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Reasons to Stay Alive

An optimistic memoir about depression and anxiety

By Matt Haig
15-minute read
Audio available
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive (2015) tells the story of Matt Haig’s struggle with depression and anxiety, which was so severe that he had constant panic attacks and feared leaving the house. It reveals how Haig learned to channel his natural intensity into the creation of art and developed some unusual techniques for easing his distressed mind.

  • Memoir lovers who want to read a heartfelt story of personal growth
  • Social workers and psychologists who want a glimpse of what’s going on in their clients’ heads 
  • People struggling with depression and anxiety who want to borrow some faith and optimism

Matt Haig is the author of the widely acclaimed memoirs Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet. He’s also the author of six best-selling novels for adults, including How to Stop Time, The Humans and The Radleys. He’s sold over a million books in the United Kingdom, and his work has been translated into over 40 languages.

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Reasons to Stay Alive

An optimistic memoir about depression and anxiety

By Matt Haig
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Synopsis

Reasons to Stay Alive (2015) tells the story of Matt Haig’s struggle with depression and anxiety, which was so severe that he had constant panic attacks and feared leaving the house. It reveals how Haig learned to channel his natural intensity into the creation of art and developed some unusual techniques for easing his distressed mind.

Key idea 1 of 9

Matt Haig suddenly began to experience intense anxiety, and it affected every aspect of his life.

On a warm sunny day in Ibiza, Spain, Matt Haig experienced a rush of panic so intense that he couldn't get out of bed. He was 24 years old, and had been living in a beautiful villa with his girlfriend, working at a nightclub over the summer.

He'd been drinking a lot and was sometimes worried about what to do with his life, but up until then he hadn't felt particularly depressed. Then the panic began.

For three days, Haig could neither sleep nor get out of bed. The panic was constant, unrelenting. His heart pounded so hard he felt sure he would die.

The key message here is: Matt Haig suddenly began to experience intense anxiety, and it affected every aspect of his life.

At one stage, the feeling of panic became unbearable, and Haig seriously thought about taking his own life. He even went and stood at the edge of a cliff near the villa, willing himself to jump off. But the thought of the pain his death would cause his loved ones held him back.

His girlfriend, Andrea, was, understandably, very worried. She insisted they visit a doctor, who prescribed some tranquilizers. They didn't help much, but at least they dulled Haig’s senses long enough to allow him to return home to the United Kingdom, where his parents were anxiously waiting.

To an outsider, their lives in the United Kingdom might have seemed very peaceful. Haig lounged around the house, read the paper, did some cooking. But his thoughts were anything but peaceful. He was in the grip of a toxic combination of depression and anxiety. While the depression filled him with dark thoughts, making him feel worthless and futureless, the anxiety flooded him with constant panic.

Even a trip to the corner store became a major ordeal. Haig would set off to buy something simple like a bottle of milk, and start hyperventilating as soon as he left the house. He'd start hallucinating that demons were taunting him, or imagine that something terrible was about to happen.

Inside the shop, his anxiety would become even worse. He'd become so overwhelmed by all the products with their bright labels that he could barely find the milk. When he finally found it, he still had to suffer through a social interaction with the cashier, trying desperately to appear normal.

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