I recently finished the Midnight Library by Matt Haig. When I read it, I had absolutely no idea the book would have such strong mental health implications – hell, it was recommended to me by my Mom, who just thought I would like the book because it had a neat plot. That being said, it was a fantastic book, and well worth reading if you have an interest in mental health or suicide prevention.
First, the true story of why I had heard of the author, Matt Haig:
Matt Haig, as noted on his profile, his a suicide attempt survivor:
I didn’t exactly realize it when I started reading it, but the Midnight Library deals with suicide. The summary:
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
From here, spoilers ahead.
In the book, Nora Seed, the main character, attempts suicide. She then finds herself in the Midnight Library, stuck between life and death, where she is given the chance to live a series of different lives, each her own, based on a different decision. Ultimately, she comes to the conclusion that she has the agency – the ability – to change her life. The book makes it clear that she struggles from depression and makes frequent references to her anti-depressant use and struggling life story throughout the book.
She attempts suicide near its start after a series of events, including losing a piano teacher client and not hearing back from her best friend after sending a text. However, when she recovers, she gets her client back and hears from her friend, who gives a perfectly normal reason for why she was late in responding to Nora’s text. That leads to this line, straight from the text:
It was interesting, she mused to herself, how life sometimes simply gave you a whole new perspective by waiting around long enough for you to see it.
This line stuck with me in a way that I truly cannot describe. As I’ve discussed before, like many of you out there, I have known what it was like to contemplate suicide. Like many of you who have been there, my moment was driven by an underlying mental illness that reached a crescendo thanks to some life event or other. I wish I could say that the only time I thought about suicide was in college, but that would be a lie. It was the closest I’ve come, but that ugly thought has been known to rear its head from time to time.
Be it because of overwhelming life circumstances, physical disabilities, or worse, many of us have struggled with that thought. But this line…boy. I think of my worst life circumstances…hell, the worst moment of my life was sitting there, in college, with that bottle of pills in one hand and a glass of water in the other, wondering.
I chose to stay. And by waiting around long enough, that experience – and those that have followed – have given me the chance to turn my nightmare into fuel to help others.
Nora Seed realizes that there was nothing truly wrong, and by waiting around long enough to see it, she was presented with a life of infinite possibilities where she could truly be what she wanted. The book, and this quote, emphasize kindness and patience. Kindness to oneself, and to others. I can’t describe just how meaningful this quote was.
As Matt Haig says in his Twitter profile…stay. Stay to find out what that whole new perspective has been. I stayed. I have such a joyful life where I get to kiss the woman I love who I would never have met. Where I get to hold my children and smell their hair because I…stayed. I stayed. Please stay. Allow time to teach you that whole new perspective.