Read an Extract from The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

Read an Extract from The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

A human, being

Your worth is you. Your worth is your presence. Your worth is right there. Your worth isn’t something you earn. Your worth isn’t something you buy. Your worth isn’t something you gain through status or popularity or stomach crunches or having a really chic kitchen. Your worth is your existence. You were born with worth, as all babies are, and that worth doesn’t disappear simply because you have grown a little older. You are a human, being.

***

Sum

We are always bigger than the pain we feel. Always. The pain is not total. When you say ‘I am in pain’, there is the pain and there is the I but the I is always bigger than the pain. Because the I is there even without the pain, while the pain is only there as a product of that I. And that I will survive and go on to feel other things.

I used to struggle with understanding this. I used to think I was the pain. I didn’t always think of depression as an experience. I thought of it as something I was. Even as I walked away from a cliff-edge in Spain. Even as I flew back to my parents’ house and told my loved ones I was going to be okay. I called myself a depressive. I rarely said ‘I have depression’ or ‘I am currently experiencing depression’ because I imagined the depression was the sum of who I was. I was mistaking the film on the screen with the cinema itself. I thought there would only ever be one film playing for all eternity, on rotation. A Nightmare on Haig Street. (Sorry.) I didn’t realise there would one day be showings of The Sound of Music and It’s a Wonderful Life.

The trouble was that I had a very binary view of things. I thought you were either well or ill, sane or insane, and once I was diagnosed with depression I felt I had been exiled to a new land, like Napoleon, and that there would be no escape back to the world I had known.

And in one sense I was right. I never really went back. I went forward. Because that is what happens, whether we try for it or not, we move forward, through time, simply by staying alive. And slowly our experiences change. I, for instance, discovered little moments of happiness or humour within despair. I realised things weren’t always one thing or another thing. They were sometimes both.

And as soon as we notice all that space inside us we have a new perspective. Yes, there is room for a lot of pain, but there is room for other things too. And indeed, pain might be a total arsehole, but it can inadvertently show us how much space we have inside. It can even expand that space. And enable us to experience the equivalent quantity of joy or hope or love or contentment at some future point in time.

So, in other words, it is important to always realise our own vastness. Our own rooms. We are multiplexes of possibility.

***

It’s okay

It’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to wear the scars of experience. It’s okay to be a mess. It’s okay to be the teacup with a chip in it. That’s the one with a story. It’s okay to be sentimental and whimsical and cry bittersweet tears at songs and movies you aren’t supposed to love. It’s okay to like what you like. It’s okay to like things for literally no other reason than because you like them and not because they are cool or clever or popular.

It’s okay to let people find you. You don’t have to spread yourself so thin you become invisible. You don’t have to always be the person reaching out. You can sometimes allow yourself to be reached. As the great writer Anne Lamott puts it: ‘Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island for boats to save; they just stand there shining.’ It’s okay not to make the most of every chunk of time. It’s okay to be who you are. It’s okay.

***

For when you reach rock bottom

You have survived everything you have been through, and you will survive this too. Stay for the person you will become. You are more than a bad day, or week, or month, or year, or even decade. You are a future of multifarious possibility. You are another self at a point in future time looking back in gratitude that this lost and former you held on. Stay.



Matt Haig is WHSmith’s Author of the Year 2021! Find out more and browse his full range of books online at WHSmith.co.uk.