Matt Haig has given the Birmingham Mobile Library Reading Group a copy of his new book Reasons to Stay Alive. It is not out until 5 March 2015 so we feel very privileged and honoured to be given the chance to read and review the book.
If you’re wondering how we got our copy, we are great fans of Twitter, he wanted to give away a copy, and we got it!!
It is an incredible from the heart piece of work. Talking frankly of his experiences of depression.
Matt Haig suffered a breakdown in his early twenties. After battling depression for a long while he turned to writing. He now believes that reading and writing books saved his life, and believes that 'in a world trying to increasingly isolate us from our environment and our true selves, books are our route to freedom, and to each other'. His novels include the bestsellers The Last Family in England, The Radleys and The Humans. His books have been translated into 30 languages. All his novels for adults have been optioned for film. He has also written novels for children, including Shadow Forest, To Be A Cat and the new YA novel Echo Boy. His next book is about his experience of depression, called Reasons To Stay Alive.
Below is a very honest and open review from Kate, a member of the Mobile Reading Group
Reasons to Stay alive by Matt Haig – Reviewed by Kate McT
Probably the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of depression, ever. If you’re not depressed now, I’m sure you will be at some point in your life, but will you be honest enough to admit it?
Depression is a “negative” word in my head, it’s just not something you want to admit to, is it. Well, if Matt Haig can be this honest about being depressed, then why can’t I, why can’t society accept that depression isn’t a bad thing; it just is what it is. Why is it so damn hard to be truthful and honest about depression?
I’m depressed. I have been for some time. I’ve been putting a brave face on for far too long. I feel sad, low, but that is way too much information to share day in, day out. But I do, feel like this. Why is it that I feel guilty about feeling this way? After having read Matt’s book, I realise it takes a lot of courage to admit to yourself you’re depressed. I don’t think that’s a weakness, I believe its strength. A breakdown is a break through.
I actually feel slightly better already, just for admitting the truth, just a little lighter. We live in a society, where people don’t really want to hear the truth and who can blame them. There’s so much unhappiness/misery in the world, you really don’t feel like adding to it, so you just politely continue to bottle it up and hope that you’ve convinced the others that life is good with you, even when it’s not. There are a lot of liars out there, that’s for sure.
I reckon about 40% of the population are probably feeling pretty down right now too. We’re just programmed/conditioned to gloss over the subject, because let’s face it, what do you actually say in response? “Sorry to hear that, you’ll have to excuse me I’m just on my way to get a bottle of rum and a packet of fags, because I’m just on my way home to out of it, because I’m feeling pretty miserable myself too”. Stiff upper lip and all of that! Depression can happen to anyone, it can actually happen to YOU. If only, people could feel positive about being honest, you’d be halfway towards solving the problem. Society doesn’t want to HEAR about depression. No one wants to hear about it, not even me, if I’m being entirely honest.
I’ve seen, first hand, what happens to severely depressed people and it’s not pretty. In fact, when someone becomes hospitalised, it can be quite a nightmare and I’m talking about the treatment here, not the condition. But can a nightmare become a useful one? Once you’ve hit rock bottom and made it back, you’re never going to want to go there again, so perhaps there’s a built in mechanism for survival of the fittest. Although I know a number of people who suffer with bi polar and whilst they have been happy to be high, the lows are terrible. Nevertheless, when something goes up it generally has to come down.
Some very famous leaders in history have suffered with depression, Sir Winston Churchill it’s been said, that it was Churchill’s “exceptional openness” to intense emotion which enabled him to sense dangers that more conventional minds failed to see. Quite frankly, I’m glad he was on our side, even with his black dog mauling his every move.
I’m not normally so blunt, but the truth is no one wants to hear that you’re not coping, not enjoying life, probably because they may not be either or they just don’t want to be reminded of these miserable facts of life.
This is why Matt’s book is a triumph. “We all matter because we are alive, we are all ultimately all the same thing. We are life”. Life is to be celebrated the highs and the lows. An MRI scan cannot differentiate between passion and panic, but why do we. Why is the stigma as strong today, as it was 100 yrs. ago? Depressing isn’t it
The doctor’s seem quite happy to dish out endless prescriptions for pills. Dr say’s you been this bad before, haven’t you in a rather matter of fact way. Let’s increase your dose to 100mg. Why does that always have to be the first option let’s just give you more pills and a higher dose too, in the hope that you’ll just shut up and go away. I personally don’t think that’s good enough.
Surely pills should be the last option. Why can’t the NHS invest some funds in other remedies/ therapies? The pills just mask the symptoms of depression, they don’t address what’s making you feel that way. You’re in a vicious circle, with a label to identify you too, that makes you feel like a proper loser.
Matt Haig just got real and fair play to him, he’s got bottle! I respect his honesty and spirit. Matt understands the importance of feeling, whether it’s good or bad. The kindness he’s displayed towards humanity is held in his very personal experience of his own misery. He’s listened to himself. I’ve been there, in that prison cell where the door is always open and yet, he has had the strength through words to show others, there’s a way out. I applaud him for those words. I appreciate those words, they bring hope and light. From someone who’s depressed, there inspiring, helpful and warm.