Artist on Artist: Depression Hates a Moving Target by Nita Sweeney

So, what’s up with a musician reviewing a book on his music web site? Funny you should ask! I’ve focused my latest songs on mental health. Subsequently I began engaging on Twitter with people who have something to say on the subject. This led me to one Nita Sweeney, author of the memoir “Depression Hates a Moving Target.

Like me, Nita’s a runner. Like me, she considers running her mental health medicine. (Full disclosure: Nita runs in addition to taking antidepressants. She finds the exercise prevents the necessity to increase dosage. In my case I took up exercise to prevent the need to start on meds).

Seeing Ourselves in the Story

My wife Amy and I downloaded “Depression Hates a Moving Target” in audiobook form and spent several hours listening together at the kitchen table.

Amy chronicles her own experiences with depression and anxiety, along with the benefits she gets from regular exercise, at her own blog site, Sound Mind and Body NJ.

Amy and I each saw ourselves in different facets of Nita’s book. For Amy it was Nita’s harrowing recollections of loss, hopelessness, distorted self-image of body, and suicidal urges from the past.

For my part it was Nita’s account of the baby steps she took into giving running a try when her friend posted an intriguing endorsement of her own new running experience on social media. I followed a similar path into the world of athletic self-care when a stew of life stressors prompted me to consider seeing a psychiatrist for some help with my beleaguered mind. You’ll find more of my exercise/running origin story at Kidney Donor Athlete here.

One Stride at a Time

Since Nita composed this memoir from her journal entries, she frequently takes the reader on her runs with her. We come along for those breathless first forays into walk-run intervals, the kind you’d find in a Couch to 5K training program. We have the best seat in the house for the epic effort of her first marathon.

On these runs, Nita discusses her canine running partner’s antics. She recounts the conversations she has with fellow runners. Nita expounds on the details of correct running form and its effect her aches and pains. The author sheds light on the mental negotiations every runner must navigate, but even more so when depression demands its say. One chapter is aptly titled, “My Mind is Trying to Kill Me.”

Runners like me will more readily take to the detailed accounts of Nita’s training runs than non-runners. However, non-runners take heart. Everything builds to a satisfying and cathartic conclusion even if you’ve never laced up and never intend to.

Overcoming Fears

Nita’s true story frequently winds through fearsome obstacles. The specter of neighbors’ judgment haunts Nita’s first explorations of running. More viscerally, the sight of a high, narrow bridge along a new running route strikes fear in the heart of author and reader alike. Nita shares the experience of negotiating with those fears. She reasonably picks her battles, choosing which ones or how much to confront in a given day. Reading these passages, I’m reminded of the value of psychological flexibility to cope with mental health challenges in real time.

So, Why a Book Review on a Music Web Site?

Nita Sweeney running with her dog Scarlet in Jason Didner's music video Run With My Troubles
An image captured from Nita Sweeney’s clip in the music video “Run With My Troubles” by Jason Didner

Here’s where Nita’s story really intersects with mine: I enlisted her to appear in my upcoming music video “Run With My Troubles.” This video tells my story (combined with my wife’s) of exercise to cope with mental health difficulties. I sought the diverse images of other runners to illustrate that exercise is for everybody who can find a way to do it! I found running to be the most poetic form of exercise to represent in this video. Still, no matter how you get moving, exercise really is powerful, natural medicine for your mind!

Nita’s clip of her running with her yellow lab Scarlet is like a page out of her book, come to life! She actually runs through the same secluded ravine she describes from those tentative first walk-runs – but now with the rock-solid form and self-assured joy of an experienced marathoner.

The video is “coming soon” but you can see it now by signing up below to get my emails!

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