Monday, 26 September 2016

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I happened upon this by accident wandering through the TC;  Waterstones had a display stand by the door, I picked it up thinking 'Gosh that looks like a miserable read'. Somebody saw me eyeing it up and told me it was a must read, that it was a uplifting read about this chap coming through depression told with honest humour. 

I always take a personal in person recommendation; I haven't got the heart to trample on their enthusiasm.  Every decent book I've ever read I've pushed hard on all my friends!  One of the reasons I started my book club, was so I could lord it over my friends and loved ones with my reading list!  

From the off, reading this book, you completely 100% engage with the depression and panic of Matt Haig.  It weighs heavy on him, it's horrible and (worryingly) it came out of nowhere.  He was young, in a decent relationship, living it up in Ibiza, seemingly having the time of his life.  He doesn't report a troubled childhood, abuse, bullying.  Nothing of note, that you could link to this breakdown of his mental health. The other compelling thing about Matt's story, is his desire and will to get well.  He pushes hard, challenges his comfort zones.  Brilliantly he does get well (phew!).  

I've touched on it here on my blog, not massively, for a blogger, I'm private about some things.  In recent years, I have had problems with anxiety, mostly health anxiety.  It's much more than being a bit worried about my health, I have episodes of real panic where I truly believe I have some dreadful disease and that I might not make it to my holidays/Christmas/the weekend!  This panic is real and it's debilitating, having real inner turmoil 'Who will bath the kids if I'm not around' (Mr C has reassured me in the case of my demise he will shower/bathe the kids, but wouldn't commit to more than once fortnightly!). 

Read this book, if you've ever suffered depression, read this book if you know somebody suffering depression or panic/anxiety disorders.  Read this book simply for info.  Any person who reads this will take something away with them.  I've read this twice through, here are a few things that jumped out for me: 

  • If you are scared when there is nothing to be scared of your brain makes things up (p. 91). This would explain all my aches and pains that I internalise as symptoms of ill health. 
  • For anxiety, there aren't any sure fire cures to help calm or settle you. However, the simple practice of 'slowing down' will stop it in it's tracks (p. 193).  It's hard for your brain to run away with itself if you're sitting calmly breathing in (counting to five, making your tum inflate) and out (counting slowly to five).   This is not easy and it's a real skill but once mastered you can stop an episode in it's track before your brain is flooded into panic mode. 
  • Matt gives a list of hints to live well (p. 238), number 15 fits in well with my own personal Christian outlook.  BE KIND  Guessing he means to yourself as well as others.
  • Matt is a right book worm, his reading list is impressive, he is guilty of slipping in the odd book recommendation, he sold me Margaret Atwood's Wilderness Tips (a collection of short stories) (p, 138). 

This book is not preachy or judging, it's an account of what works for one person.  It helped me understand my own mental health and made me realise that mostly it does get better, there is always a light at the end of a tunnel. 

xx Emma-Lou 











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