Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Before I give you my review of Reasons To Stay Alive, I want you to know a little of my own back story. It is important, I think, to help you understand just what this book means to me and to others who are either fighting depression and anxiety, or who have broken through the barrier and are winning every day.

When I was at school, I was bullied regularly. It started as just name-calling before it gradually progressed to having things thrown at me and having my bag stolen and thrown in the rubbish bins at school. All this started simply because I started to cry one day at school over something which now looks very trivial. After 4 years of that, I finally told someone, my parents, and immediately they contacted the school, arranged for a meeting with the bully and me, and then it stopped...

Only the effects were still there, lying just below the surface. Even now, I struggle to cry, even in front of my wife. I still see myself as a good-for-nothing loser, despite having a good "normal" life. I make rash decisions now, and have done ever since I left school. I got engaged at 19, although it didn't last long...not surprising really. Soon after, I started a very stressful job and ended up having a major mental breakdown. I got ill. I had no idea what to do with my life, I felt utterly worthless. And yet, this first time was not the worst. Far from it in fact.

In 2005, I was self-admitted to hospital. I had been cutting my arms. Not just in one easy-to-hide location, but along the whole of my forearm. It wasn't the first time, but I panicked. My parents, who I was living with at the time, contacted my doctor who gave me the choice - get through it at home, or voluntarily go to hospital. I couldn't trust myself to be alone, and both my parents had to work so I took to admission route. Even now, I both regret and am thankful for this time. Regret because nobody truly wants to be in hospital, even if it is for their own safety; thankful because, without it, I'm not sure that I would be able to write this post today.

Since that time, I improved. I still have bad times, but the good far outweighs that. I have hurt myself since, but not so much, and I feel the improvement. My life is back on track, my self esteem has improved through acting and also through being around other people. And a few days ago, my wife said "Matthew, you have to read this book!".

Reasons To Stay alive is about one man's journey from when he was first ill until the modern day. About how much of a challenge simple things, like buying milk and Marmite, were to him. About how, with the support of his family, and especially his girlfriend (now wife) Andrea, he fought back. Yes, it reminded me of my own past, my own fight, but it also showed me that I am not alone.

Matt Haig's writing is very easy to read, for such a serious subject, that it makes it more personal. If you read a self-help book on the subject, the tone is very...doctorish. I know this book could have been more helpful to me earlier in my life, but it is here now and it is inspirational. However, it is not all about just his fight. There is a brilliant chapter where people have tweeted their reasons to stay alive. Many of them moved me to almost to tears. Also, he has included some very useful contacts, as well as more books to read, if you need them. Again this would have helped me more earlier, but that is not the fault of this book or it's writer.

One final thought for you. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, do not give up. I know that it sounds much easier said than done, and it is, but there is still life for you. I've come through it, and this book proves I am not alone. Keep fighting, and get well soon!

Star rating: 5 from 5 - upon reflection, I improved my rating from 4...the Frozen quote can be forgiven because of his family situation now!

Reasons to Stay Alive