On Reading and Reasons To Stay Alive
Since being diagnosed with depression, I've been constantly looking for ways to work through it as well as my anxiety. The main activity I have been completing for CBT sessions is a Daily Activities plan. Two of the things I struggle with the most are concentration and drive. My interest in completing activities intended for enjoyment completely dwindled simply because I struggle to find enjoyment in them. I'll be trying to read a book or watch a film, but my mind has been wandering throughout. I'll have no idea what's going on, who characters are, and have found myself re-reading the same page dozens of times or rewinding the same scene over and over. As you can imagine, it becomes tiresome pretty quickly, but what feels even more exhausting, is how my mind will begin to focus on time. I'll be so conscious that I am wasting time and thinking how my time would be better spent doing something else (
what this something else is, I don't have a clue...
) so I end up avoiding these activities altogether, and end up mindlessly scrolling through nothingness online instead.
Reading is something I always wanted to dive into. I've always greatly admired anyone who can demolish a book in a single sitting, read for hours on end or even just keep up a frequent reading habit. Their ability to absorb words, as well as broaden their knowledge, creativity and intelligence in the process leaves me in awe. From when I was sixteen to when I was twenty, I would say that (besides bits and pieces I read for university) I probably read a grand total of 5/6 books at most. I would start a book and it would take me months to get half way through. Over the past couple of years, whilst my reading amount has greatly improved from this, the work put in to get through the pages hasn't significantly declined.
At one time, every other line would be greeted by an intrusive thought. It would grab hold of me and wouldn't let go until I put the book down all together. It was like a snarky bully. It would wait for the quiet moments, usually just as I was starting to get lost in the words, when it would remind me that it was still there to mock me.
Ha ha! You thought about those horrible things again!
Although I've moved on from these for the most part - they like to reappear occasionally, but fade away fairly quickly as they have less of an impact now - in more recent times it's more like my head has been muffled in a dark cloud. I'd open a book, but the words didn't mean anything. They were just a jumble of letters grouped together in words, dropped into sentences, lost in paragraphs; all of which were an incoherent blur. No matter how many times I reread them, they didn't make any more sense. Nothing would compute. Even if I forced myself to stick with it and ignored the parts I couldn't grasp, I wouldn't be able to tell you too much about any of it afterwards.
Desperate to kindle a relationship with reading as well as fix what is going on up top, I found myself in the self help section of Waterstones, scouring the shelves for Matt Haig's
Reasons To Stay Alive
. I didn't realise how self conscious I would feel as I searched. Positioned next to the in-store cafe, I felt like I could feel the eyes of those sipping on lattes and munching on carrot cake burning into my back. In reality, it was unlikely that anyone was paying attention to what I was doing, but my mind asked the questions and commented for them.
What's wrong with her? What a weirdo! Why does
In an attempt to dismiss the thoughts, I continued my search and ended up leaving the store with both Reasons To Stay Alive and Ruby Wax's new book -
A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled
. I was then greeted at the till by a smiley lady, who spoke to me about how she was looking forward to reading Wax's book too. She won't have known how comforting I found this after having an anxious moment just before.
When I returned home from shopping, I made a beeline for Reason's To Stay Alive, and collapsed on the sofa with it. I read. I napped. I read. I stayed up until one in the morning reading and finished it in under a day. I couldn't bring myself to put it down. I naturally felt myself clinging onto the book. I had finally found something that was telling me what I wanted and needed to hear. Something that was blunt, honest, but safe. Despite knowing it would be there in the morning, it was as though I couldn't bear to miss out on anything for a moment longer. I found myself nodding along and taking pictures of the pages I wanted to remember or go back to. I was so relieved to feel understood.
Haig bravely talks in detail about his experience with depression; from his lowest points through to making steps towards recovery. Describing how he felt, the ways in which it would cause him to act and how he fought to get to where he is today. Of course I did not relate to all aspects of the book, for everyone's story is different, but it is endlessly reassuring to know that what I'm going through is normal and that I am most certainly not alone. This book is one I would urge anyone, whether they struggle with mental illness or not, to read. It's an in-depth look into the world of depression, as well as an insightful and reassuring read for both those struggling and caring for loved ones. Whenever you next find yourself in a bookstore or perusing online for a new book to read and not knowing what to pick, please consider choosing this one. Haig has helped me see positives during this rough period of my life, and has inspired me to continue reading and writing my way out of the dark. It's definitely getting easier every day and I would love for this book to help you too! Thank you Matt Haig!