JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00]
Hello and welcome to another episode of “I Weigh” with Jameela Jamil. I hope you’re all right. I’m fine. I’m actually quite pumped to bring you today’s episode, to the point where I don’t really want to talk about very much. I just want to get straight into it because I feel like there is so much that was said in this episode that is so important. And I don’t want to dillydally. So I am talking to Matt Haig. He is the great author of the bestselling novel “Reasons to Stay Alive”. And he’s written so many great books. “The Humans”, “How to Stop Time”, “Notes on a Nervous Planet”. But he also has an extraordinary book that is already getting rave reviews called “The Midnight Library” that comes out on the 29th in America. And he, I will let him explain what this book is about at the end of this podcast. But he is the voice of reason on the Internet. He is who I look up to in all of my darkest and most chaotic moments. He has dedicated his life to being so open about his own experiences with mental health, with suicide. And actually, I will offer a trigger warning here that we do talk about suicidal ideation or suicide attempts in this podcast, in a very informative and helpful and loving and shameless way. But it’s definitely something I need to make you aware of in case you are feeling fragile and just not ready for that conversation yet. Maybe bookmark this for later. But it is definitely a very helpful thing for me to have heard, having been someone who was, you know, in the past suicidal myself, but also someone who has been the carer for suicidal people. I just feel like there was so much helpful information and so much great content around how we shouldn’t shame ourselves or shame one another for losing control of the way that we feel. And we don’t shame ourselves for these same feelings around our bodies. So therefore, why do we do it when it comes to our mind? And Matt has a wonderful way of highlighting our kind of societal ignorance. And also, he’s a progressive. He’s always thinking ahead of how we get better. He’s always planning for what we need to do next rather than just in an outcry about what a mess everything is, he’s a solutionist. And so we talk all about his mental health history, what led him to writing the book, “Reasons to Stay Alive”, which is one of the more important books in many people’s lives. We also talk a lot about social media and the impact that it’s having on all of us. And, you know, we do touch on Cancel Culture and Call Out Culture. And just the way that human beings speak to one another, including the way that we reflect upon our own online behavior and things in the past that we are both ashamed of and feel like weren’t helpful in our work. It was a very, very personal whats and all chat. Neither of us held back at all. And we have both been, I would say, incredibly vulnerable in this episode, because even though we don’t really know each other, we have such a similarity in the fact that we are obsessed with baring all and telling all of the truths we can, as we’re learning them so that everyone can learn on a journey together. We don’t believe in perfection. We believe in progress. So please enjoy the episode. I know you will. If you aren’t aware of him yet, follow him on Instagram, follow him on Twitter, read his books. He will just nourish your soul. I’m talking about the excellent Matt Haig. Oh, my lord. It’s one of my favorite voices of our generation. It’s only bloody Matt Haig. Hello and welcome to “I Weigh”.
MATT HAIG [00:03:35]
Thanks Jameela, that’s very kind of you. And it’s very nice to, and speak to you again.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:03:39]
Yeah, likewise. Thank you for giving me your time. I know you are very, very busy promoting your new book, “Midnight Library”, which we’re going to talk about later. How are you doing during this odd year?
MATT HAIG [00:03:51]
I’m doing OK during this odd year. I, my mental health has been a bit weird on and off, but I mean, in terms of my actual life, not masses has changed, compared to lots of people because I work from home and we homeschool our kids. And yeah, so we’re luckier than most people and we haven’t had to do that many things that we would feel uncomfortable with. But yeah, just psychologically, as someone who has health anxiety and general anxiety anyway and is prone to getting addicted to the news and just the general catastrophizing, it’s been a kind of perfect storm for everyone in that sort of mindset, including myself. So, yeah, I’m just like, yeah. Surviving 2020. And-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:36]
Mmhmm. How has your mental health felt specifically worse? Is it just the anxiety, the things you mentioned?
MATT HAIG [00:04:42]
Well, the thing is, in March and February, when it really started to kick off, I was in a massive mental health dip anyway, which was totally not related to Covid. And then Covid sort of came in at the worst possible time for me. So selfishly, personally and yeah. So I just fell into total, sort of like hypochondria, but also hypochondria for other people. I was like panicking about my parents. I was panicking about my partner. I was panicking about my kids. I was just, I was just useless. I was just useless to absolutely anybody around me. And that lasted for about a few weeks. And then during actual, like in the UK, when we had proper full blown lockdown, I totally calmed down. I literally, I felt it was almost good for my mental health at that point because so much had been taken away. It was like the acoustic version of life. And it was like a life edit that I hadn’t planned or asked for. None of us had. But it was actually kind of good and necessary. And I wasn’t having to commute to London. I wasn’t having stressful, pointless meetings. I was just having time with my kids. I was having time at home. And that felt really nice, that period. I feel we’re in another sort of uncertain period currently where everyone’s on a kind of different track and got different views about how dangerous or not Covid is and whether we should be wearing masks and all this nonsense. So I find that stressful because not everyone is on the same page.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:10]
MATT HAIG [00:06:11]
But, you know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:12]
Heading us towards what is potentially going to be another stressful couple of months of further lockdown during Christmas time, which will be the least fun time for anyone to have to be isolating on their own. You have always been so astonishingly frank online with, when it comes to your mental health, even when you cancel like a mini tour, you were always so upfront with your followers and tell them that because you are suffering with your mental health.
MATT HAIG [00:06:38]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:38]
You never make a different excuse. And because of that, I think so many of us have found great solace in your work and your words. It’s been another, for many unfortunate reasons, your, your book, which was already such an epic bestseller, “Reasons to Stay Alive”, which I can’t wait to talk to you about. That book has come back in such a big way and so many people are buying it. Bookstores are running out of it constantly. And this book has been out for years because people need to hear more rhetoric that is hopeful but also brutally honest around mental health. You are such a master of empathy, in my opinion, and, and also just such frankness in a way that it feels almost impossible to be embarrassed when reading your work. So I really appreciate your contribution to the mental health community.
MATT HAIG [00:07:28]
Well, I really appreciate your honesty and frankness on all kinds of issues. Including, including mental health. And I, no, I think it’s great. I think we need more honesty and more frankness and openness. And I hope it just encourages other people. Because I didn’t always used to be like this. I used to be someone who used to make up any excuse. You know, I’ve had fake food poisoning. I’ve had, you know, loads of times I’ve just sort of called in sick for any other reason. It was only through writing directly about it that gave me the confidence. And I do acknowledge that I’m privileged. I haven’t got an employer who’s going to fire me because I’m mentally unstable. So I’ve sort of written books about me, mentally unstable. So, yeah. But I just think, I think we’re not progressing that far, really, in the mental health conversation. I think we’re talking about mental health a lot. But there’s just so much talk is stigma building and, yeah. You see it all the time, like poli-, heated political debates on any subject. You know, we’ll be dismissing each other on grounds of mental health. And I-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:31]
MATT HAIG [00:08:32]
I find that kind of ugly. And that happens on both sides of the divide as well, which is a bit depressing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:37]
One hundred percent. It’s interesting that you talk about food poisoning as your excuses, because for most of my life, I’ve been mentally ill and that has been always my number one go to. Because there’s just something about, and I go one step further and I say diarrhea because it just shuts down all further questions. No one wants to know.
MATT HAIG [00:08:55]
Yes, that’s true.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:08:56]
No one wants to hear about it. Everyone immediate, is immediately mortified for you and somehow themselves. And it’s just like an instant get up. So anyone who I’ve ever given that excuse to, I didn’t have the shits.
MATT HAIG [00:09:10]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:10]
I just didn’t want to come. Anyway, I, I really appreciate that. And yeah. What do you think have been the greatest struggles for lockdown? Without wanting to hammer home the absolute obvious, but you know what I mean. What are you finding that people-? Do you think it’s that we are too attached to our devices and they are rubbing us a little bit of empathy? ‘Cause that’s truly what the blue light does. It stops your brain from producing empathy or happy chemicals and messes your brain, stops your sleep.
MATT HAIG [00:09:38]
Stops your sleep. That’s really, I mean, I’ve, I’ve literally had to force myself away from my phone and put it in the kitchen overnight. So I don’t have, I don’t do bedtime scrolling now because that used to be my, my killer.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:51]
MATT HAIG [00:09:51]
I mean, it’s bad enough in my day. But I noticed I was getting like bad eyes and dra-, and I realized it was because I was just on my phone even more.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:00]
MATT HAIG [00:10:01]
That I had been in 2019. I was just on my phone all the time and it wasn’t necessary social media, it was more like news addiction.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:08]
Doom addiction, I feel like we all have.
MATT HAIG [00:10:10]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:11]
Oh God. So what’s happened now? Firenado. Oh God. So, yeah. I get it.
MATT HAIG [00:10:18]
You’re in California, where it’s all going.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:21]
Yeah. I just have to look outside the window. Yeah.
MATT HAIG [00:10:25]
No. But yeah. So I had that, totally. And I think that’s a big thing, obviously. But I think it almost goes to a sort of deeper existential level because I feel like we have, we’re in this time of total sudden uncertainty where it’s made us all, finding it really hard to plan the future in any meaningful way. And we’ve had sort of, you know, even things like, you know, whether it’s the new James Bond movie not coming out or something. It’s just like all these things that we just take for granted, that there’s going to be a cinema to go to, or restaurants to go. And then suddenly all these are staples of modern existence were just, it showed how vulnerable civilization is all of a sudden, and it made therefore us who invest so much in this modern civilization, feel suddenly very fragile. And it made everything like feel kind of apocalyptic. And I think had a big psychological effect. One thing that’s really helped me in lockdown, I’ve been reading a lot. I’m not really a religious person, but I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism. And there’s a great American Tibetan Buddhist called Pema Chödrön, who has written a book in the 90s called “When Things Fall Apart”. And it’s great about uncertainty and about accepting sort of suffering and despair as part of the same whole as joy and contentment and everything else. And she thinks the problem in Western culture, the reason, one of the reasons why we have so many sort of existential crises on an almost daily basis is we almost expect the world to be free from suffering and misery. And we almost feel entitled to a sort of permanent state of happiness and contentment, which wasn’t really ever ours or wasn’t really human things.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:18]
No, neutral is really probably the only realistic-.
MATT HAIG [00:12:21]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:21]
And all the other things, we’re also only able to appreciate them in comparison to one another, right?
MATT HAIG [00:12:27]
Yeah. No. Absolutely. And I, also, you know, in my own life, I don’t know about you, but often my worst experiences. Years later, or maybe even just months later, I’ve turned out to be pretty fertile in some other way. And I’ve been sort of, so there hasn’t been much that I, you know, I wouldn’t want to live through suicidal depression again.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:48]
MATT HAIG [00:12:48]
But, but I wouldn’t want to press a button and sort of have never had it. Now it’s in the past because all kinds of things came out of that, a sense of gratitude came out of that, a sense of being able to cope with neutral existence.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:03]
Yeah. I was talking about this with Joe Lycett on a different episode recently where we were just saying that actually he and I personally have quite enjoyed ourselves being in lockdown because we realized we were hyper socializing and going out, not giving ourselves chances to process our meetings or conversations or work. I, for one, now go to a dog park for three hours every single day, every single evening. And I live next to this gorgeous park that makes me so happy that I haven’t been to in five years. I’ve lived right near it and I’ve not been in five years. I’ve just denied myself this wonderful thing because I was just on this fucking rat race and also just like, or hiding in my house. And now I just don’t take it for granted. I think I will keep that up forever. I don’t think I’m ever going to let anything take away my dog time to watch a bunch of dogs, like give each other unexpected blowjobs in the park.
MATT HAIG [00:13:54]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:54]
And the love they have balls, not actual ballocks, as in a tennis ball.
MATT HAIG [00:13:58]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:58]
You know, it’s just so full of joy and there’s just so much kind of humanity and like animal and man and nature. I think it’s great.
MATT HAIG [00:14:06]
Yeah. My dog’s calmed down in lockdown. I don’t know if that’s because Maltese terriers are meant to have separation anxiety. And she’s had no separation from us. So she’s totally chilled out. She’s like, yeah, she, she meditates now. And she’s-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:19]
Well, we’re all fucked when the world comes back and the dogs are just shitting everywhere to get back at us. I want to talk to you about “Reasons to Stay Alive”. Will you talk to me about what this monumentally important book was for you and what it’s about?
MATT HAIG [00:14:37]
“Reasons to Stay Alive” was the book I was closest to not writing. It was a book I was scared to write. It’s a book, I, my publishers didn’t want me to write. It’s a book I wasn’t given much money for. It’s a book that people tried to talk me out of writing. It was meant to be a very small book. It was a book I felt I should write after a conversation with a friend who works in publishing. Not a part of my publisher, but she said, Oh, you should write it. I said, Yeah, but I’m not like a A-list celebrity. I’m not like a person who’s had a massively unique, traumatic experience that caused my depression. You know, there’s no story. There’s no capsular story to it. What’s the point of me writing? And she said because of that, people will relate to it. Because there isn’t always a clear cut back story to depression or panic disorder or OCD or those things. And sometimes part of the hell of a mental health problem is you don’t know the trigger. You don’t actually know what got you into that hole. So therefore, you don’t always know what can get you out of the hole. And that for me is what made me suicidal at the time. So I saw her point and, but then even so I didn’t know how to write it. I didn’t know whether it should be a memoir. I didn’t know whether it should be a self-help book. I didn’t know if it should be something in between. And I tried to forget what kind of book I was writing. I tried to even forget I was writing a book. I tried to just remember me when I was 24 years old in Ibiza, living and working there with my girlfriend. And it was our third summer there. And when I had this total breakdown in September, 21 years ago this month, I tried to just think what would have helped me? What words would have helped that 24 year old person who literally, I don’t even, I mean, I say I was suicidal, I was suicidal, but it wasn’t a death wish. It was just I, literally, I have no fucking idea how I go on to tomorrow feeling exactly like this today. There was no break from it. There’s no off switch, it was 24/7. It was, it ruined my sleep. It ruined my waking life. It was just a total nightmare that I was trapped in. And I was claustrophobic. It was hell, And I didn’t realize even that I was experiencing depression. I didn’t. I was so illiterate about mental health. I knew obviously the words depression. I need the word anxiety. But people weren’t really talking about it back in 1999 and 2000. It was kind of just the thing that other people had. My view of mental illness back then was you are either a sane person, a normal inverted calm person, or you were a mad person. So I realized I wasn’t anymore a sane person. So I thought, oh, my God, that’s it. I’m gonna be in a straight jacket. I’m gonna be in a padded cell. This is what mental illness is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:33]
MATT HAIG [00:17:33]
That’s how crude and binary my thinking was. And yeah, so I was trying to write this book that would hack into the brain to try and give them some belief in a future self that is thankful that that person didn’t die.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:47]
Yeah. I’m all about that. All about educating people. That sometimes, sometimes, I mean some people have like true suicidal ideation. But I know that in my own like history of depression, anxiety, OCD and, and suicide attempts that I had made in the past, that for me it wasn’t like a long, drawn out planned thing. It would be a day or an hour of such panic, where it was just like sort of stop the world, I want to get off.
MATT HAIG [00:18:17]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:17]
I truly, you know, I think I’ve heard you talk about it. It’s the difference between, not just generally wanting to jump out of a window, but, oh, my God, the room’s on fire. I have to jump out the window in order to get away from the room being on fire. And I think that it’s important to understand that both can exist.
MATT HAIG [00:18:31]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:32]
That it’s not alway this planned, long, sad, drawn out-.
MATT HAIG [00:18:35]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:36]
Sometimes it’s, it’s just instantaneous panic. And I think that because you and I both had experience with that, I guess we’ve kind of taken it upon ourselves as our duty to remind people that what if you just hang on?
MATT HAIG [00:18:47]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:47]
What if you just keep going? What could happen?
MATT HAIG [00:18:51]
I mean, the thing I remember, the scary thing I remember is I was in, you know, because people think of Ibiza as like a party island and a crazy place. We’re in a very, very quiet part of the Ibiza on the East Coast. And we were on a, in a villa on a cliff top overlooking the most beautiful Mediterranean view. You’ve got these limestone cliffs. And I was looking at that view and I just thought, it’s utterly meaningless. I will never, ever be able to appreciate beauty or anything good in my life at all. You know, I’m literally here, I’m living in Spain in a nice villa. I’ve got a beautiful girlfriend who I love and I’ve got all these things and I literally, I can’t get out of this painful state and, you know, so because of the location on the cliffs and everything, I just was, you know, urging myself to die. And I genuinely still don’t know exactly how or why I made it through that week. It was a trip to a medical center where I prescribed Diazepam, but that-. I’m not anti medication at all. And Diazepam works for lots and lots of people. But in my subjective experience, in that moment, the Diazepam made the panic attacks worse.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:08]
MATT HAIG [00:20:09]
And. Yeah. So I should have, I was just given the wrong pills for me in that situation. But, yeah. So I don’t know, but I did live. And I lived long enough to see some sort of fluctuation. And I think as soon as you see a fluctuation, not, not a moment of happiness but a moment of not feeling that pain, you realize that can be other moments where you’re not feeling like that. I don’t know if that is how you experienced it, but for me, the feeling of, the feeling of being trapped is thinking it’s never going to get better. It’s never going to get better. I’m always gonna be in this sort of crap place and, yeah, that’s what’s dangerous.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:43]
Well, you think you’re in a life sentence. And I think that, that’s, that was the hardest thing for me, was just, ah, fuck this, I can’t keep going like this. And I did somehow find the, the motivation to keep going. And it wasn’t much motivation, but I tried my best to keep going. And in doing so, embarked upon this really ruthless journey of changing everything in order to save my own life. So what were your “Reasons to Stay Alive”?
MATT HAIG [00:21:15]
My “Reasons to Stay Alive” were in that moment, you know, in that moment, I will be honest. I had no reason to live that I could see in that moment. My, all my “Reasons to Stay Alive” kind of come with hindsight and my, the fact I stayed alive then, you know, it’s easy to say, well, I had people who loved me and I had a support network, which is kind of true. I did have parents and a bit of a partner who were the only three people in the world who knew what I was going through.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:42]
If your logic brain isn’t working in that moment, you know what I mean? That’s not the lobe that’s kicking in.
MATT HAIG [00:21:47]
Absolutely, Jameela. And I was just like thinking, actually that was almost an incentive to go the other way because I was like, I’m a burden on these people. I, it would be selfish of me to stay alive. You know, I can remember, like, you know, after Robin Williams’ death, people were talking about selfishness because he had a family, and it’s like, it’s just such a misunderstanding of what depression can do. You, I would, I was feeling selfish for being alive. That’s, that’s how ridiculous it was. And that’s how much depression can lie to you. I was literally so wallowing in the state of everyone would be better off without me. And I’m just gonna be this black hole sucks everyone in. And it’s just a horrible, horrible thing. My, my reason, you know, when I’m asked the question now, like I was at an event last year in London and I was asked, you know. Yeah, but you had a girlfriend. You had parents. You had some sort of support. You had people you could talk to. What would you say to somebody who’s got nobody at all or feels they’ve got nobody? How do you stay alive for other people if you’ve got nobody? And I was saying, I really struggled with that for a while. And, but I now think the answer to that question is that you still stay alive for other people. But those people, other people aren’t the people in your life at that moment, they’re not even other people that will exist in a future moment. They’re you. There are other versions of you. I am a different person. I am still me. I’ve still got memories of that time. But I’m such a different person to who I was at 24. And that experience was part of the experience that made me a different person. And there’s so many different versions of me in life that aren’t all identical. That, you know, and each one of those is grateful for that 24 year old who stayed alive. So you stay alive for those other selves.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:44]
For the person you’re going to become.
MATT HAIG [00:23:46]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:46]
Not necessarily for others. For sure.
MATT HAIG [00:23:49]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:50]
I’m, I’m, yeah. I. So many of the things and people that were in my life at that time are now gone. And so it’s this whole different existence, whole different human, whole different way of moving through the world. And that’s the person that I have ended up being glad I stayed alive for. It was me. And I think we need to be better at learning that you, yourself, are important and everything else is just cake. Humans and companionship and all these different things are important. But maybe sometimes our mental health is a way of letting us know that the current life that we’re living isn’t working and maybe these just aren’t the right people or maybe I need to shift something or change something in order to meet my tribe, my people. And I’ve definitely met more soulmates, you know, and friends and, you know, a better relationship in this new version of myself. When I just sort of dropped the layers of, you know, one of the best things you ever said, something you said once, which I quote all the fucking time, is “depression gave me fake news”. You said that on Twitter and it just moved me so much. It was the first time I’ve liked those two words used together. And I think that is one of the greatest ways of putting it, is that it just lies to you, lies to you about your worth. It lies to you that things can’t ever shift and change in any meaningful way. And it lies to you that you even deserve that often.
MATT HAIG [00:25:10]
Yeah. It’s Fox News for your brain, isn’t it? It’s just your, your, just the negative, you know. And it’s so hyperbolic as well.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:16]
Negative fear mongering. Yeah.
MATT HAIG [00:25:18]
Yeah. Yeah. Well, from news headlines I had in my head was you are going to be dead by the age of 25. Andrea is going to leave you. This is going to happen. Everything, everything is shit. You’re gonna, if you, if by some miracle you’re still alive, you are going to be totally mad, you know-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:32]
And unbearable to live around. Yeah.
MATT HAIG [00:25:36]
Yeah. I grew up watching “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and I just thought that’s what it was. I was just gonna be in some mental asylum and, yeah, just. And none of those things happened.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:25:46]
No, you talk a lot about self stigma. That you’re like well there is a lot of society, a societal stigma, rather, there’s also a lot that we stigmatize ourself in. I want to press a little bit further into what you mentioned of, you know, I am a straight, white, privileged male. I am slim. I have a loving girlfriend. I don’t have a significant trauma from my background, what, like an event necessarily that I can trace my tr-, my, my feelings or my pain back to. Like I don’t have this big dramatic story. I’m just sad.
MATT HAIG [00:26:19]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:19]
And I don’t necessarily know exactly why I’m so sad and I feel like that, the lack of that conversation is devastating.
MATT HAIG [00:26:30]
Yeah, well, because, I mean, one of the heavy things about depression, the one thing that makes it worse is guilt. And so when, when you’re there and you haven’t, well, I mean, at the time, I did have a little bit of financial worry, but it wasn’t like I was a 24 year old who just left university, it was a kind of normal thing.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:47]
MATT HAIG [00:26:48]
I mean, everything was, you know, everything was generally kind of, kind of good, you know? I had been to university. I had middle class Parents. I was white, male, heterosexual person with no, no one stigmatizing me externally. I had no prejudice to overcome. I, you know, I was Mr. Privilege. Mr. Entitled. I mean, this happens and you kind of want a reason. You kind of, you suddenly feel like a victim because your, your head is literally destroying you. And you’d rather be anyone else. You’d look at anyone else. You’d look at a 90 year old person on the street and you’d want to sort of change into their mind, literally jump out of yourself and yet, out externally, you’re this 20 something person with your whole life ahead of you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:37]
MATT HAIG [00:27:38]
You know, your parents are still alive, there’s been no inciting incident. You are your own drama. And you, you know, that you brought it on yourself. That’s how you feel even though-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:27:50]
It almost makes you feel madder, doesn’t it? It almost makes you feel more like, like as if you are even sicker because then you’ve just like, almost like created it. It’s fiction and it’s something that you have made yourself rather than being able to do something, I guess like maybe a relief to being able to trace it back to a trauma. You know, I, I’m in a relationship with someone who struggled severely with his mental health. And when we first got together, I remember him being so reticent to accept it because his childhood wasn’t as bad as my childhood. So there was a part of him that was just like, well, I can’t, I can’t be. I don’t deserve to feel this bad.
MATT HAIG [00:28:27]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:27]
I’m, I’m weak, I’m wrong because I didn’t have as bad a child-, and I say constantly just reassure him that’s like this isn’t how the brain works. This isn’t how our chemicals work. This is such a disaster. And I feel like so many people who don’t have a visceral trauma or a disability or some sort of, you know what I mean? Like, they weren’t, didn’t have one massive event feel so, A, like it’s harder to find the explanation for why you feel this way, but also like they find it hard to accept it and they don’t feel like they deserve empathy, care, support.
MATT HAIG [00:29:01]
I used to fantasize that I blacked out something. I used to think I had, you know, there’ve been some Catholic priests or there’ve been some incident.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:09]
MATT HAIG [00:29:09]
That I couldn’t, couldn’t remember. I had been abused as a child or something, which didn’t happen. But I used to, I used to think, wouldn’t it be convenient? Wouldn’t it make my brain make more sense? I obviously don-, now I’m rational. I’m not mentally ill. I don’t wish that happened to me. But when you’re looking for a narrative, you want to, I mean, I’m not saying my childhood was perfect. You know, I was a bit bullied at school. You know, I had certain sort of behavior. My mum had postnatal depression. My mum’s got a lot of anxiety because she was adopted, so she doesn’t really know who her parents are. A lot of her insecurities and separation anxieties were passed on to me, and she’s acknowledged all of that stuff as well. But no, I mean, generally speaking, I had kind of a happy childhood. I wasn’t always necessarily a happy person within that childhood. You know, there’s a bit of self-harm. I’ve got a mole on my cheek, which when I was like a teenager of a certain age, all I could see when I looked in the mirror was thus mole.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:09]
MATT HAIG [00:30:09]
Which I now look back at photos of me as a teenager, I’m like, where’s the mole? There’s no, what are you worried about this thing on your face for? But I once I got a toothbrush and tried to rub off the mole on my face, until it was-, because I wanted a scar on my face rather than a mole. I thought a scar was more manly to have. And so I obviously wasn’t right. But no one is really-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:30]
Telling you otherwise.
MATT HAIG [00:30:32]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:33]
And also, no one knows more, and people are less likely to ask you if you’re OK.
MATT HAIG [00:30:37]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:37]
That’s another really interesting thing about privilege. So, like, you know, even as part of my childhood, and like the fact that I am a brown woman and I’ve had a disability and all this trauma, because when I was at the peak of my mental, my nervous breakdown, I was famous and I was thin.
MATT HAIG [00:30:54]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:54]
And I was, you know, sort of like deemed pretty.
MATT HAIG [00:30:55]
Glamorous, you were glamorous.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:58]
Yeah. And I was on the cover of magazines and I was a deejay. So no one actually asked me if I was OK. People would come in with, oh, my God, is everything just great? And then you just feel like such a prick if you’re not like, yeah. ‘Cause you got money. You have access to all these different things. And so then you just end up holding it all inside. And no one’s saying to you, is this a bit hard and weird? In fact, I now make it my business to, as soon as I see someone win an award. I walk up to them and be like, it’s OK if you don’t actually feel anything right now. And if this hasn’t made you as happy as you thought it would. And they normally like, grab me and look me in the eye, there’s like wide eyes going, thank you so much. I was so worried that I’m dead inside or if they are, you know, rising very fast in fame while they’re being dragged on the Internet, like I’ll reach out to them privately and just be like, you all right? Because no one asks. No one, no one reaches out to you. And so you don’t reach out for help yourself. And so it’s just this sort of blame culture.
MATT HAIG [00:31:57]
Yeah. And I think a deeper level, it’s important that people, I don’t think people should be going round and, you know, raising money for poor celebrities.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:32:06]
MATT HAIG [00:32:06]
To give a priority and have longer in rehab in Arizona or whatever. I don’t think that. But what I do think is interesting is the fact that we as-, the assumption that this whatever fame brings with it or whatever money brings with it is somehow salvation is damaging, not just to celebrities, it’s damaging to everybody. It’s damaging to, you know, I mean, this whole re-, you know, and it’s before social media, this pre-dates social media. This goes back to, you know, the start of, like reality TV or whatever. This idea about normal life is something you need to be saved from. And there’s going to be someone like Simon Cowell waving a wand and you will, you will escape your, you know, not horrendous upbringing, but your ordinary life is, you know, with a record contract. And you will you, will reach this other land of red carpets and paparazzi and everything will be sparkly and gold and I’m wonderful. And that’s not just something celebrities express. That’s just like the culture we’re in. It’s like everyone feels and everyone now is the kind of celebrity within their own world because of social media accounts. And this, that and the other. Everyone’s presenting themselves, in magazines of themselves on Instagram or whatever, even if you’ve got like, if you’ve got a million followers or you’ve got like 300 followers, we’re all doing essentially the same think, I think.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:28]
MATT HAIG [00:33:29]
On just different scales.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:31]
I remember you and I talking yesterday about the fact that one of the most devastating things can be when you get the things that you’ve thought would make you happy and you realize that they don’t.
MATT HAIG [00:33:42]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:42]
And that is just like such an interesting, and a lot of people will never have the privilege to even find that out. They’ll never get that car or win that award or like get that person or get that body, this, that and the other. But I can say that, like, one of the most, one of the shittiest parts of sometimes getting the things that you want and that you thought would make you happy is the realization that you don’t. And then you’re like fuck, I’m back at square one. And in fact, when people are fuckers to me in this business, like people who are competitive with me or ruthless, and, you know, the types who would just step over your dead body, wouldn’t piss on fire to put you out because they have their eye on the prize so hard and they’re so competitive and so obsessed with their own position in this industry. The thing I wish for them the most is to win that big award. I’m not, I fucking hope you win that award because you’re going to realize it doesn’t mean shit. No one’s going to remember tomorrow, you stupid asshole. And you’re then going to realize, oh, my God, I made everyone’s lives miserable, or even just Jameela Jamil’s life fucking miserable because I was so obsessed with this award that means nothing. It doesn’t change your life at all. All the shit that I had. I’m so grateful for it, but mostly I’m grateful for the, for the realization at 26 that it wasn’t gonna save my life, that I still would have to save my life just the same way as anyone else. There’s no short cut.
MATT HAIG [00:35:05]
Yeah, one of the-. Yeah. You had it quite young, didn’t you?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:09]
MATT HAIG [00:35:09]
You were, you, you were a famous person, quite young and I think-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:35:13]
Yeah, I was 22, I think. Yeah.
MATT HAIG [00:35:16]
Yeah. So. Yeah. But I mean, with me, I mean, my sort of like privilege is different. With me, like I literally as a struggling writer, I thought when I get money, you know, it will be better. It will be different. And the only thing, the only worry money fixes is financial worries. You still have all the other worries. And what happens when you, when you solve one worry, I think, is, if you, if you’re prone to anxiety and worry anyway, the other, other worries, which were slightly lesser when you have the money worry, they’ll rise up and fill the money worries place. So there’s always almost the same quantity and capacity for anxiety in any sense. And I remember thinking as well that all I wanted was like to have my name on a book and be published. It doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t even have to be on the tables in a bookshop. It can just be there as a physical thing, that like one of the person in the world reads and connects to. And then I’ll be happy.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:12]
MATT HAIG [00:36:13]
And I really remember thinking, yeah, that that might not stay. And I said, I made a promise to myself, no, you’ve got to stay being grateful for being like-, and that lasted about a week.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:23]
MATT HAIG [00:36:23]
Max. When you’ve got a publishing deal. And then like then you want to be a best seller. Then you get a best seller. And then you’re like, no, you got to be number one bestseller. Then you want sort of film writer, then you want the first film made. Then you want it to be a good film. There’s no end to, there’s always at, the level, the goalposts can move very quickly. So you have to realize that happiness comes from somewhere else. And yeah, you can get a thrill and it adds color to life having successful achiev-, I don’t want to belittle that because it is great and occasionally, if you see it, but if you put all your investment in going to a fancy party or being a number one bestseller or whatever it is.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:04]
Living in that house. Yeah, yeah.
MATT HAIG [00:37:06]
Yeah. If you define-, if you see yourself, how will this see, that’s when it becomes dangerous. When you feel like, oh, you know, if I get, I don’t know, a few hundred thousand followers on Instagram or whatever, then that will sort of embolden me. It never does. It actually weakens you because you’ve placed your sense of self esteem at the hands of external, uncertain things, which, you know, fundamentally makes you more fragile, not-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:35]
Totally. Investing in anything outside of yourself is really, really dangerous. Even if it’s a person that you love. You’ve got to like, it’s such a cliche, but the cliches are a cliche for a reason. You know, I’ve seen you talk a lot about, you know, there is light at the end of the tunnel and like, these things are true. And that time is a great healer. You know, these are some of the great lessons that you’ve learned.
MATT HAIG [00:37:54]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:55]
Over the course of your life.
MATT HAIG [00:37:56]
All, all the cliches, but they’re all cliches for a reason because like since, since like Neolithic cave people days, they had moments of despair and realizing that, you know, they won’t necessarily get attacked by wolves next Friday. And, you know, things aren’t always as bleak as they seem. And we’ve always had that. I mean, we’ve got new problems now.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:16]
MATT HAIG [00:38:17]
Every, every age has its problems, but we didn’t invent mental health problems. So.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:21]
No, for sure. For sure. I also think it’s really important that if anyone is struggling out there to understand that mental health is not a destination, it’s an on going journey. And so if you took a big dip this year like I did, then there’s nothing wrong. Like I came, I had this massive nervous breakdown, I was 26. I tried to kill myself, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I hadn’t done that in like nine years. So I just, I was like, I’ve hit rock bottom. And you only ever hit rock bottom once. So now it’s only going to be up from here and I’ll never fall again. And I’ve learned all my lessons and now I am unbreakable. I’m Bruce Willis. Although actually he’s very break-. Is he? No, I don’t remember. Anyway, no, yeah. I’m Bruce Willis. So I, so I was absolutely stunned to see that when I was being sort of like hounded and trolled and everyone was like saying that I contributed to the death of a friend or, which I had nothing to do with or they were saying I had Munchausen. I was lying about my sexuality, lying about cancer, lying about this, that and the other. Just like going after me in such like a personal way. It wasn’t about not proving with me or thinking I was annoying or not liking me or follow me online. I don’t give a fuck about that. I don’t care about people’s opinions per say. But when I was being gaslit, it triggered this like part of my child trauma that I clearly hadn’t worked on yet or worked on enough. And I became suicidal again in February and I was so embarrassed. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t even tell any of my friends until maybe like a month ago because I spent five months just like so mortified. That I was like, me? The great doer of therapy? The one who overcame all of these things? How can I get back here? And I, there was no, I had no empathy towards myself. I was just like, oh, God, I fucking failed. Everything I’ve said about getting better is a lie. It wasn’t. I did get better, but shit happens and you fall again. And that’s being human. You are never just immortal. You’ll never like impossible to hurt. You can be hurt again. And what’s important to focus on, which very rarely do we ever think about is how fast are you getting out of it this time? Because this time it’s been five months. Last time it was two years. Another time it might be one year if I go through this again. But I came back out, I had all the mechanisms. I knew what to do this time.
MATT HAIG [00:40:45]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:45]
I understood it this time. I had, I had the language for it. So I’ve still made progress. I just haven’t reached the top of the mountain because fuck will I ever? Does anyone ever? And if they do, do they stay there? No.
MATT HAIG [00:40:58]
No, that’s one of the things that was most dangerous for me was when I thought I was better, because when you think, because, because I had this idea that you’re either ill or you’re better and then you believe you’re better because it’s comforting to believe you’re better and then you have another panic attack. And if you hadn’t believed you were better, it would have just been a panic attack. But believing I was better meant having a panic attack, that was like a drop of ink going into a glass of water and suddenly the whole water goes dark because it was like, OK, I’m not, I’m not a well person. So I, I’m an ill person again. And then the panic happened and then the depression happened. And then, yeah. And it’s so, it’s so much, you know, so when people say, are you feeling better? I say no. They, they then tilt their head and look sympathetic. And it’s like, no, but that’s good because it means I see my mental health as this continual state of flux.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:41:59]
MATT HAIG [00:42:00]
Rather than this fixed state. And it’s very dangerous because if you believe in a fixed state of wellness, then you become ill, then you believe in a fixed state of illness that you’re not going to get out of. So, I mean, what, what, what do you think got you out? You had your dip in February. What got you out? What helped get you through that?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:18]
What helped me was to tell, like, my absolute closest three people. So like my boyfriend and my two best friends. How I felt, exactly how I felt. The fact that I was not safe near any given window and that I, I needed, I needed some sort of like some, some, some, some sort of intervention. And they got me to a doctor who put me on meds for the first time. And so I was put on these like temporary anti-anxiety meds. I’d never been on them before. Even with all of my shit that I’ve been saying about de-stigmatizing mental health, I still thought, no, you know, because meds mean that I’m fixing the symptom, not the cause.
MATT HAIG [00:42:54]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:54]
And I’ve definitely revised that thought of just like sometimes they just get you through the emergency, just like any painkiller. That’s what they are. They’re a pain killer. And so I used them, you know, in the process of my leg healing, you know? I would take a painkiller. And so I did the same thing for my brain. It completely just numbed me out. So I was able to kind of sail through that moment. And then when I was ready, I’ve now gone back into therapy. I’m trying like hypnosis and a couple of different things and I now have the people to call, know how to approach this, know how to talk about it and know how to understand my own shame, because I think even just recognizing your own inner bully’s thoughts is like an unbelievable superpower when you like can identify the difference between a bully and the truth.
MATT HAIG [00:43:37]
You’re right, yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:37]
I think that is just a magnificent gift that you normally only get from experience. And so that’s how I was able to get out. It was meds, temporarily. And then although if I’d stayed on them also great. And I will always go back to them now if anything ever like that happens again. If I get trolled by the world.
MATT HAIG [00:43:56]
But I think the amount of heat you were getting the point, I think-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:00]
It was mad.
MATT HAIG [00:44:00]
Almost anyone have had some mental toll on it. And I think anyone who would say otherwise would be lying because I just think-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:44:11]
I couldn’t even grieve my friend’s death. Like this woman I’ve known for such a long time and whether or not we always agreed on everything like I cared about her.
MATT HAIG [00:44:19]
No, I know. I know, I know. Because you message me on that day, we were somehow in contact, and you just heard, and you were like genuinely, genuinely, emotionally devastated by that and then to see what happened next and all that crap. Yeah, no, and it was just, and what’s worse is people are monetizing, you know, this, damaging other people’s mental health. Aren’t they? Those people who are just literally, their job is is to pick on a different person in the public eye. And it’s not, often, mainly women. It’s very often marginalized groups. And then they’re just doing their thing and, and getting applauded for it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:01]
MATT HAIG [00:45:02]
And you know, preaching to the converted.
[00:45:04] I kind of feel like, I kind of feel like they kind of a little bit, like the dark, the darker forces, they kind of want to push us over the edge to suicide or to that kind of Britney Spears 2007 like meltdown that she was fully pushed towards by, I mean, every force possible. I think they almost want that because then they get to sell more papers grieving us, you know, suddenly martyring us and talking only positively about us to quickly cover up the fact that they drove us to that point. I’m talking about just those of us in the public eye.
MATT HAIG [00:45:32]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:32]
You know, I’ve always been so open about my mental health history. So to watch the way that very, very powerful men in this industry and women went after me. I was like, oh, you know exactly what you’re doing.
MATT HAIG [00:45:42]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:43]
You know, that isn’t sustainable for one human being. And this comes from nothing. How do you feel about the kind of, the state of social media right now? I’m having to step back like at times where I’ll post, but I will not read because I’m too depressed by the screaming.
MATT HAIG [00:46:04]
Well, yeah. I mean, and you know, to be brutally honest, it can come from anywhere. That screaming. And you know, it can just be a symptom of being on social media.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:16]
MATT HAIG [00:46:17]
You know one of-, just as dangerous when you’re mentally ill to believe you well, it’s almost dangerous sometimes to think that there’s a loyal tribe of people who stick together on social media because it can be so fickle.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:28]
MATT HAIG [00:46:28]
Things can, things can change in an instant. And you can, and what’s really annoying is someone doesn’t know you or where you’re coming from, and you will tweet your, your ten words or whatever.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:38]
MATT HAIG [00:46:39]
And it’s a bit ambiguous and it’s open to interpretation. And then someone with a lot of followers somewhere else will take the worst possible interpret-, interpretation of it. And then your timeline for the next four days is just people saying the same angry point over and over and over and over again. And even if they’ve got a legitimate point, it kind of gets annoying and depressing when it’s the same point that people are making 10.000 times over. And that’s just the mechanics of social media. I mean, that’s why it’s different, you know, when people say, oh, well, people have always been like this, people have always had different heated political debates. It’s always been the same. I think there’s something about the numbers, the sheer quantity of, of things and things we’re seeing, which is fundamentally bad for our brain.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:27]
I think it’s tribal. I think it’s a tribal thing. I really do, like I really think that often people are saying shit. And you know what I say this as a former troll. I’m a reformed troll. I’m a reformed-.
MATT HAIG [00:47:38]
Yeah, me too.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:38]
I’m a reformed asshole. You know? I didn’t know you were.
MATT HAIG [00:47:43]
I’ve said horrible things, Jameela. I mean. I mean, I like to think mainly to horrible people who are saying horrible things, but I still, I still never felt good when I was doing that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:54]
MATT HAIG [00:47:54]
I don’t think anyone feels good when they’re putting out that much negativity because there’s a way to have causes and there’s a way to, you know, have issues where it is about positivity and boosting things up and boosting marginalized people.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:12]
MATT HAIG [00:48:12]
You know, looking after-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:12]
I sometimes I’ve, I’ve, like I’ve referred to someone online as looking and behaving like a freshly wanked cock, which I thought was funny at the time. But even I look back and I’m like, was that the most constructive way to make my point about the way in which they were treating marginalized people? Nope. You know, so I’ve definitely, and I was a proper troll. I should to be such a scathing little bastard about celebrities or people or politicians in a way that really had no actual end goal. But it didn’t make me feel better. I just I-.
MATT HAIG [00:48:42]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:43]
I was externalizing my own unhappiness. I was just projecting on the easiest possible target where I don’t have to deal with the repercussions, ’cause they’re not standing in front of me. They’re never gonna see me. I’m never gonna meet them. But where I was getting to with the tribal thing is that, you know, it’s this ne-, it’s this fear. We now speak out about things often that we don’t care about just because we want to make sure that other people know that we’re on the right side of that conversation. So we’ll see someone trolling or like just piling on and we’ll be like, fuck, I better join that pile on. Because if I’m not safe within the pile on, then I’m outside of the pile on where I am no longer safe.
MATT HAIG [00:49:16]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:16]
So I feel like we sometimes join into pile-ons of things we don’t care about. We speak so passionately, but we don’t really give a fuck.
MATT HAIG [00:49:22]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:23]
And it’s, careful of that. If you’re someone who’s doing that because you’re afraid of the optics, because you’re afraid of the unsafety of being on the outside. So if I don’t vocally speak out about this thing, obviously there are things that we all need to speak out about.
MATT HAIG [00:49:35]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:49:35]
That are just basic human proper rights when it’s for equality, but when it’s something that you’re just like a bit, where someone has done something that isn’t cool or trendy or worth mockery, like, do you have to join in or are you doing that for the safety of being in the in crowd? Because I have this sort of reputation for calling shit out when I see it, people now whenever anything’s going on, like, can you please speak out about this? And it’s like if you are telling me to speak out about it, then that means you are already aware of it and what’s wrong with it? I’m not the Punisher. I’m not coming in here to, like, behead all these, like, public figures who’ve done something wrong. I try to call attention to things that other people haven’t noticed yet.
MATT HAIG [00:50:12]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:12]
I’m not here to pile on. So when people-, when I’m being silent about things that are clearly all over the fucking newspapers. Someone being told given what for, they’ve already maybe even responded. I’m not going to speak out about that thing just so that I can show you that I care.
MATT HAIG [00:50:27]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:27]
I just recognized that my voice isn’t now necessary because it’s out there. We all know what’s wrong with it. We’ve taken it down, the think pieces already exist. This idea that I now need to show my medal of solidarity is something that exists within our entire generation now. So you don’t need to join in if the point has already been fucking made better by someone else.
MATT HAIG [00:50:47]
No, and actually, it can be counterproductive because it becomes a point where there’s so much weight going in one direction, it lends sympathy to the target, you know? So, so it’s almost like-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:59]
MATT HAIG [00:50:59]
Yeah, once attention is raised, it can be overkill, and then your public shaming goes one step beyond and it’s just like, you know, whatever has been said and done, it’s like, OK, enough already. You know?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:13]
MATT HAIG [00:51:13]
But yeah. No, I agree. And I mean, even I get that. Like I mean anything mental health related I will get, and people with very good intentions, very nice things and thinking that you haven’t noticed something which has been all over the media or something. Or just by being silent, you’re accused of being complicit in something that’s, like for instance, at the last election because I voted Green and not for the Labor Party in the UK, people thought, oh well, he-. I had the other day that I campaigned against Jeremy Corbyn, I didn’t campaign against Jeremy Corbyn. I just happened to live in Brighton so it made sense to vote for the Green Party. And I wanted an environmentalist candidate and blah, blah, blah. But it’s like, it’s like silence becomes loud in people’s head.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:57]
MATT HAIG [00:51:57]
Like you haven’t said something.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:58]
And in cases like racial inequality that makes sense.
MATT HAIG [00:52:02]
Yes, that’s true.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:03]
There are areas where it is vital that we do add our voice and speak up and if we’re piling onto an institution rather than necessarily just an individual. If we’re piling onto a system, an institution, a political party, I think that’s different because those people are actively not listening to us, which is why shit is still going on this far. But when it is an individual who has made a mistake. Just-.
MATT HAIG [00:52:20]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:21]
Ask yourself how much of a difference you’re doing it and why you’re doing it. And if it’s to make yourself feel better, or to make you look good or if it’s actually because you hope to educate and called that person in and out at the same time?
MATT HAIG [00:52:30]
Yeah. And often if it is something that you care about, and it’s a genuine issue you care about and you can actually just draw attention to the issue.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:38]
Which I now am starting to try to do. Even this morning, I just I deleted my tweet, quote tweeting someone who done something offensive and I was like, not going to even give it air. Please just support this charity.
MATT HAIG [00:52:47]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:47]
That supports those people. It was like within two minutes, I was like, Oh, fuck. I’ve done it again. I’m just creating shit and articles that don’t need to be written and piling onto an individual, where actually she’s a product of an entire culture of hatred towards immigrants. Anyway, I’m not even saying she specifically hates them. I dunno. But it wasn’t great or very empathetic what she wrote. Please tell me before you go about your book, “Midnight Library” and what it’s about.
MATT HAIG [00:53:13]
Well, “The Midnight Library” is a library between life and death where a woman who, who has had her own mental health difficulties, she ends up doing something stupid. And she ends up in this library between life and death. And all the books in the library are different versions of her life if she had lived her life a different way.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:31]
It’s such a good idea. I hate you so much. Oh, God. It’s such a fucking amazing idea. It’s the library that we all need. Sorry, I just had to say that. Keep going.
MATT HAIG [00:53:44]
And she’s got lots of regrets. So she has the chance to undo them. For instance, she was in a band and in, in one version of the multiverse, she’s up, the band is an absolute massive international sensation. She gave up swimming, her dad really wanted her to swim. And she was an amazing swimmer. And in one life, she’s got Olympic medals for swimming and one life she carried on with a science career and became a glaciologist in the Arctic Circle researching climate change. And there’s all these lives she could have lived, whereas she’s now stuck with her cat in Bedford, feeling unfulfilled and suicidal, and like she’s let lots of people down. And so it’s got a little bit of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and all that kind of stuff.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:24]
“Sliding Doors” and, yeah.
MATT HAIG [00:54:25]
Yeah. I think out of everything I’ve written, I’m sort of like proudest of this because it’s precisely what I wanted to write in that moment. And yeah, and people seem to be liking it, so I’m pleased. And yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:37]
I’ve heard only good things. I’m so excited to see whichever movie is going to be made of it. And if I could please just be at least catering in that film, I’d be happy. I’ll clean the loos.
MATT HAIG [00:54:46]
I will put, I will put you for it, Jameela.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:49]
Thanks. I’m great at selecting snacks. And so what I think is so interesting about the idea for this book is that you deal with regret and whether or not it’s actually helpful or not. Where do you now, like, stand on that, having written this whole book?
MATT HAIG [00:55:04]
Regrets? Well, yeah. No, I was dogged by regret when I was depressed. I was regretting that I was depressed. I was regretting that I’d lived a life that got me into that mess. And regret is a massive thing. I still have a few little minor regrets, like I gave up piano when I was 14 years old.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:55:24]
MATT HAIG [00:55:24]
I wish I hadn’t. I’ve been doing an app called simply piano, and trying to get playing like, I don’t know, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and stuff. But no. So I’ve got, I’ve got tiny little regrets. But I don’t regret the bad things. I don’t regret-. I think regret, you know, the thing you should regret, just like the only thing to fear is fear itself. Only anything to regret is regret itself. I think you can waste so much of your life consumed by what ifs. And the thing is with what ifs, you have no idea if you’d have done something different, what outcome that would have had. You have no idea that the grass would really be greener, if you had done this or if you have won that or if this, or you’d had stayed with that person or whatever, you have no idea how things would turn out. I believe that most lives, obviously people start life in different positions and there’s more privileged lives than others. But I think most lives contain their fair share of trauma and sadness and things-, but also their share of happiness and good things and contentment and love and thankfulness. And, you know, we kind of have live, to live life to learn how to live life. And, you know, it’s always a first draft. And we’re here to fuck up and we’re here to sort of be there for each other. And I just believe in sort of humans and forgiveness and learning.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:41]
I agree. I so agree. Progress, not perfection, it’s the sort of mantra of “I Weigh”.
MATT HAIG [00:56:46]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:46]
It’s everything that we care about. And, you know, not perfection obsessed culture needs to understand that all of our great lessons, all of our great growth, all of our building happens in our mistakes. Everything I’ve ever learned, I learned from what I fucked up never from what I just instantly achieved or success.
MATT HAIG [00:57:00]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:01]
And so I’m a more interesting and pathetic, and, you know, just sort of, I think valuable person for the mistakes I was able to learn from, rather than the things that I just was naturally gifted with. Like when someone comes up to me, I remember once, this is like a heartbreaking moment for me, realizing I’m such a vacuous twat. Was I was at Grat-, Latitude Festival over in England and I was watching a band playing, this girl came up to me, and she was so excited to see me. And this is no shade to this young girl. But she was shaking and just like couldn’t believe she’s gonna meet me. And I, and she had this kind of visceral reaction where I thought, she’s gonna be like, your company color means so much to me. But she was just like, you are my lipstick idol. And I was like, oh, fuck. I was in my 20s. And I was like, shit, I’m someone’s lipstick idol. I don’t even make that lipstick. I just put it on, my already big mouth. Fuck. What am I putting out into the world? What am I not putting out? What is the meaning of my life? And it like, it shaped my existence. That moment shaped my existence. Where I just realized I didn’t ever want to be called someone’s lipstick idol ever again. I can be your fuck up.
MATT HAIG [00:58:13]
You’re my lipstick idol.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:14]
Thank you. If I can fuck up idol-, by the way, I love lipstick. Happy if you like the way I look in it. But Christ, I want to, I’d like-.
MATT HAIG [00:58:22]
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:23]
I want to, I just want to mean more to even just my mates than that. I don’t have to have an impact on the world. I just want to know I had an impact on my world. And so that’s, that’s my goal. Anyway. I am-.
MATT HAIG [00:58:35]
You are achieving that goal. And “I Weigh” is achieving that. I think “I Weigh” is a great thing, you know, as, especially as a father now. And I know that’s such a cliche, isn’t it? But like, you know, as my kids grow up, I so worry now they’re hitting puberty and the future and all that toxic crap out out there about body image and, you know, and it’s subconscious. So much of it’s subconscious. But the fact that you’re, you’re making it conscious and articulate and getting people to, to really assess their value in terms of valuable things rather than external crap that comes out of TV advertising and the Internet is fantastic.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:10]
Thank you. Well, I love you loads. I think we could have an entire episode just telling each other all the reasons we love each other. Matt Haig, thank you so much for everything you put out into the world and for how incredible you are and just what a source of integrity and honesty and just a light of hope and growth. You are one of my favorite people. I could spend an entire hour telling people why. I think they get the jist, after having listened to this. Thank you for being so honest and thoughtful on this podcast, and I hope that you come back to us again soon.
MATT HAIG [00:59:42]
Thank you. I definitely will if I’m allowed. Thank you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:59:46]
Always allowed. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s “I Weigh”. I would also like to thank the team, which helps me make this podcast. My producers, Sophia Jennings and Kimmie Lucas. My editor, Andrew Carson. My boyfriend, James Blake, who made the beautiful music you are hearing now. And me, for my work. At “I Weigh”, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 1-818-660-5543. Or e-mail us what you weigh at [email protected]. And remember, it’s not in pounds and kilos, it’s your social contributions to society or just how you define yourself in life. Here’s a little message from one of our “I Weigh” listeners. “I weigh surviving over and over again. I weigh being an unapologetic autistic woman. We exist. I weigh doodling and music and learning to have fun. I weigh adoring all animals. I weigh being terrified of recovery and choosing it anyway. I weigh refusing to be ashamed anymore”.