Trending Toward Wellness with Nita Sweeney
I hadn’t planned to become a mental health advocate. For two decades, while I struggled with my own writing, I taught writing to adults. I also published a monthly email newsletter for writers in central Ohio, USA, and blogged about the writing process. People reached out for writing advice and I coached those who asked. The work brought some joy, but never felt completely “me.” I continued, knowing it helped others and because my clients praised my work.
Things shifted with the release of my award-winning running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink (Mango, 2019). After I wrote openly about my struggle with anxiety and depression from bipolar disorder, and how running helped me find more stability, most of the people who contacted me weren’t interested in writing. Instead, they wanted to hear more about how I hauled myself off the sofa, took up running, and saved my life. They were trying to save their own lives, or the lives of their friends and family. Their questions launched my next adventure: wellness author.
But the work I’d done in the years leading up to this wasn’t lost. During the decades I blogged about “writing” I was actually chronicling my emotional struggles. Distorted thinking, self-doubt, and recurring nightmares brought on by bipolar disorder often made it hard for me to publish even one post a month. Other times, in a manic spree, I would post every day. My struggle with consistency felt like failure and I was often ashamed. So, I wrote about it. As I grow into this new role as an advocate for emotional wellness, I see that I was always writing from a mental health perspective. I had simply miscategorized my work.
When my editor at Mango Publishing Group invited me to co-create the writing journal, You Should Be Writing (Mango, 2020), offering quotes from our favorite authors as prompts, we included chapters on self-care (Writing as Medicine) and on helping others (The Role and Responsibility of the Writer). Given the emotional struggles of many writers, the quotes in these “wellness” chapters are just as important as those that address the sound of language or the craft of writing. Writers need them all.
When I think too long about moving from writing teacher to wellness author, the anxiety resurfaces. When it does, I think back to a day years ago when depression, once again, had me paralyzed on the sofa. A high school friend’s social media post inspired me to pick up a kitchen timer, leash up our dog, and jog for sixty seconds. The journey that culminated in my first book being published began when I thought “If she can do it, why can’t I?” So now, when I feel afraid about the shift in my writing focus, I search for others who have made similar transformations. Stories of people who change directions mid-career give me the same courage I felt that first day I leashed up the dog to run.
These days, when people reach out for writing advice, I’m more likely to ask about their mental health than their writing. I talk and write about the need for a strong support system, meditative practices, and joyful movement to feed heart and mind. Each of us, writer or not, needs these to fully pursue our passions.
What emotional stability tools do you have in place? Do you move every day, even a little? Do you write as a practice, recording the wild patterns of your mind? And do you sit or walk in meditation to feed the deepest part of you?
Every tiny tool counts. If you need to build a kit, reach out. I’m happy to help you begin.
ABOUT NITA SWEENEY
Nita Sweeney is the award-winning wellness author of the running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink and co-creator of the writing journal, You Should Be Writing: A Journal of Inspiration & Instruction to Keep Your Pen Moving. A long-time meditator, three-time marathoner, and former assistant of writing practice originator Natalie Goldberg, Nita founded the Facebook group Mind, Mood, and Movement to support mental well-being through mindful meditation, exercise, and writing practice. She lives in central Ohio with her husband, Ed, and their yellow Labrador retriever, Scarlet. Sign up here for wellness tips and information about Nita’s activities.
To see Nita’s previous interview on MTA, go here …
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