Reasons to stay alive
- You are on another planet. No one understands what you are going through. But actually, they do. You don’t think they do because the only reference point is yourself. You have never felt this way before, and the shock of the descent is traumatising you, but others have been here. You are in a dark, dark land with a population of millions.
- Things aren’t going to get worse. You want to kill yourself. That is as low as it gets. There is only upwards from here.
- You hate yourself. That is because you are sensitive. Pretty much every human could find a reason to hate themselves if they thought about it as much as you did. We’re all total bastards, us humans, but also totally wonderful.
- So what, you have a label? ‘Depressive’. Everyone would have a label if they asked the right professional.
- That feeling you have, that everything is going to get worse, is just a symptom.
- Minds have their own weather systems. You are in a hurricane. Hurricanes run out of energy eventually. Hold on.
- Ignore stigma. Every illness had stigma once. We fear getting ill, and fear tends to lead to prejudice before information. Polio used to be erroneously blamed on poor people, for instance. And depression is often seen as a ‘weakness’ or personality failing.
- Nothing lasts for ever. This pain won’t last. The pain tells you it will last. Pain lies. Ignore it. Pain is a debt paid off with time.
- Minds move. Personalities shift. To quote myself, from The Humans: ‘Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. Which is to say, don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars.’
- You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.
Friends, family, acceptance, sharing, knowing the black dog will leave eventually. #reasonstostayalive
Very simply my children. They didn’t ask to be born to a mum who at times struggles to keep it together.
#reasonstostayalive Yoga. Couldn’t be without it.
#reasonstostayalive Realising it was ok to be ill and that there were no quick fixes.
The hole you’d leave is bigger than the pain you suffer by being. #reasonstostayalive
To spite yourself for those intermittent spiteless days and moments that are HD quality wonderful as a result.
There are moments and days when the fog lifts. Those times are glorious. #reasonstostayalive
My #reasonstostayalive? The future. The undiscovered country. To find and meet other people who appreciate corny Star Trek references.
#reasonstostayalive The days start lengthening after December 21. Something to cling to in the dark times.
My only reason to stay alive is my best friend. #reasonstostayalive
because even though I’m in constant pain, I have the most supportive people around me, and the best books to read. #reasonstostayalive
#reasonstostayalive I still haven’t seen Iceland where my ashes will be scattered.
#reasonstostayalive To spite cancer, Bipolar and all the other things trying to kill me young.
The surgeons worked so hard to give me the future that I deserve to have. #reasonstostayalive
#reasonstostayalive Since the other option isn’t flexible.
How to live (forty pieces of advice)
- Appreciate happiness when it is there.
- Sip, don’t gulp.
- Be gentle with yourself. Work less. Sleep more.
- There is absolutely nothing in the past that you can change. That’s basic physics.
- Beware of Tuesdays. And Octobers.
- Kurt Vonnegut was right. ‘Reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found.’
- Listen more than you talk.
- Don’t feel guilty about being idle. More harm is probably done to the world through work than idleness. But perfect your idleness. Make it mindful.
- Be aware that you are breathing.
- Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.
- Hate is a pointless emotion to have inside you. It is like eating a scorpion to punish it for stinging you.
- Go for a run. Then do some yoga.
- Shower before noon.
- Look at the sky. Remind yourself of the cosmos. Seek vastness at every opportunity, in order to see the smallness of yourself.
- Be kind.
- Understand that thoughts are thoughts. If they are unreasonable, reason with them, even if you have no reason left. You are the observer of your mind, not its victim.
- Do not watch TV aimlessly. Do not go on social media aimlessly. Always be aware of what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Don’t value TV less. Value it more. Then you will watch it less. Unchecked distractions will lead you to distraction.
- Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it. Let it go, like the Snow Queen in Frozen.
- Don’t worry about things that probably won’t happen.
- Look at trees. Be near trees. Plant trees. (Trees are great.)
- Listen to that yoga instructor on YouTube, and ‘walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet’.
- Live. Love. Let go. The three Ls.
- Alcohol maths. Wine multiplies itself by itself. The more you have, the more you are likely to have. And if it’s hard to stop at one glass, it will be impossible at three. Addition is multiplication.
- Beware of the gap. The gap between where you are and where you want to be. Simply thinking of the gap widens it. And you end up falling through.
- Read a book without thinking about finishing it. Just read it. Enjoy every word, sentence, and paragraph. Don’t wish for it to end, or for it to never end.
- No drug in the universe will make you feel better, at the deepest level, than being kind to other people.
- Listen to what Hamlet – literature’s most famous depressive – told Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
- If someone loves you, let them. Believe in that love. Live for them, even when you feel there is no point.
- You don’t need the world to understand you. It’s fine. Some people will never really understand things they haven’t experienced. Some will. Be grateful.
- Jules Verne wrote of the ‘Living Infinite’. This is the world of love and emotion that is like a ‘sea’. If we can submerge ourselves in it, we find infinity in ourselves, and the space we need to survive.
- Three in the morning is never the time to try and sort out your life.
- Remember that there is nothing weird about you. You are just a human, and everything you do and feel is a natural thing, because we are natural animals. You are nature. You are a hominid ape. You are in the world and the world is in you. Everything connects.
- Don’t believe in good or bad, or winning and losing, or victory and defeat, or up and down. At your lowest and at your highest, whether you are happy or despairing or calm or angry, there is a kernel of you that stays the same. That is the you that matters.
- Don’t worry about the time you lose to despair. The time you will have afterwards has just doubled its value.
- Be transparent to yourself. Make a greenhouse for your mind. Observe.
- Read Emily Dickinson. Read Graham Greene. Read Italo Calvino. Read Maya Angelou. Read anything you want. Just read. Books are possibilities. They are escape routes. They give you options when you have none. Each one can be a home for an uprooted mind.
- If the sun is shining, and you can be outside, be outside.
- Remember that the key thing about life on earth is change. Cars rust. Paper yellows. Technology dates. Caterpillars become butterflies. Nights morph into days. Depression lifts.
- Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you most need to make time to relax.
- Be brave. Be strong. Breathe, and keep going. You will thank yourself later.