Q1: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Debra: I have been a columnist/newspaper editor with McNaughton Newspapers for 23 years, and am the CEO of iPinion Syndicate, an online group of award-winning writers and columnists. I live in the little town of Winters CA with my wonderful (second) husband and two crazy cats. We are lovers of good wine and food and all things hedonistic, and are blessed with a cozy little life, good friends and healthy family. I have peculiar interests, which include Scottish festivals, Bhangra and belly dancing, alpacas and Jackie Chan. My celebrity crush is James Spader. My guilty pleasure is “The Voice” (don’t judge me). I have the Crazy Cat Lady gene, which is something I need to be aware of as I get older… the kitties… they call me...
Q2: When were you first open about your depression (anxiety, suicide attempt, etc.)?
Debra: My depression is a peculiar thing, as I didn’t recognize it as depression until much later when it was diagnosed as “infantile depression” - basically, I was depressed practically from birth, and it was compounded by what I now recognize as Reactive Attachment Disorder. I didn’t have a frame of reference for what “depressed” meant as it is what I had always known, that felt normal to me, and therefore didn’t cause me any particular distress for me. I didn’t know any other way to feel. In high school, I discovered boys and alcohol, which alleviated the depression, but it wasn’t until I had my own children that I discovered what “joy” meant - and also what full-blown anxiety meant as well.
I am the Anxiety Queen. I worry about shit that other people haven’t even dreamed of. I could write the ENTIRE book on anxiety. Anxiety is in my DNA. When I was a depressed little girl, I was also afraid most of the time… fear/anxiety have stayed with me, while the depression peeled away. Anxiety is a MUCH bigger issue for me than depression.
I never really wrote much about my early years or my depression until Amy asked me to do this story, and I had to really examine what happened… go back and tear the scab off an old, old wound. I want people to realize that even infants and small children can be chronically depressed, and to not brush those feelings off just because they’re children. The feelings are real, even for a little person.
Q3: How has your writing helped your recovery?
Debra: Writing helped me to experience success, and also what it feels like to “win.” I have won multiple awards for my columns and that helped me to recognize that I can excel, and I can be “Number One” and have the blue ribbon, and it’s very validating. I have come a long, long way from my Baby Resting Bitch Face days. I have no trouble being joyful now. My writing career helped me to expand, stretch and take chances in a safe way, fall down from time to time and learn to get back up… my years as a columnist helped me to define myself and choose what parts of myself to keep and what to discard.
Writing this story for “Shades of Blue” forced me to examine one painful truth, the glaring problem of my entire life: My mother didn’t love me. She just didn’t. Boom, there it is. And, I can examine that as a fact without judging it anymore as “sad” or “wrong”. It just is what it is. The consequences of that fact, however, ripple through my entire life, and are the source of my chronic feeling that “I’m not really good enough, I’m an imposter, and I don’t deserve the blue ribbon” - and so, I have been an underachiever my whole life because my core belief is that I’m substandard. I recognize that, intellectually, as ridiculous but I still struggle with it from time to time.
Q4: What do you hope Shades of Blue readers learn from reading the essays contained within its pages?
Debra: That they aren’t alone. That although there aren’t easy, pat answers and solutions to depression, although it can feel like a labyrinth, that if you just give yourself a little acceptance and keep moving forward, there is hope. Rather than denying your feelings or feeling shame about them, learn to embrace them and move on, and discover that whatever the range of your blue feelings, life is worth living. It’s worth finding out what is around the corner. You can be blue AND keep going. You don’t have to draw a line between your sadness and suicide. There are other lines you can draw - and in our stories, hopefully, we are shining a light on those lines.