Reasons to Stay Alive

By | November 3, 2017

RReasonseasons to Stay Alive, by Matt Haig – A book review by AVP Scotland Volunteer, Mary Kennedy

I picked up this book recently from a charity shop. It caught my eye with its title and came with plenty of recommendations including, on it’s back cover Jo Brand’s ‘A really good read and essential to our collective well-being’.

I agree with Jo Brand and the others.

For me this was an easy read. I am a survivor of mental illness and identified with so much of Matt’s journey. I found it inspiring, I enjoyed his sense of humour, and often found it reassuring. I am finding this and other survivors stories helpful in my own work with AVP around mental illness. I will be drawing from his book on the Scottish Mental Health First Aid courses I lead and in the AVP workshops I facilitate!

I certainly identified with Matt’s stories of his dark struggles with depression and anxiety and with the long and up and down recovery aided hugely by his amazingly insightful, supportive and loving partner. In my darkest days my husband knew me well enough to nudge me, often against my own tide of incoming terror to get on and go for the uncomfortable rather than the alternative options.

The first chapter, where Matt describes one of his worst days which could so easily have been his last, caught me and held my attention. After this I found the book hard to put down and for a few days it was my companion. I put it down briefly to eat, walk the dog and sleep basically….!

What is clear to me now is the vital need to establish and then to maintain control of your life again once the dangerous phase of the illness has passed. In the dangerous days there can be a necessary surrender to external control for example hospitalisation and medical treatment. Later getting control back can be a struggle especially through the treacle of exhaustion.

I expect some of you may already have read this book ….if not and you are in recovery from mental illness yourself or know someone else who is and are looking for some insight I recommend this book.