Mental Health Awareness Week is over but I’m going to finish the series since we’re still in May hence this book review. Me buying this book is proof of the power of advertising. I could not escape posters of this book while I was taking the Tube, it was everywhere that I went! So when it came up on my suggested list while I was on an Amazon book shopping spree, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to buy it. It was also quite cheap so that was even more of an incentive!
‘Reasons to stay alive’ is written by Matt Haig who is a British journalist and novelist. After battling depression for a period of time he turned to writing and believes that ‘reading and writing books saved his life.’ While the book explores the issue of mental health in general it focuses particularly on depression, anxiety and panic disorder. It is beautifully written and strangely enough I found myself reading the first few chapters aloud because of the rhythm of the writing. I don’t know how it felt like spoken word poetry but it did.
The author is definitely well read and he brings that wealth of knowledge and first hand experience with going through depression and anxiety to write a book that is both personable and empathetic. There are many great things about the book but I particularly love the passage on the healing role that reading, writing and exercise had on his life. I also love the fact that the book is nuanced and explores difficult issues like the role of medication in treatment and the different ways that people deal with hopelessness.
Due to references to people like Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Frank Kafka the book was like a trip down memory lane for me. I especially had a fan girl moment when he mentioned Emily Dickinson’s ‘I Felt a Funeral in My Brain.’ This was one of my favourite poems while studying her poetry at sixth form. Also, I never considered Frank Kafka’s Metamorphosis which I studied during GCSE Drama to be a metaphor for an experience related to mental health illness, so that was a new revelation. Can you tell by now that I really miss studying English Literature? The book definitely deserves all the rave reviews that it received and it was a great read.
Lastly, below is a short extract from the book that I feel is pertinent for everyone.
The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them from to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind.
To be calm becomes a revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.