I have just finished the incredible Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. I can’t remember the last time I was actually moved to tears by a book but that did it for me. It wasn’t his descriptions of how brutally awful depression and anxiety can be; although they definitely reminded me of some very dark days. It was the hope that resonated at the end of the book. The reflection of progress made. The list of things he now enjoys which he thought he never would again. I’ve never read a book and had to actually pause and reread the last sentence as many times because it sounds like the words have come straight from my mouth. It’s really hard when you’re in the midst of depression to see that there will ever be an end to it. That was one of the things I found so frustrating. Never knowing when it would end or get better or even if it ever would.
I held on and stayed strong for a few reasons. A major one was the love of my family and friends. I can’t imagine how it must feel for those who don’t have an amazing support system around them. I know how soul destroying depression can feel at times. Days in bed turn into weeks. The mental pain becomes physical. I remember laying on the floor of my apartment screaming into a pillow because I just needed in some way to try and release this demon from within. When I think about that now I can’t believe just how desperate I was to stop feeling broken. There was no point planning things. I wouldn’t enjoy them anyway. I could hardly string a sentence together never mind fake a smile.
Have you ever been so sad you can’t even cry? It feels like your brain has just turned to mush, you can’t do the simplest of tasks, the only minuscule hope is to just lay there and try to sleep. Sleep to forget how it feels to be awake.
But then day by day, week by week, you start doing little things. Tiny things really. You actually have an interest in watching something on TV or you eat your favourite food and can actually taste it.
I can’t really recall the time in between being really ill and starting to feel 5% alive again. I know time past, I did things, and saw people but I struggle to remember how I felt. I guess slowly every day a tiny bit of light seems to come back into your vision. You might find yourself walking through the park in the sun and smiling or thinking of a social event and laughing as you remember something that happened.
When I was at my worst someone telling me to just hold on and that things would improve probably wouldn’t have resonated with me. But it’s true. It’s a really sad fact that you have to get through to the other side of something to see that everything is survivable. You never know if tomorrow might be that day when you start to see the tiniest glimmer of hope. I guess I cried in some ways after finishing the book because I’m so glad I held on. So glad I am still here and I can still appreciate all the beautiful things in life. When you’re depressed life is grey, miserable, blurry; there is no colour or beauty to it. But once you get through that fog colours seem brighter, beautiful scenery seems almost too good to be true, and your favourite songs seem like they were written just for you.
These are a couple of my favourite passages from Reasons to Stay Alive which I really identified with.