Depression Hates a Moving Target by Nita Sweeney

Reviewed by Tom O'Grady

From the pandemic –  to the stress athletes face in the Olympic Games –  to the stress that young adults are dealing with while facing the shifting demands of school and society in the 21st century –  there seems to be no shortage of stress, depression, and anxiety or situations that provoke these reactions faced by the citizens in the United States. In fact, as an epidemiologist, it’s clear that the statistics related to depression alone are staggering. Depression afflicts approximately 5% of the adult population and is a leading cause of death in the under 45 age category. Depression often leads to suicide. Those numbers, sadly, do not consider the toll of all mental illnesses combined. Public health researchers have been aware of the alarming trend in mental health among U.S. citizens for some time. Despite our knowledge of statistics and the growing opportunities for support by those facing mental health concerns, our society is still largely ill-equipped to deal with the mental illness burden we face. 

Interviews with those afflicted by both cancer and a major depressive episode in their lifetimes often note that dealing with cancer was easier. There was ample support for them when cancer struck. Relatives and friends rallied around them. People understood them and cheered them on to recovery. But when depression reared its ugly head, no one wanted to share that burden. It was an affliction best dealt with alone and in silence and swept under the rug if possible. Anything but exposed, and rarely understood. Many New Yorkers are well aware that the winters in the northeast can be an especially tough time for many people with depressive disorders. That’s why I’m starting off the year with a quick review of Nita Sweeney’s book Depression Hates a Moving Target.

Nita Sweeney was externally a successful-looking and high-achieving lawyer who had entered the middle-aged years of life. Depression and anxiety were frequent companions for Nita throughout life, and a specific incident led her to be more accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder –  a condition that without proper medical attention was marked by moods that cycled between manic and depressed. The book is not as much about Nita’s bipolar disorder but about how she utilized running to help her deal with life’s circumstances. Nita learned what all new runners learn very quickly  –  it’s not very easy if you are just starting out! In fact, Nita struggled to run for more than a minute at a time. The difficulty of overcoming the inertia of inactivity can be especially difficult and causes many who start running to promptly quit. Nita’s story did not end there, however, because she found the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Nita did this through personal growth and the power of companionship from her friends and dog. Nita learned the other important lesson of inertia  –  once you overcome it the power of momentum takes over and a body in motion likes to stay in motion.

Through running, Nita Sweeney improved her life and outlook while also learning some valuable life lessons. Nita learned a secret that many already know –  depression hates a moving target. Running allowed Nita to cut back substantially on the number of medications she was taking. Not only did the quantity of medication required to control her bipolar disorder decrease, but her mood was also more well-controlled when running was included in her routine. Nita also improved her physical health substantially. Throughout the book, we see her physical transformation. First, as an individual who can hardly run for a minute, then into a person who regularly runs, next into a person who has completed a half marathon and aspires to complete a marathon, and then finally into a person who has run and finished a marathon. Nita’s transformation into a marathon finisher was undoubtedly achieved through a combination of improved physical fitness, improved health, and a honing of her mental strength as her bipolar disorder became more well managed. Nita also gained human and canine companionship through running, as her regular runs were accompanied by both friends and her dog. Nita learned another secret –  sharing running with others can be as beneficial to your health as actually running.

If you are feeling inertia, need motivation in 2022 to start running, or you would simply like a nice feel-good story about running, pick up Nita Sweeney’s Depression Hates a Moving Target and when done, put on your running shoes and go for a jog.

Interviews with those afflicted by both cancer and a major depressive episode in their lifetimes often note that dealing with cancer was easier. There was ample support for them when cancer struck. Relatives and friends rallied around them. People understood them and cheered them on to recovery. But when depression reared its ugly head, no one wanted to share that burden. It was an affliction best dealt with alone and in silence and swept under the rug if possible. Anything but exposed, and rarely understood. Many New Yorkers are well aware that the winters in the northeast can be an especially tough time for many people with depressive disorders. That’s why I’m starting off the year with a quick review of Nita Sweeney’s book Depression Hates a Moving Target.

Nita Sweeney was externally a successful-looking and high-achieving lawyer who had entered the middle-aged years of life. Depression and anxiety were frequent companions for Nita throughout life, and a specific incident led her to be more accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder –  a condition that without proper medical attention was marked by moods that cycled between manic and depressed. The book is not as much about Nita’s bipolar disorder but about how she utilized running to help her deal with life’s circumstances. Nita learned what all new runners learn very quickly  –  it’s not very easy if you are just starting out! In fact, Nita struggled to run for more than a minute at a time. The difficulty of overcoming the inertia of inactivity can be especially difficult and causes many who start running to promptly quit. Nita’s story did not end there, however, because she found the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Nita did this through personal growth and the power of companionship from her friends and dog. Nita learned the other important lesson of inertia  –  once you overcome it the power of momentum takes over and a body in motion likes to stay in motion.

Through running, Nita Sweeney improved her life and outlook while also learning some valuable life lessons. Nita learned a secret that many already know –  depression hates a moving target. Running allowed Nita to cut back substantially on the number of medications she was taking. Not only did the quantity of medication required to control her bipolar disorder decrease, but her mood was also more well-controlled when running was included in her routine. Nita also improved her physical health substantially. Throughout the book, we see her physical transformation. First, as an individual who can hardly run for a minute, then into a person who regularly runs, next into a person who has completed a half marathon and aspires to complete a marathon, and then finally into a person who has run and finished a marathon. Nita’s transformation into a marathon finisher was undoubtedly achieved through a combination of improved physical fitness, improved health, and a honing of her mental strength as her bipolar disorder became more well managed. Nita also gained human and canine companionship through running, as her regular runs were accompanied by both friends and her dog. Nita learned another secret –  sharing running with others can be as beneficial to your health as actually running.

If you are feeling inertia, need motivation in 2022 to start running, or you would simply like a nice feel-good story about running, pick up Nita Sweeney’s Depression Hates a Moving Target and when done, put on your running shoes and go for a jog.


TomOGrady.jpgReviewer Tom O’Grady is obviously a successful runner, coach, writer and college professor with a joint appointment at NYSDOH/UAlbany School of Public Health. 
Click on his picture to read all that he has written for the Pace Setter-and it is a lot!
Thank you Tom!


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