Matt Haig (2015) Reasons to Stay Alive.

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This is a short enough book to read in one, longish, gulp. It begins with an admission Matt Haig makes about 2014.

Thirteen years ago I knew this couldn’t happen.

I was going to die, you see. Or go mad.

There was no way I would still be here. Sometimes I doubted I would even make the next ten minutes…

One of the key symptoms of depression is to see no hope. No future.

A book about depression need not be depressing. We all nod at the statistics; one in four of us will suffer from a mental health problem. Then there’s the call to list people who suffered from depression to show how normal it is. Matt Haig does it. Gawp at pages 166-168 which list some celebrities. We all know about, for example, Princess Di and Winston Churchill and the black dog of depression. I didn’t know about Halle Berry. I wasn’t shocked. I don’t really care enough to be shocked. I’m indifferent. I’ve a knee-jerk reaction to Tories like Churchill, but depression humanises him. When I hear about somebody committing suicide I don’t find it that weird, or strange. Life is like that. Diseases like depression and dementia are democratic. It doesn’t really matter who you are or what you do, or how much money you have, you can suffer from depression. You can get dementia.

I also like Haig’s admission that depression can be strength rather than a weakness. It’s a perspective that offers futility as a starting point and humility as a finishing point. When you think you are, the worst you can be, then that warped vision sometime allows you to see other’s clearly.  Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression all his life. It wasn’t black and white, but a humaniser in inhuman times. Lincoln, like Churchill, was a leader, not a follower of fashions.

Haig offers Reasons to be strong. We know them, family, friends…but it’s the kind of reminder you get at AA meetings. One slip and its downward. Here we’re talking to the better self that listens and responds.

The trick is to befriend depression and anxiety.

I like that idea. But then my mind goes off on a tangent, if Jesus was to fight Buddha in a square go, who would win?

Haig’s better self needs to write. I get that too. I need to write. To create. And hope there will be somebody to read what I’ve written. The better self, like the lower self, does not live in isolation. Our smallness is our strength. When we lose the path we need to seek others to haul us up. Andrea, Haig’s wife, is the hero here, but so is he. He calls us all to be heroes. As Bertolt Brecht says, ‘Unhappy is the land that breeds no heroes. No Andrea, Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.’  Haig asks for enough room to flourish and make choices. We don’t need more stuff. Reading is a kind of superpower. But the krypton is social networking sites like Facebook. I guess we talk the talk. All the rest is bullshit. That’s a depressing thought. This short book is a delight. Taste it and see. Use your superpower, and read on.

Storyville, Under the Wire, BBCiPlayer

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0002k62/storyville-under-the-wire

Unhappy is the land that needs heroes Bertolt Brecht.

A Private War directed by Matthew Heinemann and staring Rosamund Pike as the heroic shambles that was Marie Colvin is in cinemas now. I see no need to see it. It’s all here in Under the Wire. Based on a book by Paul Conroy and his experience in the massacres at Homs. Here we are at the last stand.

13th  February 2012, war-correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy entered war-ravaged Syria. Homs.

Taste and see.

No sense of victory.

Through the lens of an eye

We witness a baby die

Her rage is pure

That’s no me

And not you

Common sense advises us not to pry

Humanity hunts and dies here

In a world of fear

Homs an exit strategy and obscenity

Little trace and little trade

Clinics bombed and shot

Barbed wire in every cot

Put stuff on a chair

It’s no longer there

On a bloody easy bed

Whoosh, barrel bombs and gas

World splintered and gone mad

Tourniquet on a leg

Three feet and so many dead

A reporter for The Sunday Times

Reports victims of war crimes

Assad you war criminal and crook

Where no words can cross the void

Vanity, vanity, vanity, of the house of Assad

May god judge you –soon

We pray every day

A black eye patch will appear

To tell hell how it was when you were here

Your legacy will be not judged by history

But the best you put to rest

A Dangerous Dynasty: The House of Assad, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director Nick Green.