How Matt Haig’s Book Helped Me Through Life & Climate Anxiety
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
You can easily tell when I’m not in a good mental and emotional state.
not produce any blog posts
not post anything on social media
not go out to social events
And if you see my YouTube channel, it’s been a while since I’ve uploaded anything.
I realised that my creative juice, or rather the will to produce something, had stopped flowing freely. It would take me a huge amount of effort to do something that previously would’ve taken me a short time.
Everything drags out.
While I think I’ve largely beaten chronic depression, I still get waves of short-term melancholy and anxiety. Each seems to last one or two weeks.
I think I know why.
It’s a combination of reasons, but it mostly comes down to my day-to-day work not completely aligning with my values and desires, thus creating a sense of unfulfillment.
I’m a go hard or go home kind of person. And I need to do things that I wholeheartedly believe in. Took me a long time to realise that but I accept that about me now. It shouldn’t have been a surprise knowing I’m an INFJ or “Advocate”.
“Advocates are likely to find that most corporate career paths are not designed for them, but for those focused on their status and material gain. Advocate personalities need to find meaning in their work and to know that they are helping and connecting with people.”
The trigger that set this recent wave of anxiety is quitting my 9-6 job and going freelance. No matter how much preparation I made for it, I still had to go through the feelings of fear, doubt and adrift.
Salvation in the form of Matt Haig’s “How to Stop Time”
I knew I had to take things slow.
Since I could afford to that, I decided to start reading Matt Haig’s book that my housemate, Suba, just finished. She said she liked it and I got intrigued.
It was an easy read from the get-go. It’s about this man Tom Hazard who has been alive for 400-something years. Now before you assume it’s another vampire story – it’s not. It just goes with the premise that there are some people born with the condition of ageing very slowly.
The opposite of Benjamin Button.
And it’s not a creepy story either. It’s just a story that follows Tom who is holding on to life because his mother told him to keep living and he needed to find his daughter who had the same condition.
While I can’t relate to being over 400 years old, I can relate to having thought about life being this experience that moves forward yet with similar old threads still weaved in with the new.
History repeats itself
No matter how much the human race has “progressed” through time, we still repeat the same mistakes and enhancing the same achievements.
Yes, we might not be going through the same World War II or the same Great Depression, but war is still happening and poor people get poorer.
While we create new technologies to make our lives seemingly convenient, we have destroyed nature along the way. We are bound for resource depletion and climate catastrophe, which would probably end up in another global war.
Unless we come to our senses, uncloak our ego and work together for a sustainable future.
Thinking that there’s no way humans would easily do that, considering our selfish and materialistic desires, I thought we are doomed.
So what’s the point of doing anything?
What’s the point of creating social media posts that people are just going to scroll past?
What’s the point of tiring my fingers typing out 1,000-word blog posts that wouldn’t reach many eyes?
What’s the point of making “what I eat in a day” videos when people are still going to keep eating meat?
These thoughts keep circling in my head and there’s no wonder why I couldn’t create anything of value.
I couldn’t hold on to any value.
I was lost.
There is always hope
Despite the doom and gloom, the book reminded me that there is always something in us that craves for something good.
One of the rules that Tom and the likes of him had to adhere to was not to get attached to anyone else. But when Tom meets this woman, he was drawn to her. And we’re talking about a man who had not been with a woman since his first love some 400 years ago.
No matter how much we suppress something, there’s an innate desire in us to want something pure, be it love, beauty, companionship or meaning.
Even though it seems like the world now is mostly run by egotistical maniacs, there are always opposing forces that truly want the best for others.
And now there are not just politicians, but mere civilians who are using their power to advocate for all kinds of justice.
As I am primarily interested in climate change, I’m amazed at this 16-year-old, Greta Thunberg, who is speaking out to world leaders for climate justice.
There’s hope in the future generation.
Don’t be too paranoid
Paranoia creates anxiety which prevents a person from seeing the bigger picture.
Without much proof, Tom was given the impression that his kind was being hunted down. So he was told not to tell anyone about his condition. And if any normal human knows, they would be killed off.
Although this threat was not explored much in the book, it was revealed that such paranoia was actually preventing Tom from living life to the fullest and without fear.
His fear, anxiety and dependency on someone else blinded him from finding his daughter. He realised that in the end, and soon began to make amends. He no longer worried about the uncertainty of the future.
His final monologue sums it up perfectly.
“I am no longer drowning in my past, or fearful of my future. How can I be? The future is you.”
There’s no point dwelling on the past and worrying about the future.
What matters is the present and what you do to make the future.
There will always be problems in life.
And while ignorance is bliss, knowledge is power.
I have felt frustrated seeing people still going about their lives like business as usual.
I have felt very sad seeing fish on plates and straws in drinks.
I can’t erase the knowledge about the meat industry and the plastic waste in the ocean.
But I can use that knowledge to amplify the issue either by my voice or through my actions.
I know I will still feel depressed and numb. I would feel like doing nothing.
But then it would only take an inspiring book or a walk through nature to get me back on my feet again.
“The way you stop time is by stopping being ruled by it”