TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — People often show the best parts of their life on social media, the highlight reel as many people like to call it. Happy moments, memorable milestones, and joyous occasions, giving many people the false sense that everything is perfect for so many people. Kristen Garzone is changing that perception one post at a time on Instagram.
A quick scroll through Kristen Garzone’s social media account and her life seems insta-perfect. “I always try to push people to be more real, be more open,” said Garzone.
She is a mother of an adorable five-year-old, has a supportive partner and leads an active lifestyle. Online Kristen is an open book. “Somebody that looks like they have it all together. like me, but really is struggling more than anyone would ever know,” she explained.
It’s when you read between the photos, you get the full picture. “When I was postpartum with Ellie, my daughter, I grew into a lot of struggles with having her and with postpartum depression.”
She’s been able to show a side of motherhood that goes unseen in most photographs. Marathon running is what started her Instagram account, but when the weight of life got to be too much, she didn’t hold back.
“It was really hard at first. And the more that people shared with me their own stories or talked about their own struggles, it forced me to share even more,” she explained.
These were emotions she couldn’t outrun. Then came a diagnosis that went beyond her postpartum depression. “Since Covid started I had been struggling with depression and anxiety more than usual. I was recently diagnosed bipolar as well. My lowest point was probably a month ago. I was hospitalized,” Garzone told NEWS10.
Post by post, her raw reality resonating with her 18-thousand followers and counting. “I never imagined in a million years that I would have that many followers or that many people constantly reaching out to me on a day-to-day basis, on what they’re going through or that they can relate to the story or sharing with me how I’ve helped them in multiple ways,” Garzone shared.
One of those followers, now a very close friend. “She helped me and encouraged me to find my first therapist, encouraged me to try medication when I thought I needed more,” Rachel Denler of North Carolina told NEWS10 in a Zoom call.
For Rachel, Kristen was a lifeline, 500 miles away. “The level of openness makes it less intimidating. I sat down on the sidewalk somewhere and just started texting her and asking how did you make these next steps?” Rachel stated.
Their friendship was so deep, that Kristen was able to support Rachel through one of her lowest points. “She came and spent a weekend with me. I honestly think that sort of saved my life,” Rachel said.
Kristen added, “The hard thing with anxiety and depression is that you constantly feel you are a burden to people, and that you aren’t worth it.”
Wendy Burch with the National Alliance for Mental Illness said, “Having people willing to step forward and tell their story really shows people they are not alone.”
A huge part of what she does for NAMI is their executive director advocacy work. Her biggest challenge continues to be the stigma around mental health. Making Kristen’s posts even more important in helping normalize mental health issues.
“I keep pushing through every day taking it day by day, hour by hour,” Garzone expressed.
And step by step it’s been an uphill climb for her. Running has kept her moving through the peaks and valleys of life.
“Over the years it has become so therapeutic for me because when I’m out there running, I’m untouchable. Nobody can judge me,” she stated.
She’s also the first to admit, not every day is like that. “I think it’s admirable to talk about it, to speak up. Get help for yourself when you can,” Garzone said. “Don’t be ashamed of it.”
The path forward includes her medicine, journaling, and more therapy. It’s all helping her see what’s on the horizon.
Kristen has started a non-profit to help mothers struggling with postpartum depression called TheBelieveKNTFoundation. NYS, NAMI is also a free all-volunteer organization that provides resources and help for individuals struggling with their mental health.