Reasons to Stay Alive #1

I’ve just finished reading ‘Reasons To Stay Alive,’ by Matt Haig . It is a shocking, raw, yet ultimately uplifting account of his lifelong battle with depression and anxiety. I devoured it in two days and took a lot of learning away from it. I would encourage anyone with mental health issues to pick up a copy of it, as it’s well worth a read. Here’s what I took away from it. Feel free to agree, disagree or comment below.

Depression, anxiety, OCD, BPD etc are all recognised illnesses. Mental illnesses, yes, but illnesses. They are nothing to be ashamed of, yet so many people hide them away like a guilty secret. If you sprain an ankle, do you avoid talking about it? We talk about our coughs and colds, aches and pains endlessly. Yet, so many still treat mental health as a taboo subject?

Why? I think a lot of it is down to lack of knowledge. It’s that awkward subject, the elephant in the room, the issue we’ve heard of but it only happens to other people and not us. How do you describe OCD to your friends and family without sounding like a raving lunatic.? Explain it to people who have little or know understanding of the illness? Aren’t we all a little bit OCD? Is it something to do with being a clean freak? Er….no.

Education is key but education cannot happen without communication. Two way communication, yes, but we as a society need to become more open and accepting to discussing such matters. Burying our heads in the sand won’t make them go away. The problem will remain, growing and festering until it becomes too late to do anything about it. We need to grab the thistle and stare these demons squarely in the eye.

We need to create an empathetic environment where individuals can feel comfortable and confident enough to speak up about their illness. Without fear of judgement, ridicule or patronising comments. Telling them to ‘snap out of it’ is not an acceptable response. Do you snap out of a broken leg? No. We need to be prepared to listen to those around us who so desperately need to talk. Actively listen.

Yes, it’s an awkward subject matter. Big, scary topics. But they won’t go away and we need to start somewhere. We need to let people know that we’re there and we care. It can be in the house, the workplace or even in this wonderful online community we call WordPress. If you see someone who you think is struggling reach out to them. Be that beacon of hope, that light in the darkness. You might just save a life.

I need to practice what I preach. I personally need to do more. It’s one of the reasons I started writing, to share my own experiences in the hope it resonated with someone and helped them with their own struggles. I remain visible and available. I’m here. Every day. I’m no expert or counsellor but I have two open ears and a willing heart. I want to help. All you have to do is ask.

I could write so much more, this is only the tip of the iceberg. And I will in the days to come. But for today I’ll leave you with some food for thought? Are you doing enough for the mental health of your loved ones? What else could, and should, you be doing? Or are you suffering in silence, an anguished prisoner in the grip of mental torment. Be brave. Speak up. Talk. Listen. Today. Please.

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 15 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

63 thoughts on “Reasons to Stay Alive #1

  1. I liked this post, but this question stuck out like a sore thumb.

    “How do you describe OCD to your friends and family without sounding like a raving lunatic.?”

    I mean, I get what you mean, but what your question begs is the reason many people can’t embrace mental health problems as a normal part of human health. When you isolate a particular group of mental health sufferers, i.e. the insane, then you are not really accepting of all diagnosis of mental health. And that’s it right there. We are dealing with extremes, and no one wants to be extremely mentally ill, and suggesting that one is mentally ill at all is a slippery slope, especially when considereing that the facilities that treat mental illness tend to abuse the human rights of those deemed mentally ill! No one want to be a “vegetable” either, which is like the extreme of being physically ill. No one wants to be known as sexually impotent or even having a challenge sexually. These things bring embarrassment to sufferers and fear to those who might know or come across them. So, we need to be able to make a statement on mental health that includes the extreme cases. Yes, even those who are psychopathic and criminally insane. If we can’t, then we will always be afraid of mental health and be unable to properly deal with it. My two cents.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We need to be able to give real information about treatment options so that the discussion isn’t so scary and hopeless. But therein lies the problem. I feel like the medical industry has barely even tried in this area. It’s all cancer and vaccines! Can we please do something to help people who live with crippling anxiety and unwanted thoughts and phobias ?! Freud really hurt people with his BS theories . We need more brain and metabolic and genetic research. That’s where the answers await us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Fractured Faith! I recently read “Reasons to Stay Alive”, too, and really enjoyed it. As someone who has and does suffer from depression, a lot of the author’s descriptions of what it feels like to be depressed resonated with me. But I also appreciated his awareness that mental illnesses like depression can lead us to do great things, if we’re able to endure them without letting them destroy us completely. He gives the example of Abraham Lincoln, and how he did great things while suffering from depression his whole life. A lot of artists, writers and other creatives use their wounds to create art. So depression isn’t necessarily a handicap. I believe it is actually our spirit’s way of communicating with us, in the same way physical pain is our body’s way of communicating that something is wrong. It’s a message to stop and reflect, perhaps change your lifestyle or your way of thinking. It can be a short-lived message or a lifelong dialogue. What needs to change probably differs from person to person. For some, I think it is their need to always be in control of something which, by its very nature, is uncontrollable – life. There is a need to submit to life’s forces and let go of whatever pain they are holding on to. Sorry for this extremely long chain of thought. Glad you enjoyed the book, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There are so many people that have suffered from mental illness throughout their lives and yet nobody notices. I was one of them. I have always been a very emotional person. As a child, I cried all the time. Everyone yelled at me to stop crying. We learn at a very young age to keep certain things to ourselves, to suffer in silence, to suck it up buttercup. Thankfully, I sought help with therapy and medication. Always keep eyes and ears and heart open to others. You might be surprised by the suffering behind that happy smile all the time. Sharing and caring with an open heart can lift the weight of the world off another’s shoulders.

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  4. I agree, more awareness needs to be shed on mental illnesses. I absolutely hate the phrase, “Snap out of it” or “suck it up.” Like you said, do we snap out of a broken leg? Of course not! Just because one can’t see the illness doesn’t mean it’s not there.
    Great post! Thanks for sharing! I haven’t read Reasons to Stay Alive but I’m going to look for it!

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  5. I suffer from depression. This week I’m grieving. I’m functioning but not (not cleaning house like I should). Stuck to my phone and blogs. Not writing but want to. Blah blah blah. It will pass but dang. Thanks for this space.

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  6. We recently had a young man share at our church about his battle with depression. As he noted, we don’t think less of someone with diabetes taking medicine. Why do we make those with mental issues feel that taking medicine is somehow not right?

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  7. Thank you for sharing this book. As someone who battles these issues, I also appreciate the post overall. Your posts help me know I’m not alone, which I know … but, well, you know 😉

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  8. Stress, depression, stress, and then – just in case you missed it the first time – stress. Coupled with low self-esteem, mild OCD and it’s ‘rich’ melting pot.

    I find your postings very incisive, and well worth reading. Also encouraging.

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  9. Just started reading the book. Thanks for recommending it. You are so right about this subject. I myself don’t shy away from talking about it, but I have experienced the condescending looks that discourage me and others.

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  10. Thank you for not shying away from tough topics. Your words resonate with so many. You help me to understand, to show empathy, to be more human. Thank you, Stephen.

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  11. A friend of mine is reading his book, “Notes on a Nervous Planet”. Apparently it is also really good. As someone who is Type II Bipolar, and also struggles with anxiety, I think I will look into his works. My anxiety and depression issues can also be triggered by my chronic illness, which makes it interesting. Thank you for sharing this!

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  12. I think that’s one problem we face a lot. We always wait for the other party to come to us. I’ve found a lot of time, we have to be the ones to open the door. Absolutely, there are some who will be open without being prompted. But so many feel in the way, or they do not open up because they do not have the truth that they can. Thanks for sharing and encouraging others!

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  13. I don’t have a mental illness, but I know that if I did, i would have a hard time admitting it. Maybe it was how I grew up, but I’ve always felt that when I’m having a problem with feelings or thinking, I need to toughen up and push through it. I know there are times when you can’t, but it’s hard to know (without diagnosis) WHEN it is no longer just dealing with life and has become something worthy of the mental illness label.
    The closest I’ve ever gotten to something I can compare it to was when I spent several months dealing with a whiplash injury. There were no broken bones, no blood, and yet I was having problems dealing with day-to-day life – it felt like my injury wasn’t REAL, even though I knew it was, and it was impacting me.
    We need to give credence to what we can’t see.
    Thanx for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you very much for your strong and encouraging words! I totally agree to what you say about dealing with this kind of stuff as a community and by communicating about it. Silencing it just makes the pain bigger and shaming it is just cruel. We all have to care more about each other and be more conscious of personal struggles.
    Thanks again and take care of yourself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I agree that stigma makes mental illnesses worse than physical illnesses. But I also think it can be dangerous to reveal too much to people who may not respond to way you want and don’t really need to know. For example, I’d never tell my employer I was bipolar, even though they suffer from my inconsistent performance. The knowledge wouldn’t help the relationship.

    I think we need to rely on the community of like minded (!) people for now, until society moves past stigma or provides cures. I think celebrities talking about their struggles is the best thing that’s moving society forward. I’m really grateful when they do that.

    Liked by 1 person

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