Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Review: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Depression is a beast. It robs people of so much. But there's a stigma associated with it that keeps people from seeking treatment and getting the help they need to even have a chance to come through to the other side of it. Having people who have suffered publicly admit to their struggles without shame and offer hope is huge. Matt Haig's memoir Reasons to Stay Alive is without a doubt a raw, personal account of his battle with severe depression that helps to add to the conversation about this debilitating disease.

When Haig was in his early twenties, he descended into the fugue of severe depression. He describes the crippling effects on his life as he endured both depression and anxiety for years. He lets the reader see into the deepest, darkest hole he found himself living in, telling of his own experiences, giving facts about the black dog of depression, and offering glimpses of how he found reasons to stay alive even in the bleakest of his moments. Medication didn't work for Haig so there's not much information about how helpful they can be to those suffering and in fact Haig is rather skeptical of the efficacy of drugs given his own experience but he does appreciate the ongoing and unwavering support of his girlfriend (now wife) and his family during this horrible time in his life.

The memoir itself is short but powerful. It is a bit of a pastiche, having chapters of straight narrative, chapters where Haig addresses his suffering past self, lists, and more. It is honest, emotional, and ultimately hopeful. The memoir doesn't give any easy answers to his fellow sufferers but perhaps those with severe depression will see something of themselves in it and in seeing themselves, will find a way, like Haig did, to fight against this terrible, living nightmare.

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