Matt Haig is quickly becoming a literary hero of mine. His latest book 'Reasons to Stay Alive' is an inspiration. I read it in one sitting on Clapham Common. To my delight, I felt I had spent time with a friend whose honesty, wisdom and wit reassured me like a lighthouse beaming brightly over choppy waters.


Like 'The Humans' , 'Reasons to Stay Alive' probes with insight and good humour into what it truly means to be human and happy.  But unlike 'The Humans' this is a personal account of Haig's own life battling with depression and anxiety; those 'choppy waters.' And I was comforted by his story. I made connections and comparisons with my own life and similar, previous struggles. But I was also inspired by his positive, sensitive approach to what is often a difficult subject. On many occasions I found myself either nodding in agreement or close to tears. At many points I wanted to jump up on the Common and punch the air like a cheesy character at the end of a life affirming film. This is what Haig does best; he is like the best of friends who knows just how to cheer you up and straighten you out because he has been to the edge (quite literally) and lived to tell the tale.

A particular chapter I enjoyed included his account of going to the local shop, suffering huge anxiety. The struggle he details in this shop and the interior monologue he describes is both painfully funny and truthfully painful. I had similar experiences in Leeds too. Once, I was completely paralyzed with fear choosing a sandwich so I understand Haig's experience all too well. What he does so well though is to write about his difficulties with compassion and humour. We should be able to laugh as much as cry about these things.

The chapters that include fictional conversations between himself now and himself then are genius. The problem with depression is the inability to see any future, but such fictional conversations show a great strategy that could help imagine a better future. Haig's writing is in-itself imaginative, it crackles with life, and this alone is what makes 'Reasons to Stay Alive' more useful and more life-affirming than any self-help book. His personal experiences and personal 'toolkits' are more instructive, creative and humble than perhaps any other kind of psychological paper.

I would recommend this to anyone. If you have been sad, read it. If you are happy, read it. If you are alive, read it. You'll find some reasons...

© 2020 by Chris Soul. 

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