Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig

"You are in a hurricane. Hurricanes run out of energy eventually. Hold on!" This is one of the many valuable pieces of information Matt Haig offers to his readers in his first piece of non-fiction, 'Reasons to Stay Alive'. Haig's conversational tone about his struggles with depression and anxiety make for a very important, and at times utterly heartbreaking read. As someone who has dealt with anxiety over the last year or so, this is an incredibly poignant book with the power to help those who see no way out.

Haig is openly candid about his depression, the opening chapters recall his days of living in Ibiza, where he stood atop a cliff and contemplated about ending his life. What follows is half memoir, half self help as Haig's charming, funny and straightforward prose sets to straighten out the stigma that surrounds mental illness, but without coming across as self indulgent or pretentious. This is a brutally honest account, with short bursts on each page surrounding a specific sub-topic, such as the humour filled 'Conversations with myself' or the heart wrenching account of being unable to walk out of the house and go to the shop without succumbing to crippling fear. It is at times, so brutally honest, that it makes it more so approachable, without ever being bogged down with overwhelming science or academia. He writes a honest book for regular people, and I cannot commend him enough.
 I finished the book within a day, due to the small construction of each chapter but Haig's words refuse to leave me, they have resonated deep within myself and in some way, have altered the perspective in which I see the world.

By no means is this a traditional self-help or spirituality book, the academic facts are there but briefly, as a reference point rather than to weigh you down with numbers and statistics. Haig is not attempting to define or reshape what anxiety or depression is, rather he is sharing his story in a way that can resonate with others. Truly, Haig has voiced exactly how I felt at a time where my anxiety was crippling my every move. I was isolated from those I loved and perhaps even worse, I was isolated from myself. The figurative thought of failing University, and failing my supporting family clouded every move I made. I would forget how to speak, my breathing would increase dramatically and I sometimes felt that I would be stuck in this insufferable prison forever, like it was a punishment for something. I would never  discuss this with anyone, or try and articulate how I felt. There were times I felt worthless, alone, intolerable to others; this was all in my own head and I would never fathom the words to string a sentence together to try and begin to describe how I felt. Thankfully Haig clearly and eloquently finds the words for me and those who struggle to articulate how they feel.

This book will make you chuckle, and will no doubt cause a lump to form in your throat. But it is one of the most important, life affirming books I have read in years, so I urge you to give it and try. We all experience forms of worry, or anxiety. We struggle to pay our bills, worry about climbing up the social/buisness ladder, whether or not we'll find our soul mate, but sometimes we are quick to use terms like 'depression' or 'anxiety' as presupposed adjectives, rather than conceive them as troubling mental illnesses that need our attention. Chances are you have depression, experienced depression or you know someone with depression, and this book will be the shining star to guide you through the darkness. Even if you just want to experience a fresh perspective on the world, please just take the time to read this truly astonishing piece of work; to end on Haig's fifth reason to stay alive, "You will one day experience joy that matches this pain."


  1. Brilliant review, Kieran. Glad you are feeling better too. Anxiety troubles us perfectionists, doesn't it? We want to make our family so proud and I know you definitely do! Keep reading and reviewing, loved reading this.


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