‘The fact that this book exists is proof that depression lies.’

After I read The Humans by Haig I was excited to read more of his wonderful work. Reasons to Stay Alive is a non-fiction, biography-style mindfulness guide / mental health educational text. Very wordy, I know, but Haig certainly isn’t. His writing is conversational without being too dumbed down. This was the easiest non-fiction I have ever read; I believe the reason for this was it literally felt like I was talking to the author. Literally conversational. A wave of emotions ran over me whilst reading this, wishing I’d read it when I needed it most – so what I’m saying is – go and read it ASAP.

Haig explains his mental health experiences, addresses his opinions as well as facts. He talks about life in general via small anecdotes and mini-essays. One of my favourite chapter-openers was this one:

‘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? […] 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.’ 

Haig summarises the act of determining mental health as “other”:

‘It underlines the idea we have hammered into us by the hundred thousand TV ads we have seen that everything can be fixed by consuming things. It fosters a just-shut-up-and-take-the-pill approach, and creates […] a divide, where everyone can relax and feel ‘unreason’ – to borrow Michael Foucault’s favourite word – is being safely neutered in a society which demands we be normal even as it drives us insane.’

Haig makes some really interesting statements like this. He is very critical in his story-telling approach whilst also including much lighter-reading style essays/poems of sorts.

‘We blow out a soap bubble as long and as large as possible, although with the perfect certainty that it will burst.’

I absolutely adored his writing style. I felt so connected to it. For me, it has been the first book that I’ve read regarding mental health that actually mirrors a lot of what I’ve experienced. It’s so incredibly bizarre how weird brains are and how different yet similar people’s experiences can be!

‘How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.’

If you’re interested in reading more about mental health, but more specifically depression, anxiety and OCD, this is the book for you. It was a great starter for me and if anyone has any recommendations on non-fiction mental health critics/writers/biographies etc, I would love to hear about them. Soon I  will be reading his latest book Notes on a Nervous Planet since I enjoyed this one so so much.

5/5 stars.


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