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There's nothing quite like forced joviality to make you feel more rubbish if you are feeling really low. A number of years ago, I had crippling Post Natal Depression at Christmas. On receipt of a lovely, well wishing text suggesting that we would be having a wonderfully snuggly time with our gorgeous new babe, I smashed my phone against the wall (terribly counter productive, resulting in hours swearing in The Apple shop with a crying baby). The fact is, shit doesn't stop happening just because its Christmas. For plenty of people out there, it will be a challenging test of endurance rather than rocking around the Christmas tree wearing a paper hat at a jaunty angle. So, for those of you feeling really rubbish, this blog is for you.
If you haven't read 'Reasons To Stay Alive' by Matt Haig, please do. In fact, give it to everyone you know. It's a book about depression which isn't depressing, nor is it preachy or insistent that you follow some kind of radical regime that involves weird things like stuffing coffee enemas up your bum and refusing conventional treatment. Matt nails the experience with his deeply moving personal account of his battle with acute depression and anxiety. With the support of his great girlfriend and family, Matt finds his way through and learns to accept and even find meaning from his debilitating illness. His account is absolutely spot on. If you have ever struggled with your mental health, reading his book will be like listening to lyrics in your 'break up' soundtrack, his words feel so true. I particularly liked this passage:
"If you have ever believed a depressive wants to be happy, you are wrong. They could not care less about the luxury of happiness. They just want to feel an absence of pain. To escape a mind on fire, where thoughts blaze and smoke like old possessions lost to arson. To be normal."
Matt tells us about his most frightening experiences, but doesn't dwell on them; instead he gives hope to the situation and reveals that depression has given him greater empathy and an ability to feel more in the world. The book isn't about well-being buzz words and Matt doesn't refer to a 'journey' unless he is actually going somewhere. If you're wondering whether or not this book is for you, it probably is. Whether you suffer mental from health issues, know someone going through this stuff or even if you just want to know more about the experience of being human and being alive, go and grab a copy.
If anyone reading this is going through a horrible time, I understand (and so does Matt). Christmas will be tough, but they'll be another one next year. I promise you that you will feel the sparkles again and they will be brighter and more sparkly than before. I always think that the best experiences and moments in life are the ones that aren't scheduled. Lurid jumpers, awful shouty songs about how it should be christmas every bloody day and getting crushed in the shops can all be appreciated another time.
PS. All Matt Haig's books are total winners. I can highly recommend them all.