Lisa Sell

@lisa-sell | contributor
I am a Brit writer of novels and short stories. I also blog about writing, reading, books, mental health, and life issues at: https://www.lisasell.co.uk/. My biggest loves are chocolate, cheese, coffee, cake, the cat and the husband. Not necessarily in that order.
Lisa Sell

A Letter to My Brother, Who Died by Suicide

Dear Brother, The winter blues have gotten me again. From the moment New Year’s Eve is here, I know I will have to face the torment of January. The anniversary of your death by suicide comes quickly and now it has passed. Another year’s remembrance over, but the memories live on. Some may question why I’m writing so publicly about something so personal. Well, it took 11 years, so there’s that. Also if anything I write to you helps others grieving those who have died by suicide, I would feel honored. To reach out to those fighting against it or surviving attempts; may this help them in some way too. Eleven years ago I guess you thought your actions had brought an end. They didn’t. It was just the beginning; of pain, regret, loss, grief, retrieving memories and learning how to live in a radically altered world. I don’t blame you for it. I know that life must have been torment for you to consider suicide, particularly on Mum’s birthday. I only hope now, as I have done since that day, that somehow you found peace. If I condemn you, I condemn myself. I know how it is to feel like the only option to ending the relentless agony of living and feeling too much is to find seeming oblivion in death. I have spent hours in the past contemplating the darkness of suicide. It seemed more preferable than fighting in the harsh light of life. I know the strife of tussling with life and death, particularly at night when sleep evades you and the monstrous voice of mental illness whispers in your ear that to die would be bliss. I know the battle between your true self and deceitful depression as you agonize over whether you could do this; to yourself and your loved ones. I know the tears that splash the ink of a suicide letter as you try to find the words to explain. The words seem futile, crass and basic. How can you ever convince those who inhabit the “real” world that you have been living in horror? My heart still clenches every time I remember seeing those splashes upon paper. I touched them. I needed to connect with the last part of you even if it was just your watery pain. I refuse to ever state that you “committed” suicide. I will not ever render you a criminal for taking your own life. It may sound controversial to others but it was your life, you chose what to do with it. Do not get me wrong. Every day I wish you had not decided upon suicide. I wish you could have seen that it was a temporary decision made painfully permanent. However, you did not commit a crime. You were beguiled by the seductive voices that told you it was better this way; that the hurt would end and you were sparing your family and friends from it any further. That monstrous voice of depression committed the crime, not you. Life had to go on. We never thought that it would. I was mystified by how everyone carried on living. Did they not know that my brother had died, by suicide even, and I was holding my breath? Did they not know that I thought by not allowing myself to exhale, I could hold you inside for a little longer? We all have to breathe though, and it was so bloody hard when I did. I could barely function. I had to tell myself how to inhale and exhale. I had to train my brain in how to help me to walk, speak, look people in the eyes and just be a human being. I often failed. I will not speak entirely for our family as their memories are their own. I will state though what I witnessed: parents needing parenting; siblings trying to pull closer only to unravel apart; your son too young to understand and true friends who loved and were there because no words could ever make it OK. We went into stasis for a while. Then one day we had to move. That is not to say that we moved on and forgot you. We never will. You more than made your mark with your large personality, your cheekiness, your silly noises, your penchant for designer gear and your charm with the ladies. Who can forget you if they have ever even remotely been part of your life? We did, however, have to pick up life, bit by painstaking bit. I know that’s what you wanted. You wrote that. We did but in a whole new, there’s a void, kind of way. It has never failed to surprise me how often people flinch or change the subject when I mention your mode of death. I am not ashamed and I refuse to allow them to make me ashamed of you. You are not suicide. It is how you died. It doesn’t define you. I am saddened though that for some their lasting memory will be of you being the bloke who “committed” suicide. That is not you. I know it sounds like a barbaric act. I will not deny the scariness of the violence of suicide. I cannot to this day witness the act of how you killed yourself on television. I understand how people are horrified by it but the act is the terror, not the person. It is a conduit, albeit shocking, of a choice that they have made. I will never condone suicide as my desire is that no one will ever feel the need to do it, but I live in the real world. I am about prevention rather than casting aspersions upon those that attempt or see through the action of suicide. I don’t want that to be the lasting memory of you. I sometimes dream of you both living and in the process of dying. I am glad to say that the living dreams are more prevalent now. That’s you; living on in memory, not as a suicide casualty. It hurt when you died and people crossed the street because they didn’t know what to say to the family. We don’t know if it’s because people don’t know what to say to those whose brother and son has died, or that they felt awkward about it being a suicide. All I do know is that we didn’t need it. Just a simple nod, a kind smile or a few basic words would have done. It has been difficult to negotiate since your death the cruel estimations some make of those who take their own lives. I have equally bitten my tongue and railed against them. May they never know a loved one who genuinely believes that suicide is the only answer. Let them judge then where they will spend eternity or the apparent selfishness of their actions. Another thing I have hated is hearing people condemning those that have died as a result of suicide for being cowardly. That is so easy to say when you have never felt it or seen it first-hand. I cannot speak for you brother, but I can speak for me. Fighting against death is exhausting. Getting through that battle without giving in to the impulse should make you feel like the winner that you are. Instead you feel like a failure. You believe the lies that the desire to die is your own, rather than an illness or situation that is trying to lead you down a dark path of suicide. You despise yourself for thinking of it. You believe that it all comes from a badness buried inside of you. The guilt eats you up. You cannot look at your loved ones. You feel like you have failed them just thinking about it. You may make suicide attempts as did you and I, brother. You survive. You wish you hadn’t when you see the pain in your family’s eyes. You feel smothered and caught out. You feel the guilt and anger; at them and you. You are placed upon constant “death watch.” I am guilty of this. I have wished so many times in the last 11 years that I could have done something to stop this final curtain from falling upon you. I have beaten myself up for not spotting the signs well enough as someone who has been there. I now know that there was nothing I could have done to intercede. I may have had some knowledge of suicide, but I was not you. I did not know how far you would go and when. You fought a good fight brother. I admire your bravery. You wrestled and then reconciled with death. I could say that I know that if you had held on longer, better days could have come, but that helps no one now. I feel tearful every time I consider how lonely and heartbroken you must have been on that night. That is bravery, not cowardice. You’re still here in my heart and mind. I look at photographs of you and smile at that wide toothy grin. I feel sad when I reflect upon what you have missed in our family’s lives. Unannounced feelings of desperately missing you occasionally blindside me. I’ll say your name and remember that it’s one of the best sounds I want to hear. I’ll acknowledge your faults and foibles and not cast you as a saint just because you’re deceased. I look at your son and marvel at what a great young man he is now, and how proud I’m sure you would have been of him. The day you died wasn’t the ending you thought it would be. I guess you thought it was. That was the point. However you live on. Eleven years later and we are still linked. The cord has not been severed because of suicide. I still count you in my number of siblings when I’m asked by strangers how many I have. You didn’t stop being my brother just because you died. That will never end. Your death was never the end. With love from the Duchess (I will allow this mocking nickname you had of me just this once). x Follow this journey on Lisa Sell’s site.

Community Voices

Why I'll Never Stop Writing About Mental Illness

I’m a writer and a blogger. My blog often focuses on mental illness issues, detailing  my own experiences and the desire to help others.

As long as I can write, I will not be silent about mental illness. Here are my reasons why:

• To help others who have been recently diagnosed with a . It’s a scary and uncertain place. If one of my pieces helps someone in that position it’s worth it.

• To help those who are in the thick of to know they’re not alone. Dealing with an illness of the mind is a lonely prison that’s hard to escape from. Knowing others out there understand helps to break the sense of isolation.

#Depression is confusing, with its many symptoms. Sometimes reading about others who’ve been there can show us the illness is separate from us. We did not cause it.

• As long as stigmas exist about I can not stop writing about it. Stigmas are breaking down but it’s an excruciatingly slow process. It seems is often discussed and written about. It may appear societies are forward-thinking. As long as terms are still used as insults, the media portrays schizophrenics as serial killers, so-called friends reject the mentally ill, and trolls use as bait, I will keep writing.

• I will not reward 22 years of recurring depression with my silence. It’s already taken too much. Nothing is wasted, not even the truly bleak stuff. I will continue to write about my experiences because it’s helped others and I hope it continues to do so.

#SocialAnxiety can make you feel like a freak. Tell people you have it and you’ll be surprised how many others share they have it too.  We are normal.

• I write about for me too. That’s not selfish. This is my self-care.

• Until #MentalHealth provision is properly funded we have to keep it in the public eye. People on ridiculously long waiting lists are suffering for no good reason.

• One person who dies by #Suicide is too many. I know from experience a suicidal person feels like the most isolated being on this planet. Maybe reading of others who understand that dark place can help to know it’s not shameful, you’re not cast out, and there is a future.

• It’s not all doom and gloom. Everyone needs to know that. We have good, even great days.

• People with mental illnesses are the strongest individuals I know. They fight an internal battle 24/7 and still make it through. This fortitude should be acknowledged particularly by those who view as weakness.

• I will always advocate charities and helplines that help those who have a and/or are in distress. We all need to know where support is.

• My brother’s death by suicide will not be in vain. I will honour his memory by writing as a survivor of a loved one’s suicide. It’s a unique kind of #Grief, often met with awkwardness. Those mourning suicide deaths need to connect sometimes and ask the questions spinning around their minds.

• I might get depression again. I will need writing; mine or that of others.

#Anxiety tried to deter me from writing this. I won’t let it win. Writing about gives me strength.

More than anything, I’ve finally accepted what life gave me. I have mental illnesses but they don’t have me.

I would rather not be susceptible to but I didn’t get to choose. I do have a choice about what to do with this though.

I choose to write.

2 people are talking about this
Lisa Sell

A Letter to My Brother, Who Died by Suicide

Dear Brother, The winter blues have gotten me again. From the moment New Year’s Eve is here, I know I will have to face the torment of January. The anniversary of your death by suicide comes quickly and now it has passed. Another year’s remembrance over, but the memories live on. Some may question why I’m writing so publicly about something so personal. Well, it took 11 years, so there’s that. Also if anything I write to you helps others grieving those who have died by suicide, I would feel honored. To reach out to those fighting against it or surviving attempts; may this help them in some way too. Eleven years ago I guess you thought your actions had brought an end. They didn’t. It was just the beginning; of pain, regret, loss, grief, retrieving memories and learning how to live in a radically altered world. I don’t blame you for it. I know that life must have been torment for you to consider suicide, particularly on Mum’s birthday. I only hope now, as I have done since that day, that somehow you found peace. If I condemn you, I condemn myself. I know how it is to feel like the only option to ending the relentless agony of living and feeling too much is to find seeming oblivion in death. I have spent hours in the past contemplating the darkness of suicide. It seemed more preferable than fighting in the harsh light of life. I know the strife of tussling with life and death, particularly at night when sleep evades you and the monstrous voice of mental illness whispers in your ear that to die would be bliss. I know the battle between your true self and deceitful depression as you agonize over whether you could do this; to yourself and your loved ones. I know the tears that splash the ink of a suicide letter as you try to find the words to explain. The words seem futile, crass and basic. How can you ever convince those who inhabit the “real” world that you have been living in horror? My heart still clenches every time I remember seeing those splashes upon paper. I touched them. I needed to connect with the last part of you even if it was just your watery pain. I refuse to ever state that you “committed” suicide. I will not ever render you a criminal for taking your own life. It may sound controversial to others but it was your life, you chose what to do with it. Do not get me wrong. Every day I wish you had not decided upon suicide. I wish you could have seen that it was a temporary decision made painfully permanent. However, you did not commit a crime. You were beguiled by the seductive voices that told you it was better this way; that the hurt would end and you were sparing your family and friends from it any further. That monstrous voice of depression committed the crime, not you. Life had to go on. We never thought that it would. I was mystified by how everyone carried on living. Did they not know that my brother had died, by suicide even, and I was holding my breath? Did they not know that I thought by not allowing myself to exhale, I could hold you inside for a little longer? We all have to breathe though, and it was so bloody hard when I did. I could barely function. I had to tell myself how to inhale and exhale. I had to train my brain in how to help me to walk, speak, look people in the eyes and just be a human being. I often failed. I will not speak entirely for our family as their memories are their own. I will state though what I witnessed: parents needing parenting; siblings trying to pull closer only to unravel apart; your son too young to understand and true friends who loved and were there because no words could ever make it OK. We went into stasis for a while. Then one day we had to move. That is not to say that we moved on and forgot you. We never will. You more than made your mark with your large personality, your cheekiness, your silly noises, your penchant for designer gear and your charm with the ladies. Who can forget you if they have ever even remotely been part of your life? We did, however, have to pick up life, bit by painstaking bit. I know that’s what you wanted. You wrote that. We did but in a whole new, there’s a void, kind of way. It has never failed to surprise me how often people flinch or change the subject when I mention your mode of death. I am not ashamed and I refuse to allow them to make me ashamed of you. You are not suicide. It is how you died. It doesn’t define you. I am saddened though that for some their lasting memory will be of you being the bloke who “committed” suicide. That is not you. I know it sounds like a barbaric act. I will not deny the scariness of the violence of suicide. I cannot to this day witness the act of how you killed yourself on television. I understand how people are horrified by it but the act is the terror, not the person. It is a conduit, albeit shocking, of a choice that they have made. I will never condone suicide as my desire is that no one will ever feel the need to do it, but I live in the real world. I am about prevention rather than casting aspersions upon those that attempt or see through the action of suicide. I don’t want that to be the lasting memory of you. I sometimes dream of you both living and in the process of dying. I am glad to say that the living dreams are more prevalent now. That’s you; living on in memory, not as a suicide casualty. It hurt when you died and people crossed the street because they didn’t know what to say to the family. We don’t know if it’s because people don’t know what to say to those whose brother and son has died, or that they felt awkward about it being a suicide. All I do know is that we didn’t need it. Just a simple nod, a kind smile or a few basic words would have done. It has been difficult to negotiate since your death the cruel estimations some make of those who take their own lives. I have equally bitten my tongue and railed against them. May they never know a loved one who genuinely believes that suicide is the only answer. Let them judge then where they will spend eternity or the apparent selfishness of their actions. Another thing I have hated is hearing people condemning those that have died as a result of suicide for being cowardly. That is so easy to say when you have never felt it or seen it first-hand. I cannot speak for you brother, but I can speak for me. Fighting against death is exhausting. Getting through that battle without giving in to the impulse should make you feel like the winner that you are. Instead you feel like a failure. You believe the lies that the desire to die is your own, rather than an illness or situation that is trying to lead you down a dark path of suicide. You despise yourself for thinking of it. You believe that it all comes from a badness buried inside of you. The guilt eats you up. You cannot look at your loved ones. You feel like you have failed them just thinking about it. You may make suicide attempts as did you and I, brother. You survive. You wish you hadn’t when you see the pain in your family’s eyes. You feel smothered and caught out. You feel the guilt and anger; at them and you. You are placed upon constant “death watch.” I am guilty of this. I have wished so many times in the last 11 years that I could have done something to stop this final curtain from falling upon you. I have beaten myself up for not spotting the signs well enough as someone who has been there. I now know that there was nothing I could have done to intercede. I may have had some knowledge of suicide, but I was not you. I did not know how far you would go and when. You fought a good fight brother. I admire your bravery. You wrestled and then reconciled with death. I could say that I know that if you had held on longer, better days could have come, but that helps no one now. I feel tearful every time I consider how lonely and heartbroken you must have been on that night. That is bravery, not cowardice. You’re still here in my heart and mind. I look at photographs of you and smile at that wide toothy grin. I feel sad when I reflect upon what you have missed in our family’s lives. Unannounced feelings of desperately missing you occasionally blindside me. I’ll say your name and remember that it’s one of the best sounds I want to hear. I’ll acknowledge your faults and foibles and not cast you as a saint just because you’re deceased. I look at your son and marvel at what a great young man he is now, and how proud I’m sure you would have been of him. The day you died wasn’t the ending you thought it would be. I guess you thought it was. That was the point. However you live on. Eleven years later and we are still linked. The cord has not been severed because of suicide. I still count you in my number of siblings when I’m asked by strangers how many I have. You didn’t stop being my brother just because you died. That will never end. Your death was never the end. With love from the Duchess (I will allow this mocking nickname you had of me just this once). x Follow this journey on Lisa Sell’s site.

Community Voices

Why I'll Never Stop Writing About Mental Illness

I’m a writer and a blogger. My blog often focuses on mental illness issues, detailing  my own experiences and the desire to help others.

As long as I can write, I will not be silent about mental illness. Here are my reasons why:

• To help others who have been recently diagnosed with a . It’s a scary and uncertain place. If one of my pieces helps someone in that position it’s worth it.

• To help those who are in the thick of to know they’re not alone. Dealing with an illness of the mind is a lonely prison that’s hard to escape from. Knowing others out there understand helps to break the sense of isolation.

#Depression is confusing, with its many symptoms. Sometimes reading about others who’ve been there can show us the illness is separate from us. We did not cause it.

• As long as stigmas exist about I can not stop writing about it. Stigmas are breaking down but it’s an excruciatingly slow process. It seems is often discussed and written about. It may appear societies are forward-thinking. As long as terms are still used as insults, the media portrays schizophrenics as serial killers, so-called friends reject the mentally ill, and trolls use as bait, I will keep writing.

• I will not reward 22 years of recurring depression with my silence. It’s already taken too much. Nothing is wasted, not even the truly bleak stuff. I will continue to write about my experiences because it’s helped others and I hope it continues to do so.

#SocialAnxiety can make you feel like a freak. Tell people you have it and you’ll be surprised how many others share they have it too.  We are normal.

• I write about for me too. That’s not selfish. This is my self-care.

• Until #MentalHealth provision is properly funded we have to keep it in the public eye. People on ridiculously long waiting lists are suffering for no good reason.

• One person who dies by #Suicide is too many. I know from experience a suicidal person feels like the most isolated being on this planet. Maybe reading of others who understand that dark place can help to know it’s not shameful, you’re not cast out, and there is a future.

• It’s not all doom and gloom. Everyone needs to know that. We have good, even great days.

• People with mental illnesses are the strongest individuals I know. They fight an internal battle 24/7 and still make it through. This fortitude should be acknowledged particularly by those who view as weakness.

• I will always advocate charities and helplines that help those who have a and/or are in distress. We all need to know where support is.

• My brother’s death by suicide will not be in vain. I will honour his memory by writing as a survivor of a loved one’s suicide. It’s a unique kind of #Grief, often met with awkwardness. Those mourning suicide deaths need to connect sometimes and ask the questions spinning around their minds.

• I might get depression again. I will need writing; mine or that of others.

#Anxiety tried to deter me from writing this. I won’t let it win. Writing about gives me strength.

More than anything, I’ve finally accepted what life gave me. I have mental illnesses but they don’t have me.

I would rather not be susceptible to but I didn’t get to choose. I do have a choice about what to do with this though.

I choose to write.

2 people are talking about this
Lisa Sell

10 ‘Ugly’ Truths of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety likes to make the afflicted feel ashamed. I know I have, for many years. Now I am going to begin shattering that. I want to expose its ugliness and lighten the load. I hope that facing these truths will help those of you who have social anxiety too. More than this, maybe it will enlighten those with loved ones who have social anxiety to understand what it does to us. That’s if we can make sense of it, to begin with. Let’s at least try. 1. You make plans and often cancel them. Many people who have social anxiety don’t actively shy away from making social engagements. Actually, we could make them all day, every day. The problem is keeping them. It’s oh-so-easy to arrange a big night out, a speaking engagement or meeting your partner’s family for the first time. You even believe at that point you’ll be OK to do it. That’s because you made the plan weeks, maybe even months, before. Then the week of the engagement hits. You watch the clock tick down toward the dreaded day. You feel exhausted by the inner conflict raging within you that states you really want to go but you just don’t know if you’ll be able to cope. You swing from convincing yourself you can do it to falling into the pits of despair. You cannot sleep the night before because the reel of “what if that happens?” keeps on playing in your mind. You make the whole thing into a disaster of epic proportions. Then the day arrives. You cancel. You just cannot do it. You hate yourself for being such a “failure” and not being able to operate as a “normal” human being. Everyone else has their stuff together, so why can’t you? Guilt and shame take over. 2. You lie. Each time you cancel, particularly if it’s with the same people, you find yourself creating lies to get out of the situation. This is something I feel the most ashamed of. People like to call them “white lies,” as if to make them pure and innocent. I’m no goody-goody but I hate lying, particularly to people I like and respect. I try my hardest not to. It’s sad to admit I’ve done it a lot in the past to get out of social gatherings. In my defense, to a degree, I will say I have not always had to lie. There are people in my life who will understand if I tell them I can’t do something. My husband and best friend know me well enough to understand. They also help me to consider if canceling is what I really want to do. Not everyone is so open. I understand. It must be incredibly tiring and annoying to have the one friend who cancels at the last minute on a regular basis. It must get tedious listening to the increasing elaborate excuses that no one believes, even the liar. Next time that friend who keeps lying to you with an excuse does it again, I ask you to try and place yourself in their shoes. If they’re anything like me, they’ll loathe themselves as they tell the lie. They will feel like a failure and worry this may be the lie that loses your friendship. I know relationships shouldn’t be built upon lies but I do ask you consider why that person is lying to you. You may be annoyed by them but believe me, they’re even more annoyed with themselves. By the way, this does not mean I lie every time I cancel. Store that away for future reference, friends and family! 3. You lose friends. It’s happened to me. Sometimes I realized why. Other times I still don’t understand. People don’t like to be let down. It takes a special kind of person to leave their ego behind and look at another person’s motivations, separate from their own agenda. The worst thing that can happen to someone with social anxiety is to lose friends. That leads to isolation. You’d think we’d want to be on our own. In fact, that’s the last thing we need. It’s so mixed up. We need social interaction — every human being does — but we fear it. No one said that what we fear is always bad for us though. If we have no friends, we will never be social. 4. You think people are judging you. When we are out, an inner voice often takes over. It’s a chatty blighter that’s hard to turn off. We can be sitting there with good friends and not hear a word of their gossip. The inner voice is telling us we shouldn’t have chosen that particular outfit, we look fat, we’re not engaging enough, we’re not funny enough, we should smile more, the woman at the bar gave us a dirty look… The list is endless. The inner voice or social anxiety is a hard one to silence. It’s especially loud at the beginning of the social event.  Sometimes it disappears. Most of the time it’s there, waiting to get a snipe in. 5. We can overcompensate. Paradoxically, those with social anxiety can be party animals. Some learn to overcompensate when trying to hide our social fears. Remember: Just because someone has social anxiety doesn’t mean they’re socially awkward or shy. Many of us are great in social situations once we’re settled. It’s the fear before the occasion and getting through the tough parts that does us in. Some will drink a lot of alcohol or be outrageous and noisy to cover it up. I used to. I cringe at myself in my 20s when I was trying so hard to fit in by being a big presence. It was masochism how I drew attention to myself when it was the last thing I wanted. I thought I needed to be extroverted to be accepted. Everyone else seemed to be. I thought everyone likes the inappropriate, mouthy, volatile and loud one. I now realize people like those kinds of people for the show they put on. It doesn’t necessarily equate to getting respect or genuine friendship. Nowadays I’d rather be introverted little old me. She’s not such a bad person and, more importantly, she’s genuine. 6. Joining in is hard. As a child, I didn’t attend many groups or organizations. I now realize this came from having a mum who had social anxiety too. I’m not blaming my mum for anything but it helps to make sense of things. I didn’t like joining in with things and standing out. To this day, I find it incredibly difficult to do something with others that I might look silly or fail at. My husband asks me to join him in a café playing board games with others. Geeky, yes, but it could be fun. I haven’t gone yet. I’ve told myself I’m rubbish at picking up rules to games and I don’t want to make mistakes in front of others, particularly strangers. I’ve been on the verge of joining various different groups so many times. I’ve signed up or stated my intention to go. Sometimes I find the courage to do it. Often I don’t. I hate how I let myself down and deny myself the opportunities. I try to push myself forward to do these things. Sometimes I succeed. When I don’t, I try to give myself a break and try again another time. 7. You wish you were anyone but you. It’s so hard when you’re in a social situation and you watch people just gliding through it. A person with social anxiety envies the person who can walk into a party and start a conversation with strangers. We stand on the corners, seeming aloof and cold. I am an engaging, chatty and sociable person when I’m comfortable. Unfortunately, when you first meet me, I can sometimes come across as guarded and distant. It’s true I like my own personal space but I can thrive in the company of others too. It’s tough being the wallflower trying to blend into the wallpaper and wishing you could be anyone but you. I’ve taken to really looking around a room now and seeking the truth. The last few times I’ve been out socially, I’ve noticed that people who seem like they have it all together often don’t. I see the nervous eyes darting around the room and the panicked expression when their partner goes to the toilet and leaves them alone. I’ve even started being honest with acquaintances and emerging friends about it. It’s been heartening when I tell them I’m battling social anxiety and they tell me, “me too.” It feels like we can then rescue each other. 8. It’s exhausting when you confront it. After an evening of socializing, I always feel exhausted, regardless of whether it went well or not. When I’m with others, my mind is constantly whirring and on alert. It’s helping me not to come across as unsociable. It’s challenging all the negative talk of the inner voice. It’s picking up on social cues. It’s assessing my performance and then telling myself off for not being authentic. Carry around a group of critics in your head for a day and you will be fatigued. 9. It’s usually not so bad when you get there. Most of the time, once I’ve got to a social engagement, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Considering my pre-social scenarios run to such ridiculous things as “They’ll notice my extra chin,” or “What will I talk about with the cousin, who I’ve never met, of a work colleague, who might leave me with them when she gets a drink?” It’s understandable. I can laugh afterward about how I imagined such hilarious non-existent situations but it doesn’t take away from how mentally debilitating it is to battle those thoughts in the first place. With each successful social engagement, I remind myself I made it. I try to remember for the next one. It doesn’t always work but I keep trying. 10. The scariness of admitting “ugly” truths. This is a really hard post to write and share. I know there may be people I’ve let down or lied to who will read it and know. All I can do is apologize and hope they can try to understand. It’s tough telling the world you’re not as together as they might think you are. You can come across as confident and witty as you like on social media, but the barrier of screens and distance makes for a comforting cushion. You might even meet me and wonder what on earth I was writing about; “She’s perfectly fine talking to me.” What you won’t see, like the duck’s legs frantically swimming under the water, is that my cogs are going wild underneath too. Give me a chance. Look beyond the label. You might just like me for me.

Lisa Sell

10 ‘Ugly’ Truths of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety likes to make the afflicted feel ashamed. I know I have, for many years. Now I am going to begin shattering that. I want to expose its ugliness and lighten the load. I hope that facing these truths will help those of you who have social anxiety too. More than this, maybe it will enlighten those with loved ones who have social anxiety to understand what it does to us. That’s if we can make sense of it, to begin with. Let’s at least try. 1. You make plans and often cancel them. Many people who have social anxiety don’t actively shy away from making social engagements. Actually, we could make them all day, every day. The problem is keeping them. It’s oh-so-easy to arrange a big night out, a speaking engagement or meeting your partner’s family for the first time. You even believe at that point you’ll be OK to do it. That’s because you made the plan weeks, maybe even months, before. Then the week of the engagement hits. You watch the clock tick down toward the dreaded day. You feel exhausted by the inner conflict raging within you that states you really want to go but you just don’t know if you’ll be able to cope. You swing from convincing yourself you can do it to falling into the pits of despair. You cannot sleep the night before because the reel of “what if that happens?” keeps on playing in your mind. You make the whole thing into a disaster of epic proportions. Then the day arrives. You cancel. You just cannot do it. You hate yourself for being such a “failure” and not being able to operate as a “normal” human being. Everyone else has their stuff together, so why can’t you? Guilt and shame take over. 2. You lie. Each time you cancel, particularly if it’s with the same people, you find yourself creating lies to get out of the situation. This is something I feel the most ashamed of. People like to call them “white lies,” as if to make them pure and innocent. I’m no goody-goody but I hate lying, particularly to people I like and respect. I try my hardest not to. It’s sad to admit I’ve done it a lot in the past to get out of social gatherings. In my defense, to a degree, I will say I have not always had to lie. There are people in my life who will understand if I tell them I can’t do something. My husband and best friend know me well enough to understand. They also help me to consider if canceling is what I really want to do. Not everyone is so open. I understand. It must be incredibly tiring and annoying to have the one friend who cancels at the last minute on a regular basis. It must get tedious listening to the increasing elaborate excuses that no one believes, even the liar. Next time that friend who keeps lying to you with an excuse does it again, I ask you to try and place yourself in their shoes. If they’re anything like me, they’ll loathe themselves as they tell the lie. They will feel like a failure and worry this may be the lie that loses your friendship. I know relationships shouldn’t be built upon lies but I do ask you consider why that person is lying to you. You may be annoyed by them but believe me, they’re even more annoyed with themselves. By the way, this does not mean I lie every time I cancel. Store that away for future reference, friends and family! 3. You lose friends. It’s happened to me. Sometimes I realized why. Other times I still don’t understand. People don’t like to be let down. It takes a special kind of person to leave their ego behind and look at another person’s motivations, separate from their own agenda. The worst thing that can happen to someone with social anxiety is to lose friends. That leads to isolation. You’d think we’d want to be on our own. In fact, that’s the last thing we need. It’s so mixed up. We need social interaction — every human being does — but we fear it. No one said that what we fear is always bad for us though. If we have no friends, we will never be social. 4. You think people are judging you. When we are out, an inner voice often takes over. It’s a chatty blighter that’s hard to turn off. We can be sitting there with good friends and not hear a word of their gossip. The inner voice is telling us we shouldn’t have chosen that particular outfit, we look fat, we’re not engaging enough, we’re not funny enough, we should smile more, the woman at the bar gave us a dirty look… The list is endless. The inner voice or social anxiety is a hard one to silence. It’s especially loud at the beginning of the social event.  Sometimes it disappears. Most of the time it’s there, waiting to get a snipe in. 5. We can overcompensate. Paradoxically, those with social anxiety can be party animals. Some learn to overcompensate when trying to hide our social fears. Remember: Just because someone has social anxiety doesn’t mean they’re socially awkward or shy. Many of us are great in social situations once we’re settled. It’s the fear before the occasion and getting through the tough parts that does us in. Some will drink a lot of alcohol or be outrageous and noisy to cover it up. I used to. I cringe at myself in my 20s when I was trying so hard to fit in by being a big presence. It was masochism how I drew attention to myself when it was the last thing I wanted. I thought I needed to be extroverted to be accepted. Everyone else seemed to be. I thought everyone likes the inappropriate, mouthy, volatile and loud one. I now realize people like those kinds of people for the show they put on. It doesn’t necessarily equate to getting respect or genuine friendship. Nowadays I’d rather be introverted little old me. She’s not such a bad person and, more importantly, she’s genuine. 6. Joining in is hard. As a child, I didn’t attend many groups or organizations. I now realize this came from having a mum who had social anxiety too. I’m not blaming my mum for anything but it helps to make sense of things. I didn’t like joining in with things and standing out. To this day, I find it incredibly difficult to do something with others that I might look silly or fail at. My husband asks me to join him in a café playing board games with others. Geeky, yes, but it could be fun. I haven’t gone yet. I’ve told myself I’m rubbish at picking up rules to games and I don’t want to make mistakes in front of others, particularly strangers. I’ve been on the verge of joining various different groups so many times. I’ve signed up or stated my intention to go. Sometimes I find the courage to do it. Often I don’t. I hate how I let myself down and deny myself the opportunities. I try to push myself forward to do these things. Sometimes I succeed. When I don’t, I try to give myself a break and try again another time. 7. You wish you were anyone but you. It’s so hard when you’re in a social situation and you watch people just gliding through it. A person with social anxiety envies the person who can walk into a party and start a conversation with strangers. We stand on the corners, seeming aloof and cold. I am an engaging, chatty and sociable person when I’m comfortable. Unfortunately, when you first meet me, I can sometimes come across as guarded and distant. It’s true I like my own personal space but I can thrive in the company of others too. It’s tough being the wallflower trying to blend into the wallpaper and wishing you could be anyone but you. I’ve taken to really looking around a room now and seeking the truth. The last few times I’ve been out socially, I’ve noticed that people who seem like they have it all together often don’t. I see the nervous eyes darting around the room and the panicked expression when their partner goes to the toilet and leaves them alone. I’ve even started being honest with acquaintances and emerging friends about it. It’s been heartening when I tell them I’m battling social anxiety and they tell me, “me too.” It feels like we can then rescue each other. 8. It’s exhausting when you confront it. After an evening of socializing, I always feel exhausted, regardless of whether it went well or not. When I’m with others, my mind is constantly whirring and on alert. It’s helping me not to come across as unsociable. It’s challenging all the negative talk of the inner voice. It’s picking up on social cues. It’s assessing my performance and then telling myself off for not being authentic. Carry around a group of critics in your head for a day and you will be fatigued. 9. It’s usually not so bad when you get there. Most of the time, once I’ve got to a social engagement, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Considering my pre-social scenarios run to such ridiculous things as “They’ll notice my extra chin,” or “What will I talk about with the cousin, who I’ve never met, of a work colleague, who might leave me with them when she gets a drink?” It’s understandable. I can laugh afterward about how I imagined such hilarious non-existent situations but it doesn’t take away from how mentally debilitating it is to battle those thoughts in the first place. With each successful social engagement, I remind myself I made it. I try to remember for the next one. It doesn’t always work but I keep trying. 10. The scariness of admitting “ugly” truths. This is a really hard post to write and share. I know there may be people I’ve let down or lied to who will read it and know. All I can do is apologize and hope they can try to understand. It’s tough telling the world you’re not as together as they might think you are. You can come across as confident and witty as you like on social media, but the barrier of screens and distance makes for a comforting cushion. You might even meet me and wonder what on earth I was writing about; “She’s perfectly fine talking to me.” What you won’t see, like the duck’s legs frantically swimming under the water, is that my cogs are going wild underneath too. Give me a chance. Look beyond the label. You might just like me for me.

Lisa Sell

10 ‘Ugly’ Truths of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety likes to make the afflicted feel ashamed. I know I have, for many years. Now I am going to begin shattering that. I want to expose its ugliness and lighten the load. I hope that facing these truths will help those of you who have social anxiety too. More than this, maybe it will enlighten those with loved ones who have social anxiety to understand what it does to us. That’s if we can make sense of it, to begin with. Let’s at least try. 1. You make plans and often cancel them. Many people who have social anxiety don’t actively shy away from making social engagements. Actually, we could make them all day, every day. The problem is keeping them. It’s oh-so-easy to arrange a big night out, a speaking engagement or meeting your partner’s family for the first time. You even believe at that point you’ll be OK to do it. That’s because you made the plan weeks, maybe even months, before. Then the week of the engagement hits. You watch the clock tick down toward the dreaded day. You feel exhausted by the inner conflict raging within you that states you really want to go but you just don’t know if you’ll be able to cope. You swing from convincing yourself you can do it to falling into the pits of despair. You cannot sleep the night before because the reel of “what if that happens?” keeps on playing in your mind. You make the whole thing into a disaster of epic proportions. Then the day arrives. You cancel. You just cannot do it. You hate yourself for being such a “failure” and not being able to operate as a “normal” human being. Everyone else has their stuff together, so why can’t you? Guilt and shame take over. 2. You lie. Each time you cancel, particularly if it’s with the same people, you find yourself creating lies to get out of the situation. This is something I feel the most ashamed of. People like to call them “white lies,” as if to make them pure and innocent. I’m no goody-goody but I hate lying, particularly to people I like and respect. I try my hardest not to. It’s sad to admit I’ve done it a lot in the past to get out of social gatherings. In my defense, to a degree, I will say I have not always had to lie. There are people in my life who will understand if I tell them I can’t do something. My husband and best friend know me well enough to understand. They also help me to consider if canceling is what I really want to do. Not everyone is so open. I understand. It must be incredibly tiring and annoying to have the one friend who cancels at the last minute on a regular basis. It must get tedious listening to the increasing elaborate excuses that no one believes, even the liar. Next time that friend who keeps lying to you with an excuse does it again, I ask you to try and place yourself in their shoes. If they’re anything like me, they’ll loathe themselves as they tell the lie. They will feel like a failure and worry this may be the lie that loses your friendship. I know relationships shouldn’t be built upon lies but I do ask you consider why that person is lying to you. You may be annoyed by them but believe me, they’re even more annoyed with themselves. By the way, this does not mean I lie every time I cancel. Store that away for future reference, friends and family! 3. You lose friends. It’s happened to me. Sometimes I realized why. Other times I still don’t understand. People don’t like to be let down. It takes a special kind of person to leave their ego behind and look at another person’s motivations, separate from their own agenda. The worst thing that can happen to someone with social anxiety is to lose friends. That leads to isolation. You’d think we’d want to be on our own. In fact, that’s the last thing we need. It’s so mixed up. We need social interaction — every human being does — but we fear it. No one said that what we fear is always bad for us though. If we have no friends, we will never be social. 4. You think people are judging you. When we are out, an inner voice often takes over. It’s a chatty blighter that’s hard to turn off. We can be sitting there with good friends and not hear a word of their gossip. The inner voice is telling us we shouldn’t have chosen that particular outfit, we look fat, we’re not engaging enough, we’re not funny enough, we should smile more, the woman at the bar gave us a dirty look… The list is endless. The inner voice or social anxiety is a hard one to silence. It’s especially loud at the beginning of the social event.  Sometimes it disappears. Most of the time it’s there, waiting to get a snipe in. 5. We can overcompensate. Paradoxically, those with social anxiety can be party animals. Some learn to overcompensate when trying to hide our social fears. Remember: Just because someone has social anxiety doesn’t mean they’re socially awkward or shy. Many of us are great in social situations once we’re settled. It’s the fear before the occasion and getting through the tough parts that does us in. Some will drink a lot of alcohol or be outrageous and noisy to cover it up. I used to. I cringe at myself in my 20s when I was trying so hard to fit in by being a big presence. It was masochism how I drew attention to myself when it was the last thing I wanted. I thought I needed to be extroverted to be accepted. Everyone else seemed to be. I thought everyone likes the inappropriate, mouthy, volatile and loud one. I now realize people like those kinds of people for the show they put on. It doesn’t necessarily equate to getting respect or genuine friendship. Nowadays I’d rather be introverted little old me. She’s not such a bad person and, more importantly, she’s genuine. 6. Joining in is hard. As a child, I didn’t attend many groups or organizations. I now realize this came from having a mum who had social anxiety too. I’m not blaming my mum for anything but it helps to make sense of things. I didn’t like joining in with things and standing out. To this day, I find it incredibly difficult to do something with others that I might look silly or fail at. My husband asks me to join him in a café playing board games with others. Geeky, yes, but it could be fun. I haven’t gone yet. I’ve told myself I’m rubbish at picking up rules to games and I don’t want to make mistakes in front of others, particularly strangers. I’ve been on the verge of joining various different groups so many times. I’ve signed up or stated my intention to go. Sometimes I find the courage to do it. Often I don’t. I hate how I let myself down and deny myself the opportunities. I try to push myself forward to do these things. Sometimes I succeed. When I don’t, I try to give myself a break and try again another time. 7. You wish you were anyone but you. It’s so hard when you’re in a social situation and you watch people just gliding through it. A person with social anxiety envies the person who can walk into a party and start a conversation with strangers. We stand on the corners, seeming aloof and cold. I am an engaging, chatty and sociable person when I’m comfortable. Unfortunately, when you first meet me, I can sometimes come across as guarded and distant. It’s true I like my own personal space but I can thrive in the company of others too. It’s tough being the wallflower trying to blend into the wallpaper and wishing you could be anyone but you. I’ve taken to really looking around a room now and seeking the truth. The last few times I’ve been out socially, I’ve noticed that people who seem like they have it all together often don’t. I see the nervous eyes darting around the room and the panicked expression when their partner goes to the toilet and leaves them alone. I’ve even started being honest with acquaintances and emerging friends about it. It’s been heartening when I tell them I’m battling social anxiety and they tell me, “me too.” It feels like we can then rescue each other. 8. It’s exhausting when you confront it. After an evening of socializing, I always feel exhausted, regardless of whether it went well or not. When I’m with others, my mind is constantly whirring and on alert. It’s helping me not to come across as unsociable. It’s challenging all the negative talk of the inner voice. It’s picking up on social cues. It’s assessing my performance and then telling myself off for not being authentic. Carry around a group of critics in your head for a day and you will be fatigued. 9. It’s usually not so bad when you get there. Most of the time, once I’ve got to a social engagement, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Considering my pre-social scenarios run to such ridiculous things as “They’ll notice my extra chin,” or “What will I talk about with the cousin, who I’ve never met, of a work colleague, who might leave me with them when she gets a drink?” It’s understandable. I can laugh afterward about how I imagined such hilarious non-existent situations but it doesn’t take away from how mentally debilitating it is to battle those thoughts in the first place. With each successful social engagement, I remind myself I made it. I try to remember for the next one. It doesn’t always work but I keep trying. 10. The scariness of admitting “ugly” truths. This is a really hard post to write and share. I know there may be people I’ve let down or lied to who will read it and know. All I can do is apologize and hope they can try to understand. It’s tough telling the world you’re not as together as they might think you are. You can come across as confident and witty as you like on social media, but the barrier of screens and distance makes for a comforting cushion. You might even meet me and wonder what on earth I was writing about; “She’s perfectly fine talking to me.” What you won’t see, like the duck’s legs frantically swimming under the water, is that my cogs are going wild underneath too. Give me a chance. Look beyond the label. You might just like me for me.

Lisa Sell

10 ‘Ugly’ Truths of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety likes to make the afflicted feel ashamed. I know I have, for many years. Now I am going to begin shattering that. I want to expose its ugliness and lighten the load. I hope that facing these truths will help those of you who have social anxiety too. More than this, maybe it will enlighten those with loved ones who have social anxiety to understand what it does to us. That’s if we can make sense of it, to begin with. Let’s at least try. 1. You make plans and often cancel them. Many people who have social anxiety don’t actively shy away from making social engagements. Actually, we could make them all day, every day. The problem is keeping them. It’s oh-so-easy to arrange a big night out, a speaking engagement or meeting your partner’s family for the first time. You even believe at that point you’ll be OK to do it. That’s because you made the plan weeks, maybe even months, before. Then the week of the engagement hits. You watch the clock tick down toward the dreaded day. You feel exhausted by the inner conflict raging within you that states you really want to go but you just don’t know if you’ll be able to cope. You swing from convincing yourself you can do it to falling into the pits of despair. You cannot sleep the night before because the reel of “what if that happens?” keeps on playing in your mind. You make the whole thing into a disaster of epic proportions. Then the day arrives. You cancel. You just cannot do it. You hate yourself for being such a “failure” and not being able to operate as a “normal” human being. Everyone else has their stuff together, so why can’t you? Guilt and shame take over. 2. You lie. Each time you cancel, particularly if it’s with the same people, you find yourself creating lies to get out of the situation. This is something I feel the most ashamed of. People like to call them “white lies,” as if to make them pure and innocent. I’m no goody-goody but I hate lying, particularly to people I like and respect. I try my hardest not to. It’s sad to admit I’ve done it a lot in the past to get out of social gatherings. In my defense, to a degree, I will say I have not always had to lie. There are people in my life who will understand if I tell them I can’t do something. My husband and best friend know me well enough to understand. They also help me to consider if canceling is what I really want to do. Not everyone is so open. I understand. It must be incredibly tiring and annoying to have the one friend who cancels at the last minute on a regular basis. It must get tedious listening to the increasing elaborate excuses that no one believes, even the liar. Next time that friend who keeps lying to you with an excuse does it again, I ask you to try and place yourself in their shoes. If they’re anything like me, they’ll loathe themselves as they tell the lie. They will feel like a failure and worry this may be the lie that loses your friendship. I know relationships shouldn’t be built upon lies but I do ask you consider why that person is lying to you. You may be annoyed by them but believe me, they’re even more annoyed with themselves. By the way, this does not mean I lie every time I cancel. Store that away for future reference, friends and family! 3. You lose friends. It’s happened to me. Sometimes I realized why. Other times I still don’t understand. People don’t like to be let down. It takes a special kind of person to leave their ego behind and look at another person’s motivations, separate from their own agenda. The worst thing that can happen to someone with social anxiety is to lose friends. That leads to isolation. You’d think we’d want to be on our own. In fact, that’s the last thing we need. It’s so mixed up. We need social interaction — every human being does — but we fear it. No one said that what we fear is always bad for us though. If we have no friends, we will never be social. 4. You think people are judging you. When we are out, an inner voice often takes over. It’s a chatty blighter that’s hard to turn off. We can be sitting there with good friends and not hear a word of their gossip. The inner voice is telling us we shouldn’t have chosen that particular outfit, we look fat, we’re not engaging enough, we’re not funny enough, we should smile more, the woman at the bar gave us a dirty look… The list is endless. The inner voice or social anxiety is a hard one to silence. It’s especially loud at the beginning of the social event.  Sometimes it disappears. Most of the time it’s there, waiting to get a snipe in. 5. We can overcompensate. Paradoxically, those with social anxiety can be party animals. Some learn to overcompensate when trying to hide our social fears. Remember: Just because someone has social anxiety doesn’t mean they’re socially awkward or shy. Many of us are great in social situations once we’re settled. It’s the fear before the occasion and getting through the tough parts that does us in. Some will drink a lot of alcohol or be outrageous and noisy to cover it up. I used to. I cringe at myself in my 20s when I was trying so hard to fit in by being a big presence. It was masochism how I drew attention to myself when it was the last thing I wanted. I thought I needed to be extroverted to be accepted. Everyone else seemed to be. I thought everyone likes the inappropriate, mouthy, volatile and loud one. I now realize people like those kinds of people for the show they put on. It doesn’t necessarily equate to getting respect or genuine friendship. Nowadays I’d rather be introverted little old me. She’s not such a bad person and, more importantly, she’s genuine. 6. Joining in is hard. As a child, I didn’t attend many groups or organizations. I now realize this came from having a mum who had social anxiety too. I’m not blaming my mum for anything but it helps to make sense of things. I didn’t like joining in with things and standing out. To this day, I find it incredibly difficult to do something with others that I might look silly or fail at. My husband asks me to join him in a café playing board games with others. Geeky, yes, but it could be fun. I haven’t gone yet. I’ve told myself I’m rubbish at picking up rules to games and I don’t want to make mistakes in front of others, particularly strangers. I’ve been on the verge of joining various different groups so many times. I’ve signed up or stated my intention to go. Sometimes I find the courage to do it. Often I don’t. I hate how I let myself down and deny myself the opportunities. I try to push myself forward to do these things. Sometimes I succeed. When I don’t, I try to give myself a break and try again another time. 7. You wish you were anyone but you. It’s so hard when you’re in a social situation and you watch people just gliding through it. A person with social anxiety envies the person who can walk into a party and start a conversation with strangers. We stand on the corners, seeming aloof and cold. I am an engaging, chatty and sociable person when I’m comfortable. Unfortunately, when you first meet me, I can sometimes come across as guarded and distant. It’s true I like my own personal space but I can thrive in the company of others too. It’s tough being the wallflower trying to blend into the wallpaper and wishing you could be anyone but you. I’ve taken to really looking around a room now and seeking the truth. The last few times I’ve been out socially, I’ve noticed that people who seem like they have it all together often don’t. I see the nervous eyes darting around the room and the panicked expression when their partner goes to the toilet and leaves them alone. I’ve even started being honest with acquaintances and emerging friends about it. It’s been heartening when I tell them I’m battling social anxiety and they tell me, “me too.” It feels like we can then rescue each other. 8. It’s exhausting when you confront it. After an evening of socializing, I always feel exhausted, regardless of whether it went well or not. When I’m with others, my mind is constantly whirring and on alert. It’s helping me not to come across as unsociable. It’s challenging all the negative talk of the inner voice. It’s picking up on social cues. It’s assessing my performance and then telling myself off for not being authentic. Carry around a group of critics in your head for a day and you will be fatigued. 9. It’s usually not so bad when you get there. Most of the time, once I’ve got to a social engagement, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Considering my pre-social scenarios run to such ridiculous things as “They’ll notice my extra chin,” or “What will I talk about with the cousin, who I’ve never met, of a work colleague, who might leave me with them when she gets a drink?” It’s understandable. I can laugh afterward about how I imagined such hilarious non-existent situations but it doesn’t take away from how mentally debilitating it is to battle those thoughts in the first place. With each successful social engagement, I remind myself I made it. I try to remember for the next one. It doesn’t always work but I keep trying. 10. The scariness of admitting “ugly” truths. This is a really hard post to write and share. I know there may be people I’ve let down or lied to who will read it and know. All I can do is apologize and hope they can try to understand. It’s tough telling the world you’re not as together as they might think you are. You can come across as confident and witty as you like on social media, but the barrier of screens and distance makes for a comforting cushion. You might even meet me and wonder what on earth I was writing about; “She’s perfectly fine talking to me.” What you won’t see, like the duck’s legs frantically swimming under the water, is that my cogs are going wild underneath too. Give me a chance. Look beyond the label. You might just like me for me.

Lisa Sell

What Running a 5K Taught Me About Depression

I started running five months ago mainly to help with my mental health. I have had depressive episodes for 21 years and have found running to be more of a mental challenge than I expected. I always thought running was purely physical. Now that I am a runner, I see the hardest work as I pound the pavements is happening in my mind. With each run, I am running against the thoughts in my head. Since I began, I have been aiming to run 5K. It is the “Holy Grail” for many newbie runners. Due to life setbacks and depression -related issues it has taken me longer to get there than I anticipated, but I finally have. It was not easy and I went through a myriad of emotions throughout. It was not unlike having depression. I learned a lot about how I deal with depression from that run. 1. The beginning is scary I began my run declaring that I would crack 5K this time. As soon as the words were said, I wanted to take them back. I had said them openly to my husband who was running with me. It felt like I could not change my mind because of the pressure from my inner critic. I just wanted to do this run and feel good. Self-doubt dictated I would never be able to do it. In life I just want to live it and make it good. Depression dictated I would never be able to have that. I started the run and it was hard. I had already set myself up to fail in my head. Depression does that too. We aim for even the most routine of tasks, such as brushing our teeth, and the effort feels like too much. 2. Self-care is important As I began to run, I decided I would take the pressure off. I told myself that today I may not complete 5K but that this did not mean I would fail. That is a hard lesson to learn for a previous perfectionist, but it is perfectionism that burns me out. Taking away the pressure of a goal I must hit gave me peace. I wanted it to be the day I finally ran 5K, but I knew that just being able to get out and running was enough. The run became smoother once I gave myself permission to run and see where it took me. 3. Know when to “go it alone” or get help from others I started running with my husband. I needed him alongside me due to anxiety issues. I applauded myself the first time I ran alone and how after that I was able to run solo. On this particular run, we decided to run together. I am glad we did. It is true that there is a lot of strength to be gained in facing challenges alone. We should celebrate them, particularly when we are depressed. Equally there is no shame in asking others to walk, or run alongside you. This run was a time when I needed the support. I needed someone who loves me alongside to keep me motivated. I needed someone to be my cheerleader and to guide me forwards at the moments when I wanted to quit. I needed to hear I was doing great and I could make it. I have heard these words and received these actions from my husband both when I am depressed and on this run. I know I am blessed to have his support. 4. It’s a roller coaster of feelings and emotions For me, that 5K run was a metaphor of a depressive episode. I began feeling scared and unsure of my ability to cope. I moved on to gaining some strength and considering that I might just be able to make it through. I was coasting along and doing well until the thought bumps hit. The negative thoughts would gain traction, spiraling from, “You will never do this,” to torturing me about bad choices I made when I was 15 years old, a depressive’s head is a playground for decades’ old recriminations. Each negative thought took its toll. My running slowed and I wanted to stop. I looked around and thought that people were looking at me and finding me wanting. Then the old fighter in me, the one I discovered in depression, came back. She shouted that I could and would keep running. I had made it through before and now was not the time to quit. I am not judging anyone. I have come to a halt in depressive episodes too. I have taken to my bed for days and not seen a single person. I have even tried to end my life because I wanted a permanent end. I am glad that strength I never knew I had shone through to see me beyond a temporary blip. 5. The darkest times often come before the light I have not been running at night before. On this particular run, we ran along the beach front at night and it felt alien. Along the front were brightly lit patches juxtaposed against darker areas. In the light spaces I felt confident about putting my feet upon ground I could see. It was like better mental health days when I can see clearly, out of the depression haze and I negotiate the world more boldly. In the darker patches, I slowed down and ran with trepidation. I did not like the feeling of not being able to see who was coming towards me or what potential hazards were on the ground to potentially trip me up. I was scared of falling. The feeling was akin to descending into depression. With each depressive episode, I can see and feel it coming. Still, there is nothing I can do to stop the darkness from creeping in. I fear where it will take me because each episode is different. I fear the darker days to come. On the darkest part of the beach, my husband took my arm and guided me to turn around and run back towards the light. Now there’s a metaphor for loving care and recovery for you. 6. Sometimes reinforcements are needed The run was tough on the way back. I was tired not only physically but mentally. Battling the negative thoughts monster is exhausting. My husband could see that I was flailing. So he called in reinforcements. He phoned my brother who was at the other end of the beach, asking him run in with us to the finish. Having loved ones on both sides of me helped me to get there. When I am depressed and the loneliness kicks in, knowing I have others around me, even if I cannot not speak to them, is enough. The sense of presence keeps me going. 7. The end eventually comes int0 sight Many runners will tell you that when you are near to the end, that is when you want to quit. Your mind plays games with you. I have been through depression and started to recover only to find suicidal thoughts creeping in. I now understand that it is because my mind has come out of numbness and is feeling pain intensely. I have ridden this through with medical and personal support. On this run, I made it through because of my husband and brother believing in me. More importantly, I told myself I could do it. I gave it everything I had left. I fought against the instinct to quit and I think that tired me out more than my wobbly legs. But I did it. 8. There may be doubts when it’s over When I come out of depression there is never a definitive moment where I feel that it is over. This is where finishing a run is different. You can mark the end and the feel an immediate sense of achievement. However for a run where you hit a milestone like 5K you also have residual thoughts and feelings that creep in, especially for a depressed runner. I felt elation. I was proud of myself and the praises of my husband and brother rang in my ears. I basked in the glow of glory for a while and then self-doubt crept in. I told myself I should have run faster, been stronger and fitter. I assessed myself as lacking even in the face of such an achievement. I challenged the thoughts. I have not come this far to see my wins made into losses. I am a woman who has fought depression multiple times and won. I am not a quitter. I will not have each time I came out of depression belittled as nothing. I will not have competing this 5K made to be nothing. It was and is so much more to me than that. I deserve to celebrate this and I will because tomorrow the “Badness” may creep back in and I will need this in my treasured achievements memory box to draw upon. For now I will be content that mental illness lost this time and I won. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via Hunter Johnson

Lisa Sell

Contemplating Past Suicide Attempts When Faced With Loved One's Death

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide , the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Life is a mess right now. My mother is in a hospice receiving end of life care for the cancer that has been claiming her body and mind. Every hour I am given with her is precious. Her life is precious. Life itself is generally viewed as valuable. But this is not always the case for those who have suicidal ideation, tendencies or who have made attempts to end their life. Often we cannot see why we should live any longer because of the thought spirals that takes over. I sit with my mother every day and I wonder why whatever almighty force is out there has decided that her time is nearly done. I fight the merest hint of guilt that I have longed for my own end in the past. Mental illness is often a harbinger of shame and guilt. Add the compulsion to end your own life and you have a damaging mix of every negative feeling and emotion you can possibly experience. I have largely made my peace with my previous  suicide  attempts. I understand now I was not in control of that tsunami of pain that drove me to believe death would bring a calm oblivion. I am grateful I am still living. I am thankful I lived to become a wife to an amazing man, to spend more time with my family, to see my goddaughters grow and to become a writer. I am aware now I was not in control of my thinking or my suicidal impulses. I don’t attribute personal blame for it. My mental wiring is a little faulty sometimes and unfortunately when severe depression grips, suicidal ideation takes a hold of me too. I am not ashamed but I am confused when confronted with this life and death business. I can almost hear you reply, “Aren’t we all?” Yes, but when your mother is dying, you think about it even more. It’s hard to see a previously strong, feisty, independent woman declining at a rapid rate. Life is ebbing away from her. She still has the essence of being my mother but the light that fired up her spirit is fading. She is dying a slow death. By the time you read this she may have already gone. I cannot fathom how I can often be so blasé about death when it’s not affecting me, but now I find it occupies my mind every second of the day. Death casts a shadow over those who feel suicidal, too. I feel like death has been lingering around the edges and occasionally the center of my life for far too long now. My brother died by suicide. I had a miscarriage earlier this year. My mother will not be with us much longer. Death has been my dubious companion. I realize now I have always been trying to make sense of it in order to function after bereavements. I now know I will never solve its puzzle. Death has many guises. Sometimes it feels like a seductress, spewing its deceiving sultry tones into the ear of the pained. It repeats a mantra that we will be better off giving in and letting go. Death can also be exposed as a source of strife. Those closest to us die and we cannot contemplate how our lives can continue now that death has happened. Then we have the slow death. It is a conflict. You wish it will come soon to spare your loved one any further discomfort but you are never ready to let go. Dealing with suicidal ideation has also felt like a slow death for me. I have previously battled for weeks, even months, fighting against death that seems to want to come. I have watched my body and mind decline and wished I could be spared any more pain. Then clarity comes that death is not inevitable for me just yet. I can live once I can find the support to help me to survive. I am thankful for the love of family and friends, along with medical support that has shown me that mental illness does not always equate with death by suicide. My mother unfortunately has no such confirmation. I know she will die and there will be no saving her by love and medical care. We will uphold her and allow her to go as peacefully and painlessly as we can because of that love though. My mental illness is being challenged all the time by this period in our lives but I know that with her death, mine is not inevitable. I will falter, I may even relapse, but I have to believe I have been at the point of wanting death before and made it through. I choose to believe this means I can make it again. Oh how I wish I could say that for the woman who gave me life. I continue to live because of her. I will keep going in tribute to her and know if I ever feel suicidal again I have not let her down. I am my mother’s daughter. I have inner strength. Death is not claiming us both. Not today. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Obencem.