On the back cover of Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig reads a quote from Joanna Lumley, which says:
A small masterpiece that might even save lives.
This could not be more correct. Sitting at under 275 pages, this small book carries a big message.
Reasons to Stay Alive is, partially, a memoir. It begins in one of the secluded corners of Ibiza, Spain. Here, Matt Haig speaks openly about a time when he was very close to ending his life. Through short essays, quotes, lists and conversations between his past and present self, he explains why he didn’t. He speaks about his depression and anxiety. And he explains very eloquently that overcoming his depression is, instead, an ongoing battle of understanding his depression.
Reasons to Stay Alive also aims to help other people understand: understand their own mental illness; understand how to love someone suffering from mental illness; understand the stigma around mental illnesses and how breaking the stigma could save lives.
Finally, Reasons to Stay Alive is also a celebration of life. And all of the many Reasons to Stay Alive, whether it be your loved ones, a new relationship, your pets, your favourite book, yoga practice, travel plans, etc. Both Matt Haig and HarperCollinsCanada enlisted people on Twitter to share their #ReasonsToStayAlive, and many can be found in the book itself.
Wednesday is Bell Let’s Talk Day, which aims to end the stigma around mental health by encouraging people to speak about it openly. Reasons to Stay Alive strives for the same thing: To talk and to listen.
“Talk. Listen. Encourage talking. Encourage listening. Keep adding to the conversation. Stay on the lookout for those wanting to join in the conversation. Keep reiterating, again and again, that depression is not something you ‘admit to’, it is not something you have to blush about, it is a human experience.”
I cannot recommend this book enough. You can read it in one sitting, or savour it throughout the week. Regardless where or when you read it, I recommend keeping a highlighter or pen handy as there are so many passages you’ll want to keep and remember. Here’s one of mine:
You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.