“I can remember the day the old me died.”
Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive (2015)
I meant to pace myself when reading Reasons to Stay Alive but somehow I opened it late one night and found myself finishing the last few lines the next evening. On one hand, I’m slightly annoyed with myself for not relishing in the writing more, but on the other hand I think it’s a testimony to how compelling a read it was.
Haig is brutally honest about his battle with depression and anxiety- something we still seem to shy away from today, even worse something we still struggle to understand. The moments in which he describes his struggles to do everyday things like getting a pint of milk are particularly poignant. The book is split into sections that detail his thoughts, his worries and his gradual recovery. In between these sections are lists that Haig has compiled detailing different aspects of his illness. For me, the most profound was the list entitled Things people say to depressives that they don’t say in other life-threatening situations which brings to light how much we trivialise mental illness in our society. It’s this attitude; this assumption that if we can’t see the effects then they can’t really be there, that proves that when it comes to mental health we’re still not quite there. Maybe Haig’s book can help put us in the right direction.
There were moments when reading that I related to. Not to make light of what he clearly went through, I know that my own worries are small by comparison, but there’s always something reassuring in knowing that you are not alone in what you feel. Maybe this initial spark of empathy will help those who don’t understand depression to finally comprehend and provide support for those who are continuing to fight.