A UK woman has opened up about how pursuing ambitious new hobbies has helped her to conquer bipolar disorder.
Rachel Cullen was first diagnosed with the condition in her early 20s, when she was studying law at Hull University.
Some years later, she landed a successful career at a Leeds-based law firm, got engaged and purchased her first home.
However, despite things looking up, she says that her life was always characterised by “a feeling of endless lostness.”
“I tried my best to create a typical life that I thought would make me happy. All the while it was just this kind of false happiness,” she says.
“I had been on Prozac continuously from the age of 21. I felt like I was being swept along. At the same time, I was drinking quite a lot.”
Over the years, her mental health deteriorated – reaching a new low when a friend of hers committed suicide at just 26-years-old.
“Mixing the wine with the Prozac was like a dangerous cocktail of misery,” she said.
Since she was a young teenager, Ms Cullen had always been a keen runner and, as her depression escalated, she began running more regularly.
“I noticed that however horrible I felt, I would come back from a run and feel better. The natural endorphins, the fresh air and the feeling of freedom gave me a new life. It became addictive,” she said.
Ms Cullen decided to set herself a goal of one day running the London marathon – a goal which she successfully achieved for the first time in April 2009.
Since then, she has run more than 50 half marathons, eight full marathons and participated in more than 500 races – but insists that she is still yet to fully ‘outrun her demons’.
“The finish line is always moving and different challenges always crop up, but running helps me cope,” she said.