“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.” Matt Haig, Reasons To Stay Alive.
I haven’t been posting as regularly just recently. The truth is I’m having a bit of a rough patch with regards to my anxiety disorder.
I know how that sounds.
It’s pretty hipster at the moment to say you have anxiety, but trust me, there’s nothing hipster about having panic attacks in public places.
Anyway, if you or someone you love suffers with anxiety, here are 5 books I would recommend reading. There is even a YA book in there for teenagers.
1. Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig
This is the literary equivalent of someone giving you a great big hug and telling you everything is going to be alright.
When he was 24 and living in Ibiza, Matt Haig left his villa and walked to the edge of a cliff with the intention of killing himself. He didn’t go through with it. This is the book of what happened next. Spoiler: his depression and anxiety slowly improved. His life got better.
Part memoir, part self help book, Haig describes *exactly* how it feels to have anxiety – both the mental and physical symptoms. Most importantly, he writes about how to stop fighting anxiety and seeing it as a character flaw. He also gives advice for those supporting loved ones with the disorder.
It is written with a wry sense of humour. I particularly like the chapter ‘Things That Have Happened To Me That Have Generated More Sympathy Than Depression.’ His list includes:
Accidentally setting my leg on fire.
Bad Amazon reviews.
Very importantly, the book makes you realise that nothing lasts forever, even bouts of depression. This is my go to book every time I have a panic attack.
2. Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax
This book is great in helping you understand, in layman’s terms, what is happening to your body and brain when you have depression and anxiety. The science is very accessible and Ruby Wax’s voice throughout the book is very entertaining. Once again, it has anecdotes from Wax’s personal experience.
The second half of the book is an entire section of suggested mindfulness activities – basically the only proven way (so far) for the brain to rewire itself into a non anxious brain.
3. The Little CBT Workbook
As people who suffer with anxiety and depression often have low self esteem as well, this is a practical workbook to help you to monitor and question unhelpful ways of thinking (assuming the worst, jumping to conclusions, negative self talk etc). Best to take each chapter slowly and work on each one a week at a time as you would if you were to see a CBT counsellor.
4. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
This is a fiction book for young adults by the same author who wrote the Shopaholic series. It is about a girl called Audrey who is too anxious to leave the house and who insists on wearing sunglasses all day long to avoid eye contact.
Whilst this is fiction, it does give a clear explanation to teenagers about Audrey’s “lizard brain” and the flight or fight response through the narrative. Any teenager with an anxiety disorder will be able to recognise something of themselves in Audrey.
The book gives hope, without being unrealistic – there is no magic wand for Audrey to ‘cure’ her of anxiety but we see her gradually learn to accept and cope with her condition.
5. Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford
I’m sure we’ve all seen the adult colouring books on sale just about everywhere but Johanna Basford’s are, to me, the most aesthetically pleasing.
Basford’s drawings are beautifully intricate and just like ‘Where’s Wally’ there are hidden items to find, such as a crown or treasure chest or key.
Perhaps we should question a society that makes adults so stressed out they they need to colour to calm down, but regardless, the act of colouring is a shortcut to mindfulness. When your mind is completely focused on something, there is no room for anxious thoughts to creep in.
I hope you find these books as helpful as I have. Hopefully, I’ll be back soon on a more regular basis.
If anyone has any other suggestions of books for depression and anxiety to help others (fiction or non-fiction) please add it to the comments below.