LibraryThing member cygnoir
This was a very sweet and earnest memoir of depression. I liked it.
LibraryThing member eclecticdodo
An uplifting meander through what it means to be depressed and anxious. There are facts and figures mixed in with the authors personal experience and other writers take on the issue. The chapters are mercifully short so I think I could have managed to read even during lower times.
LibraryThing member LARA335
In his twenties, Matt was living an enviable life on Ibiza. Then apparently suddenly was immobilised by severe depression & anxiety.

This is an account of what it felt like, how he thought he had arrived at that point, and what he found worked for him (reading being very high up the list). An honest, open and positive memoir / self-help / you are not alone, book.… (more)
LibraryThing member StevenJohnTait
I'm surprised this book is so popular. I thought it lacked depth.
LibraryThing member whitreidtan
Depression is a beast. It robs people of so much. But there's a stigma associated with it that keeps people from seeking treatment and getting the help they need to even have a chance to come through to the other side of it. Having people who have suffered publicly admit to their struggles without shame and offer hope is huge. Matt Haig's memoir Reasons to Stay Alive is without a doubt a raw, personal account of his battle with severe depression that helps to add to the conversation about this debilitating disease.

When Haig was in his early twenties, he descended into the fugue of severe depression. He describes the crippling effects on his life as he endured both depression and anxiety for years. He lets the reader see into the deepest, darkest hole he found himself living in, telling of his own experiences, giving facts about the black dog of depression, and offering glimpses of how he found reasons to stay alive even in the bleakest of his moments. Medication didn't work for Haig so there's not much information about how helpful they can be to those suffering and in fact Haig is rather skeptical of the efficacy of drugs given his own experience but he does appreciate the ongoing and unwavering support of his girlfriend (now wife) and his family during this horrible time in his life.

The memoir itself is short but powerful. It is a bit of a pastiche, having chapters of straight narrative, chapters where Haig addresses his suffering past self, lists, and more. It is honest, emotional, and ultimately hopeful. The memoir doesn't give any easy answers to his fellow sufferers but perhaps those with severe depression will see something of themselves in it and in seeing themselves, will find a way, like Haig did, to fight against this terrible, living nightmare.
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LibraryThing member PDCRead
The pivotal moment in Matt Haig’s life came when he was just 24. He stood at the top of a cliff in Ibiza and stared at the edge. Every element in his body was willing him to throw himself off and end the pain of being alive. Something made him stop; he had four people that loved him. Four people that even in his darkest moment meant something to him. Something did die that day, it was the thing that was consuming him from inside. For men, in particular, suicide is one of the biggest killers for those under 35 in the western world. Thankfully, Haig didn’t join the statistics that day. He turned away from the cliff and walked back into a new life.

It wasn’t an easy recovery though, he tried drugs, they didn’t work. He cried, suffer panic attacks, wouldn’t leave the house, suffered from anxiety, didn’t sleep, didn’t eat and suffered from the terrible thing that is depression. The black dog for some can be a bottomless pit and this horrible affliction affects huge numbers of people around the world now in a variety of different ways as well as affecting families and those trying to cope with them. But a lot of the problems of this is most people don’t have any idea at all how to support their friends and family that are suffering from it.

How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.

There are things not to say to someone with depression. But what to say though? Not much, just being with them is more important a lot of the time. Encourage but don’t force the issue. It is not an exhaustive book on the medical ins and outs of the root causes of depression, rather it is a literary response to the very real pain that Haig felt and an expression of the love he has for those that were there for him at his lowest moment. Haig puts his pain into words and if you suffer from any form of depression and anxiety then there are probably words in here that will bring you comfort and relief. More importantly, this is a book that you can give to others so they can gain some insight into the suffering that people are going through. The raw and honest writing is a mix of short chapters and longer, more thoughtful ones and are all full of helpful advice. We probably all know someone affected and in the modern world, this should be essential reading.
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LibraryThing member TomMcGreevy
Brilliant. Hopeful. Perceptive. Terse. Kind. A book that hugs. Everyone suffers differently. That said, this is worth reading regardless of whether you suffer as Matt does, or not. There is nothing simple about mental illness. But please persevere, and this book helps in that effort. Be well.
LibraryThing member Capfox
It's a weird genre switch, or it seems like one, to veer from writing speculative fiction stories to a mental health tome. First you're dealing with the exploits of an alien visiting Earth to eliminate everyone who's discovered the answers to the Riemann Hypothesis, and then you end up with a deeply personal memoir about depression and anxiety? It doesn't add up.

And yet... there's much in Haig's work that speaks to these issues being of great import to him. That all comes to the fore here, in a brilliant, realistic way. Basically, this book is a tripartite story: one part is the retelling of a terrible period of Haig's life where he was brought to a standstill by an overwhelming combination of anxiety and depression; one part is a general description of what it's like to deal with anxiety and depression; and one part is pieces of happiness and ideas and reasons and content for helping get through dark times.

It doesn't necessarily sound as if it should hang together, and yet it works. It's a testament to Haig's abilities that the book holds together as well as it does. And more than anything, this book captures the experience of what it's like to live with these illnesses better than anything else I've ever read. This is the book that I give to people who haven't gone through depression and anxiety to give them a sense of what it's like. It's valuable for people who have suffered from these, as well, but it's even better for explaining to those who haven't.

I found this book moving and insightful, and I recommend it pretty regularly. And so I am here, as well. There are lots of good reasons to read this book, and if some of them help you stay alive, so much the better.
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Original publication date


Physical description

264 p.; 18 cm


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