Running to shine a World Record light on those affected by a Mental Illness

One-in-four adults will experience a mental health problem within any given year. One-in-ten young people will experience a mental health problem. Nine-in-ten people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.

Almost a year ago, I officially became one of those statistics. On April 23rd 2015 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This didn’t come as a surprise, but it did rock my foundations and caused me to question my very existence.

Bipolar Disorder – without getting too technical – is not simply the polar opposite of moods that the name suggests.

It is the extreme intensity of emotion far outside what the average person feels on the whole emotional spectrum that is felt with seemingly little control as to which way that will go on any given day.

It is a deep, dark nothingness for days, weeks, or months, with a pain that is very real akin to torture coming from within your own body.

It can be thoughts that whir through the brain at lightning speed, some utterly brilliant, others utterly terrifying.

It is paranoia built on top of anxiety, with a heightened sensitivity to noises, stirs of air, the look of an eye, the tone of a voice, the words used or not used.

It is a sense of becoming helium, feeling perfect, dizzyingly content and intensely spiritual about every symbol, number, sound and idea.

It is condition that is not curable, is considered an illness by some, and a part of life by others. In all, it is a condition that has shaped our cultural society more than we give it credit.

In this day and age, a diagnosis still comes with an attachment of stigma, and that is possibly harder to deal with than the condition itself, because being allowed to be (as nature truly intended you to be), is mostly frowned upon by some echelons of society.

Being diagnosed often leads people into such a spiral of questions and thoughts because their life’s path as they know it has suddenly jolted to a halt.

“Who am I, then, if I am not a product of my condition?”

Five months after my diagnosis my life started to come together again thanks to the decision to turn to running.

A few things conspired to create this wave of motivation to get back into trainers – an inspiring neighbour, an email, and a statement blurted out at my local Bipolar UK support group.

Building day-by-day, I decided I needed big goals to scare me a little into training as anxiety was keeping me from stepping out of the door and enjoying the sunshine, so I entered two events that would push my ability at that time, and hopefully jumpstart an active life once more.

I donned a polar bear outfit and swam and ran the Eirias Triathlon with my partner Tom storming the bike leg, winning the relay team prize.

And a week later I took on the Cardiff Half Marathon, again disguised as the cuddly BiPolar Bear. I smiled the whole way around.

Raising money for the charity Bipolar UK who has been a part of my recovery thanks to the support group, it’s important to note that the value of peer support cannot be underestimated – I feel I owe them so much more, hence the planning of a new adventure, Fierce Mind {Running}.

Here, I will effectively be running for my life and in support of mental health, and to help the lives of hundreds, hopefully thousands, more. Taking on this challenge will allow me to prove to myself that I can overcome a mental illness, not be undermined by it, nor undervalued by others because of it.