Nita Sweeney Became An Accidental Mental Health Advocate
Today’s guest was last on the show almost two years ago and I’m excited to welcome her back for round two today!
There is a lot to catch up on with this runner, author, and dog mom so I’ll keep the intro short.
I’m looking forward to going a few easy miles today with Nita Sweeney and welcome her back to the show.
Nita Sweeney has been chronically depressed for most of her adult life.
She was a successful attorney for a short period before depression consumed her life.
Many years were spent in and out of therapy while cycling through various medications.
The year 2007 was the pinnacle of events that threatened to break her.
Nita endured the loss of 7 people she loved in that single year.
One of those 7 was her 24-year-old niece who died from cancer.
That amount of loss would dramatically impact anyone but the depression compounded the losses she felt.
Nita was in an “emotional coma” and was struggling with how to get out of it.
Edge Of A Cliff
Nita was still in a dark place in 2009 and was contemplating ending her life.
As she was sitting on her sofa scrolling through social media she came across a post from a friend.
Her friend had posted, “Call me crazy, but running is becoming fun.”
Nita felt as though she had tried everything over the years, but the one thing she hadn’t tried was exercise.
She was unsure if running would help with her depression, but she was willing to give it a try.
Nita tended towards paranoia and therefore didn’t want anyone to see her running.
She leashed up her dog as a decoy and headed down to a nearby ravine.
While at the hidden ravine, she followed day one of Couch to 5k and jogged for 60 seconds at a time.
Emerging From Her Running Shell
It was Nita’s sister that really propelled her forward with her running.
Her sister was the mother of her niece that passed away a couple of years prior.
She told Nita about a local 5k that was raising money for the type of cancer that her daughter died from.
Though Nita was uncomfortable at the thought of running in public, the cause was personal.
Nita was amazed to see all types of people with various abilities.
That first race brought Nita out of her running shell and she has since run 3 marathons, 28 half-marathons, and over a hundred shorter races.
Will To Live
Since Nita has found running it has been less of a struggle to stay alive.
After she started running, Nita also realized her lifelong dream of becoming a published author.
Her first book, “Depression Hates a Moving Target,” was published almost 2 years ago.
Nita WANTS to live and has so much to live for.
Over the last few years, her relationships and mood have improved along with experiencing the health benefits of losing weight.
Nita is the first to admit that she still has good and bad days.
Her will to live has been the biggest difference with her mental state.
Accidental Mental Health Advocate
The launch of Nita’s book has turned her into an “accidental mental health advocate.”
The feedback from the book has been positive overall and has resonated with a segment of the population.
People that haven’t struggled with depression may have a hard time relating to the book.
There is often a misconception that someone who is depressed should just “snap out of it.”
Nita has gotten many personal messages from readers that can relate to the book.
Those messages make Nita both happy and sad.
If someone is able to relate to the book, it means that there is a good chance that they have been in a dark place.
At The Heart Of It
The year 2020 brought Nita more than the typical stress most people experienced.
In February, before Covid-19 was dominating the news, Nita was in California with her husband for a book tour.
Shortly before they were supposed to depart for home, Nita’s husband had a silent heart attack.
February to May was a whirlwind of emotions.
Her husband had open heart surgery and following the surgery, he needed a feeding tube until May.
During those months, Nita relied more than ever on her running friends.
Though she couldn’t see them in person, they still found ways to support each other through unprecedented times.
Her husband has since made a full recovery which has given Nita yet another reason to want to live.
#Running Is Not Cancelled
Nita attributes Fleet Feet, her local running store, for keeping her going this past year.
Fleet Feet has offered various challenges throughout the year along with the option to race in person in November.
Nita has relished the rare moments that she has been able to see her running friends in person.
Though 2020 has been a lonely year for a lot of people, Nita has never felt alone due to her running group.
She is grateful to have found her people and the connection they have extends beyond just running.
Meditation And Mental Health
Nita has been practicing meditation since the early 90’s, long before she began running.
She has found that meditation touches every area of her life and is about being present where she is.
The benefits of meditation include the three big C’s: calm, clarity, and concentration.
Nita is her best self when she pulls writing practice, meditation, and movement together.
Running is a great form of meditation that centers around making sure that your head is where your feet are.
Each run should have a focus which most runners do whether they realize it or not.
What The Future Holds
The pandemic may have altered Nita’s plans for more books but she hasn’t been stopped.
In June of 2020, she released a writing journal that she co-wrote, called, “You Should Be Writing: A Journal of Inspiration & Instruction to Keep Your Pen Moving.”
Nita feels that writing is medicine and hopes to inspire others through the various prompts.
A second book is in the works, but she is still working out what the focus will be.
Her current ideas include daily meditations and also how to navigate around the peak moments in life.
Life naturally has peak moments followed by a lull and Nita has learned skills for how to handle those cycles.
She is confident her words will be published again, it’s just a matter of when.
Nita can’t imagine her life without a dog in it.
She has a hole in her heart when she doesn’t have a dog.
Her current dog, Scarlet, earned the nickname “ninety-nine percent good dog.”
Much like Nita, Scarlet is better mentally and physically after a run.
Nita enjoys the camaraderie of a dog while running, especially during this past year while she’s been unable to run with others.
Self-isolation was commonplace for Nita prior to finding running.
Between having a dog and finding “her people” through running, she is never alone.
Mentioned In This Episode:
- Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink. Book by Nita Sweeney
- You Should Be Writing: A Journal of Inspiration & Instruction to Keep Your Pen Moving. Book by Brenda Knight and Nita Sweeney
- Episode 741: Nita Sweeney Has Learned That Depression Hates a Moving Target
- Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way To Victory. Book by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton
- CHI Running: A Revolutionary Approach To Effortless, Injury-Free Running. Book by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer
Stay connected with Nita Sweeney by checking out her Blog, joining her Facebook group Mind, Mood, and Movement, and/or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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Nina/Denny… this was SUCH a wonderful interview!! Thank you so so much!! I need to read your book!
I’m just seeing your comment! Thank you. Hope you enjoyed the book.