**Trigger warning: death by suicide**
Living with Bipolar Disorder can be extremely challenging. This is due to the unpredictable nature of mood episodes which can come on suddenly. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental illness that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, activity levels, and concentration. These shifts can make it difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks.
There are three types of bipolar disorder, all involving clear mood, energy, and activity level changes. These moods range from periods of extremely “up” and elated, or energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very “down”, sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.
Kathryn Carney, one of our 2023 Still I Run Ambassadors is one of the millions that have been affected by Bipolar Disorder, specifically Bipolar Disorder Type II.
In addition to being a Still I Run Ambassador, Kathryn graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in international relations. She started working in the mental health field at a psychiatric hospital and will be there for the next two years. Currently, Kathryn is pursuing her Masters in Social Work at Grand Valley State University, which she plans to graduate with in April of 2024!
Running on the Road to Hope
Initially, Kathryn was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and for that, she was prescribed medication. “I was on Prozac for about six years. I felt like it was a surface-level fix,” stated Kathryn. Once she was properly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, she got on the right medication for her condition. “Taking the right medication is so crucial," remarked Kathryn. In 2021, Kathryn started up therapy, which was a combination of CBT and DBT approaches.
Included in her mental health toolkit of medication and therapy, Kathryn added running. She says it has "grounds her" and gives her a "sense of calm".
“In 2022, once I was on the right medication and incorporating running into my daily routine, it helped me so much to balance out my mood,” explained Kathryn.
My Why for Running
Not only does Kathryn run for her own mental health, but she also runs for her mother. “My mom was a runner and I used to run with her as a kid, a little younger than 12 years old."
In 2017, Kathryn lost her mother to suicide. Facing the loss of a loved one is always difficult, but losing someone to suicide can add another level of pain to the grief and can be extremely overwhelming. “My mother struggled with Bipolar Disorder Type 1. She was diagnosed in her 20s in college and was very accepting of her mental illness. Unfortunately, she did not take her meds,” remarked Kathryn.
On the more challenging days, running reminds Kathryn there is life outside her bed. Thinking of her mom also helps to inspire her to run.
Self- Care is Giving the World the Best of You
In addition to running, Kathryn's “self-care toolbox” includes other hobbies that bring her a sense of well-being and happiness. “I enjoy coloring, reading, and being outdoors. I live by a park, so it is nice to go there to read or sit on the swings,” she shared. Kathryn also enjoys cooking and baking. “I like learning new recipes to help get my mind into a different place. It provides a sense of calm for me and it's exciting,” Kathryn explains.
Kathryn fully embraces her bipolar diagnosis and is a huge advocate for discussing it. “Mental illnesses need to be talked about openly and treated just like a physical illness. If there is a stigma, it prevents people from receiving the right kind of help and treatment,” she shares.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or in a state of distress, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support. To find out more about go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org or dial 988.