Read this book, give it to your friends to read, this is a book that could save a life. Genuinely.
It sheds insight on depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts in a relatable and understanding way. Haig does not rely on facts and figures, he has been there and experienced it. As someone who has personally been on the edge of that cliff, it frustrates me to read things from people who clearly have never gone through this stuff but feel they have authority to comment because they’ve read some books.
You do not understand feeling suicidal unless you have been there. ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is about Haig’s journey, with all its ups and downs, to a point where he feels there are reasons to keep going. It is candid and I imagine, a difficult read for some. But, most importantly, it is hopeful. It always helps to know that there are people on the planet who have felt the way you do and have got through it. Even if it seems impossible.
It inspired me to write my own list of reasons to stay alive. That is something I needed just yesterday when I was almost admitted to hospital (but not because they had no beds…). Coming up with reasons to keep going when suicidal is almost impossible so do it when you’re feeling well. Think about things, no matter how small, that have kept you from jumping off that edge. Read that list when things get bad. Maybe it will help, maybe it won’t but it’s worth a try!
“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 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 kind of 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.”
It is a radical act to be happy in the society we live in. If you, like me, feel disengaged with capitalism and politics, being happy is a big ‘fuck you’ to that. Especially if enough of us do it.
Haig recognises that everyone is unique which, in turn, means different things help for different people. There is no one size fits all for treatment of mental illness. This is so important to remember in a society where medication is the go to and therapies are under funded and so difficult to access. My favourite thing about this book is that it isn’t preachy. There’s no ‘oh yoga really helped me so you should try it and it will fix your problems too.’ That tone of advice is so incredibly frustrating to someone with mental health issues. This book recognises that.
If you want to understand depression and anxiety better, read this book. If you want to feel like there is hope for you, read this book. If you want to know how to support friends or family, read this book.