Thursday, June 7, 2018

Why Do You Stay Alive?

Two weeks ago I took two books home to read by the end of May. A big one and a little one. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s autobiography and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Naturally I picked up the little one first cause it wasn't going to take very long to read before I started the brick-sized book of Martin Luther King.

Well. Theory is one thing and reality is another. Matt Haig's book is a compelling read that a fast reader could whip through in a time of dedicated reading. But that would be doing him and his book an injustice.

Matt Haig is a best-selling author who is married with a couple of children. (I did a bit of work on the Google while taking reading breaks.) By all accounts, he is an accomplished man who have people who loves him and who he loves. In addition to his creative talents and his identity as a spouse and father, Matt has another facet to his life - mental illness. It is easy to look at successful people who have found love and who family in their lives and assume they are happy. But we forget each and every one of us has a history and a life full of details that we choose not to lay bare at the feet of anyone who knows of us. Kate Spade comes to mind as I write this - her death by suicide after years of depression came as a shock to those who felt they knew Kate through her designer handbags.

Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses lie to those people who live with them. I know this because depression is not an unknown entity in my life or those I love. Matt found himself suddenly and completely disabled at the age of 24 by mental illness. With his parents and girlfriend supporting him, Matt crawled out from under his illness over a long period of time. He still has moments when the illness tries to take back power over his mind and life but he has managed to choose life over death for nearly twenty years.

Reasons to Stay Alive is a recounting and description of his debilitating illness and his subsequent recovery. It is a challenging and difficult read. It is also a story of hope and encouragement. It is an excellent read to have a better understanding of the impact that mental illness has on a person's life (and those who love that person). We would never ask someone with a broken leg to help us move our furniture and yet, people who live with mental illness, are often told they are lazy and/or unwilling to get better when they are unable to participate fully in their lives. Mental illness is very real. And it can be incapacitating. The more of us who understand mental illness, whether we have it or not, the better our world will be.

The bookends of this book have photos of reasons why people choose to stay alive. Here's my reason to stay alive.
What is your reason to stay alive? Feel free to post a photo in the comments of this blog or on my Facebook post. And then go read the book. As always, if you want to borrow my copy, drop in to the church and I'll lend it to you.

PS. I'll read about Martin Luther King next week. 😊

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