Running Bipolar—The Effort to Chase Away Darkness and Manage Mania

I don’t like running. To be honest, I began running out of vanity. My ten year high school reunion was coming up and I refused to look as if I’d just bore two children when I walked through that ballroom door so I started running. Walking just took too long. Since then, ten years have passed and I’m still running. I don’t run fast and I don’t run far, but I do run. There have been waves of time that I’ve run nearly every day, up to six miles at a time. And there have been spans of time that I only run a couple of days a week for only twenty minutes a pop. But I do run. And I don’t run to fit into a little black dress anymore. I do it for me. Only sometimes it’s really hard to take that first step.

I have bipolar II so mania moments are few. Instead, it is usually depression that hovers over me tempting me to just stay in bed, perhaps solve formulaic television mysteries or mindlessly crush computer candies. Some days it is a battle just to get myself to stand upright. Those are the darkest days. The days where I need running more than ever.

Oh, I have all the running gear. The high dollar shoes. The cute shorts and tank tops. The GPS watch with the computer program statistics. The loaded itunes with fancy non-slip earbuds. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get myself out on the trail. No, it’s almost always a struggle. Just sliding my feet into my running shoes feels like a victory won.

Once I’ve convinced myself that I should go for a run, and I’ve equipped myself accordingly, I take those first few steps. My limbs feel like lead. Even with my favorite musical back up, that first half mile is agonizing. I play little games with myself. Just get to the end of this song. Just get to the top of that hill. Just get to the end of the neighborhood. Eventually, my iron legs soften, loosen. My pace steadies and my breathing evens out. I lose myself in the music and I glide. Ok, I don’t really glide but I trot and it hurts less. I keep track of my pace and my distance on my fancy watch, but on really good runs, I forget to look. Instead, I am somewhere else entirely. Worrying less and dreaming more. Fearing less and hoping more. Finding balance in my stride.

The few times I’ve experienced hypomania, I’ve found that running has helped too. One would think a hypomanic person would run faster but the opposite proved true for me. I think I was expending so much energy just being hypomanic, that when it came time to run, I was exhausted. But I didn’t skip my runs. They helped calm me in fact. That rhythmic trotting for thirty minutes focused my mind and centered me if only temporarily. While I didn’t get any faster during my hypomanic episodes, I definitely found running to be just as therapeutic as during my depression phases.

Running isn’t easy for me. It isn’t natural. It’s even clunky and awkward at times. But it is vital to my well being. No matter how fast or how far I run, I know that at the end of the run, I’ll feel a lot better than I did when I began. And that’s why I run. Not to feel good in a new dress, but to feel good inside my own skin. That’s why I run. I run for me.

For more from SHM, read her blog at

Translate »