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Staying Alive for the Little Things

By: Danielle Workman

I used to believe that I had to stay alive for the big things. For the most important people in my life, for those big, enormous reasons that everyone tells you to stay alive for. It felt more like a responsibility and less like an actual reason to not die. It would loom over my head right next to my depression. It would make me feel like my life was out of my control. I was living and it was out of control and I was living for things out of my control.

The depression was deeper and darker than normal and I had found myself lying in a tub of lukewarm water, playing with my phone that was just within my reach on a stool next to the bathtub. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I got on google and typed in “Reasons to Stay Alive.”

Right away the search yielded a handful of blogs with lists written by teenagers. They listed things like ‘Mom and Dad’ and ‘your friends at school’ and I felt nauseated by the thought of all of it. Mom and Dad needed to understand mental illness better and they would understand the urge. My friends felt far away and couldn't comprehend. Besides, it was MY life, why was I staying alive for THEM?

That’s when I landed on a book written by Matt Haig. It was titled “Reasons to Stay Alive” and it was on sale no less. Without a second thought, I clicked the one click purchase and relaxed into the water. I felt a glimmer of hope knowing there might be something in that book that would help me work through this depression.

Three days later I was a few chapter into the book when I stumbled upon an entry where Matt discusses that it’s okay to stay alive for the little reasons. This felt uncomfortable and new when I read it. I was always told to stay alive for my family and friends. I was told to stay alive for my job and my future. The things I was told to stay alive for were big and scary, and very vague. In this book he suggests to try to stay alive for the little things, like a cup of coffee or a favorite meal. To stay alive to finish a tv show or read a book.

So I tried it. Below are snippets of my journal entries from that time.

Day One -

I want a cup of coffee. Not the crap you get from the 7-Eleven or brew from home, but the kind you get from a real coffee house. But it’s already three in the afternoon, and there is no way I’m going to purchase a cup of coffee now. I’ll have to do it tomorrow.

That means I’ll have a good cup of coffee before I die and make it to day two.

Day Two -

I got my cup of coffee. It was wonderful, but I wanted to enjoy it with a sunrise. I could not do that because my shift starts before the sun rises. That means I won’t be able to enjoy coffee and a sunrise until this weekend...and it’s only Wednesday.

Day Five -

Enjoyed my cup of coffee on the front porch with a sunrise this morning. I think I felt like I could die happy when that happened… but I still feel empty. I searched on google and found a list of things to stay alive for (and things to do before I died). One of them suggested to stay alive for a good comedy TV show or movie, so I spent the rest of the afternoon searching for one on Netflix. I didn’t find one I liked, but I might tomorrow.

Day Seven -

I’ve stayed alive for a week longer than I thought I would. The depression seems to be fading, that or I’m coming to peace with my decision to do these things before I kill myself. I keep reading Matt Haig’s book and I keep finding ideas of things I want to do.

Day Fifteen -

I made it. I made it through the depression. It feels weird. I’m not sure how I made it through my depression, or how I survived this cycle at all. But this morning I woke up and realized I didn’t need anything to stay alive today… and that is shocking.

I’ve had to try this a few times since I these entries. But I’ve come to learn that it’s okay to stay alive for the little things. It’s okay to stay alive for anything that will help get you to the next day. To watch the next episode of Grey’s Anatomy. To talk to your Grandma on the phone one more time. To go on a hike during a cool summer morning.

And before too long you’ll realize that staying alive for the little things, that is one big thing that will save your life.

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