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matt haig

There are many books out there that helped mould me into the person I am today, but Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig opened my eyes more than any other book.

The best-selling author analyses our relationship with the Internet and how it affects our mental health.

Matt is often vocal about his mental health struggles, which is something I admire most about the author.

 

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His honesty is heavy at times, but necessary. He filled Notes on a Nervous Planet with words of wisdom that are bound to change the way you view the world.

I simply couldn’t put the book down, it was practically glued to my hands for 24 hours.

As someone who struggles with mental health issues, I found Matt Haig’s honesty reassuring and comforting. His words made me, and many others, realise that you are not alone in your battle.

One of the most thought-provoking parts of the book is the chapter in which Matt discusses the pressure we put on ourselves to do everything. He advises readers to change the way they think about what we can do in life.

We often worry about the things we’ll never get to do, but he urged us to focus on what we can achieve and what we can enjoy.

“To enjoy life, we might have to stop thinking about what we will never be able to read and watch and say and do, and start to think of how to enjoy the world within our boundaries.”

We need to cut ourselves some slack. Sure there are millions of movies to watch and books to read and places to visit. Realistically, we’ll never be able to visit every single place or tune into every single movie, but what we can do is revel in the ones we do have time for.

 

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Maybe I’ll never visit Asia or Texas.

Maybe I’ll never get time to read War and Peace or Lord of the Flies.

Maybe I’ll never watch Star Wars or The Princess Bride.

However, this book helped me accept that we just can’t do everything in our time on this nervous planet and that is perfectly fine.

You can purchase a copy of Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig here.

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The countdown to Christmas Day is officially underway. There are mere days to go until December 25 arrives; a day filled with merriment, family, twinkly lights and turkey.

I’ll be rocking the matching pyjamas, singing along to Last Christmas and toasting to 2019 as my nearest and dearest gather at Nanny’s house.

As excited as I am for the holidays, it is important to remember that this time of the year isn't merry and bright for everyone, especially for people who are struggling with mental health issues.

Mental health disorders aren’t going to take the day off or magically vanish when you sit down to watch Love Actually. I wish they would, but they don't.

There’s a lot of pressure placed on society to act like all is well just because the holidays are here. For those with anxiety, depression, OCD and other mental health disorders, it can feel impossible to simply put on a ‘brave face’ for the sake of the extended family. 

We try our best to keep up appearances but I think it is very important to remember that you shouldn’t feel ashamed or disappointed in yourself if you find the holidays difficult. Having a mental health disorder is a constant battle. You can’t just pop a plaster over it and carry on with your day.

Living with anxiety has taught me that there will be good days and there will be bad days. It is a disorder you manage, not banish, unfortunately. Another thing, and possibly the best thing, this disorder has taught me is that there is help out there. Never ever be afraid to reach out to a friend or relative if you're feeling particularly bad. 

You may feel like you're 'ruining' Christmas, but that couldn't be further from the truth. There is never a bad time to reach out and seek help, Christmas or not. Your best friend will be there to hug you on the bad days. Your sister will help you find a counsellor. Your dad will listen when you're ready to talk about what you're experiencing.

As hard as it can be, you must hold on to every ounce of hope.

Matt Haig sums it up perfectly:

“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.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Remind yourself of Matt’s words when you’re struggling over the Christmas break. I understand that it can be unbearably hard time for a heartbreaking amount of people, but don’t lose hope.

As Matt said, life is always worth it.

You can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.

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In the beginning, there were a lot of bad mental health days but then things started to get better.

I started to manage my anxiety and the clouds of negative thoughts slowly started to clear in my mind.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I thought my anxiety was gone. I naively thought I was ‘cured’. I was too ignorant to realise that mental health disorders don’t just magically vanish. They’re something you have to manage for life.

My anxiety reappeared in May, 2018, on one of the hardest days of my life. The memory of this day is one that will never leave my mind, I remember it all too well.

I was curled up in bed, engulfed in my copy of The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill when I heard a strange noise from the room next to mine.

Was someone snoring or coughing? I wasn’t quite sure, but my gut told me to check what it was.

I opened the door to find my mam turned over on her side in bed, but she wasn’t asleep. She was having what we later discovered was a seizure.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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She was shaking uncontrollably, foaming at the mouth, making this horrid gurgling noise because her brain had shut down and her body was struggling to breathe.

I held her grey, lifeless body in my arms and just yelled and yelled until my dad and sister came upstairs to find us. We shouted at the paramedics to hurry up and get here because as I clung onto my mam, I genuinely thought she was dead, we all did.

I sat in the James’s Hospital A&E for thirteen hours, waiting, hoping and praying my mam was okay. And she was.

The doctors explained to us that mam had a seizure, but have yet to find the cause, but they upped her medication, schedule constant appointments and are pretty pleased with how she is doing at the moment.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Mam is happy and healthy, but ever since that harrowing day I have been a ball of anxiety. The trauma of nearly losing her triggered my anxiety and let it attack when I was at my most vulnerable and I must admit I haven’t been able to manage it as well as I used to.

I am jumpy at home whenever I hear an unusual noise. I wake up in the middle of the night to make sure mam is okay. Dozens of thoughts whizzing through my mind: Is she breathing? Has she taken her medication? Will she be okay when I’m at work?

My parents tell me there’s nothing to worry about, but my brain disagrees. It’s full of panic and dread every single day.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The heart palpitations are back. The rapid breathing is back. The negative thinking is back. And I have accepted that.

I learned how to live with anxiety before and I know I can do it again.

There are days when I let my anxiety take over because I simply don’t have the energy to fight it, but one thing I’ll always remind myself of is that I am stronger than it, even on those days when I just want to give up.

I have accepted my anxiety. I have accepted the bad days, the panic attacks and the constant worrying, but I never let myself forget that this too shall pass.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature you can contact Pieta House 24/7 Helpline 1800 247 247 or the Samaritans Helpline 116 123.

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