Marlena Fiol, author of Nothing Bad Between Us, has published the next segment in her Choosing Compassion Over Fear series, this time featuring fellow Mango author Nita Sweeney.
featuring Nita Sweeney
As part of our ongoing series, Choosing Compassion Over Fear, I am featuring some of our most cherished friends and colleagues to discover how they have navigated the landscape of doubt, insecurity, tragedy, and fear to move toward becoming their truest selves. Today, we are honored to bring you a special blog from wellness author Nita Sweeney.*****
A Narrative of Healing
Five months before my forty-ninth birthday, I slouched on the sofa in my pajamas, squinting at my laptop screen. A high school friend’s social media post read, “Call me crazy, but the running is getting to be fun!”
I remembered Kim riding horses in high school, but neither of us had been athletes then, and we certainly weren’t now.
I read on. She had begun an interval training plan to run three times a week. The website suggested alternating sixty seconds of jogging with ninety seconds of walking for a total of twenty minutes. Sixty seconds sounded almost possible.
But depression clung to me like a shroud. It was noon on a weekday. As usual, I’d just gotten up and hadn’t showered in days. The simple act of walking Morgan, our yellow Labrador, around the block often proved too difficult.
A few minutes into browsing Kim’s interval running schedule, an extra-long burst of hiccups reduced me to sobs. I cried until they passed, closed the laptop, and went back to bed.
This excerpt from the first chapter of my running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, paints a partial picture of my depression—the lethargy, exhaustion, and lack of willpower. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t imagine living that way for much longer.
I’d experienced many similar days over my 49 years, too many to count. But this day marked a turning point. My friend’s social media post planted a seed in my mind that sprouted and grew, eventually transforming my life. A few weeks later, I leashed up our dog, picked up a digital kitchen timer, and walked to a hidden ravine to jog for 60 seconds. Two and a half years later, I attempted my first marathon.
In the book, I wrote about external things like shoes and training plans, watches and moisture-wicking fabric and how to line up in at a race. I captured the details I thought a new runner might want or need to know. Perhaps I could help someone the way other runners helped me, and save them from unnecessary physical discomfort and embarrassment.
But I also shared my inner struggle. I wrote about being afraid to have even one neighbor see me slow jog down our street. I shared about having a panic attack while driving to the first race my husband couldn’t attend. I explained how, before nearly every run, even in my own neighborhood, I feared I would get lost. I described paranoia, agoraphobia, and deluded thinking that occurred over and over again.
And, I wrote about how running helped me face those fears. The structure of a training schedule, the group camaraderie, and the stamina built from covering long miles, each worked together to rebuild my personality.
If running taught me anything, it was how to turn things around. So many times, I had dreaded a workout, only for it to turn out splendid. So many days I had been convinced I would get lost, only to be thrilled by new scenery as I found my way. So many mornings I growled about rising at the butt-crack of dawn, then wound up laughing with my friends…. The doldrums wouldn’t last, especially if I took action.
I’d gone from a woman who found it difficult to leave her house to one who regularly took part in enormous events with total strangers. Time alone on the trail or the streets had become a meditation, a time for reflection, and a path of insight. Running with a group taught me I could be social without being overwhelmed. Training helped me to show up regardless of how I felt, even if it meant getting up at hours I fondly referred to as ‘the middle of the night.’ Facing my fears gave me a sense of self-esteem I’d often lacked.
I thought I was writing a book about a middle-aged woman who took up running. But I actually wrote a book about a woman saving her life.
A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness
This story differs from similar accounts of childhood domination or abuse because it tells the story of the author’s seemingly paradoxical responses to the powerful forces in my life, but doesn’t leave it at that. It sheds light on the social and religious dynamics underlying these responses, giving readers insights into and understanding of her otherwise incomprehensible choices, as she found my way back into loving relationships with her parents and the Mennonite community.
How Running With My Dog Brought Me Back From the Brink (Running Depression and Anxiety Therapy, Bipolar)
It’s never too late to chase your dreams. Before she discovered running, Nita Sweeney was 49-years-old, chronically depressed, occasionally manic, and unable to jog for more than 60 seconds at a time. Using exercise, Nita discovered an inner strength she didn’t know she possessed, and with the help of her canine companion, she found herself on the way to completing her first marathon. In her memoir, Sweeney shares how she overcame emotional and physical challenges to finish the race and come back from the brink.