A Memoir by J.M. Thompson, PhD


“Voluntary or involuntary?” asked the nurse who admitted J. M. Thompson to a San Francisco psychiatric hospital in January 2005. Following years of depression, ineffective medication, and therapy that went nowhere, Thompson feared he was falling into an inescapable darkness. He decided that death was his only exit route from the torture of his mind. After a suicide attempt, he spent weeks confined on the psych ward, feeling scared, alone, and trapped. One afternoon during an exercise break he experienced a sudden urge. “Run, I thought. Run before it’s too late and you’re stuck down there. Right now. Run.”

The impulse that starts with sprints across a hospital rooftop turns into all night runs in the mountains. Through motion and immersion in the beauty of nature, Thompson finds a way out of the hell of depression and drug addiction. Step by step, mile by mile, his body and mind heal. In this lyrical, vulnerable, and breathtaking memoir, J. M. Thompson, now a successful psychologist, retraces the path that led him from despair to wellness, detailing the chilling childhood trauma that caused his depression, and the unorthodox treatment that saved him. Running Is a Kind of Dreaming is a luminous literary testament to the universal human capacity to recover from our deepest wounds.


J.M. Thompson was born in England. He holds a BA in English literature from Oxford University and a doctorate in clinical psychology. He completed his psychology training at the University of California, San Francisco, where he conducted research on the brain mechanisms of meditation and the physiology of trauma. He is also an ordained Zen practitioner and certified yoga teacher. He has finished over 40 ultramarathons, and multiple solo adventure runs in the Sierra Nevada, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley. Thompson currently serves as a staff psychologist at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.


“This is a beautiful, powerful book with multiple dimensions of exploration and discovery. The painful and joyful moments of the author’s life are skillfully interwoven with the mind-wandering trances of long distance running. With a mastery of psychology and philosophy, along with his rich and varied life, Thompson’s reflections on childhood, family, mental illness, healing and meaning will enrich and challenge any reader. While highly recommended for all, this book will be especially useful for anyone who works in the mental health world or struggles with mental health challenges personally or in their family. This is a reflective, hopeful book.”

- BRUCE D. PERRY, MD, PhD, Co-Author (with Oprah Winfrey) of the #1 New York Times Bestseller What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing

“J. M. Thompson’s journey through the depths of suicidal depression and addiction is terrifying, arduous, and ultimately exhilarating. Running is a Kind of Dreaming delivers a fascinating exploration of the relation between mind and body, as well as inspiration for those struggling to find light beyond the darkness. A brave and vivid story, poetically told.”

- SCOTT STOSSEL author of the New York Times bestseller My Age of Anxiety

“J. M. Thompson’s beautifully written Running Is a Kind of Dreaming is a revelation. This remarkable memoir takes the reader on a journey from the abyss —the darkest despair, when all seems lost — to the return to glorious life. This book will inspire and provide hope for the hopeless.”

- DAVID SHEFF author of the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Boy

Running Is a Kind of Dreaming explores the cosmic range of human emotion…By the end, Thompson comes across as a revolutionary force in clinical psychology”

- DILLON ALLEN-PEREZ San Francisco Book Review

“One of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long time. Thompson does an amazing job of weaving past, present, running, and life into a compelling, extraordinary personal story.”

- DIANA FITZPATRICK President of the Board of Trustees, Western States Endurance Run Foundation

“What makes Thompson’s tell-all different from your garden variety drug survival book, is twofold. First, his catalyst to get help were the gaping holes of childhood beyond his memory’s grasp, interesting to both those who can and can’t relate. Second, Thompson’s ability to describe the sensations of runner’s high and the synchronicity felt with nature are both poetic and unique.”


“[Thompson] eloquently captures the beauty of communing with nature in details runners will soak up . . . Running is a Kind of Dreaming is a hopeful story of resilience by a man baring his vulnerability as a trauma survivor and who fought his demons.”


“If you truly want to understand the insidious horror of the way that madness and addiction can creep into one’s life and gradually escalate from odd behavior and bad decisions all the way to hospitalization, this is the book. Despite the author being able to ultimately salvage his life, this is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read: it makes The Exorcist read like Curious George.”

- Library Bound


Team Red White & Blue Eagle Nation podcast interview with Mike Erwin (03/21/2022)
Running is a Kind of Dreaming with J.M. Thompson
Los Angeles Review of Books review (11/28/2021)
Escaping the Darkness: On J. M. Thompson’s “Running Is a Kind of Dreaming”
KCRW, “Life Examined” interview with Jonathan Bastian (10/30/2024)
How extreme distance running can heal the mind
Litquake: Interview with Bonnie Tsui (10/14/2021)
Running is a Kind of Dreaming: J.M. Thompson with Bonnie Tsui – YouTube
San Francisco Chronicle: Interview with Jessica Zack (10/13/2021)
In J.M. Thompson’s ‘Running Is a Kind of Dreaming,’ exercise is a powerful medicine for the mind | Datebook (


If you are in crisis, the following organizations are available to help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline

National Child Abuse Hotline
1-800 422-4453

National Runaway Safeline

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

National Alliance on Mental Illness

The Trevor Project(confidential 24/7 counseling helpline for LQBTQ+ youth)
1-866 488-7386


J.M. Thompson is represented by Hill Nadell Literary.

For specific enquiries, contact:
Bonnie Nadell
Hill Nadell Literary
6442 Santa Monica Blvd, Suite 200A
Los Angeles, California 90038
tel: (310) 860 9605

For publicity, contact:

Melinda Mullin
Senior Director of Publicity