Category Archives: Living with Depression

Doing Dallas with Dixie

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This week, I’m taking a break from my East Tennessee winter. I decided in December that I needed something to look forward to after the excitement of Christmas. You know how there’s always a bit of a let down after the holidays: the decorations go down, the weather gets yucky and rainy/snowy/icy, everything is gray and blah. So I scheduled a trip to Dallas.

My best friend Dixie (yes, the one from the books), aka Janene Cates (formerly Satterfiled) Putman, defected to Dallas after marrying her Mr. Everything, Shane, last May. This is my first visit since she  moved, and it won’t be my last. We have had a blast! We have shopped, we had a photo shoot at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Arlington. (I needed a new publicity photo. Can’t wait for you to see it!) We saw a movie. We’ve gotten a little work done. And we’ve had some girlfriend time. Something I never, ever get enough of in my house full of men. I’ve been posting pictures and updates of our #Deb&DixieDoDallas adventure on Facebook and Twitter, so be sure to check that out. (@debgstaley, @jdixie0105, @debanddixie)

Last, but certainly not least, a new adventure begins. Practically since Dixie and I met, we’ve said that some day we were going to do the Deb & Dixie Show. Have a tour bus and the whole nine yards. Well, it’s a small scale start, but it’s a start. Our blog is live! www.debanddixie.com. We are going to have so much fun. Every month we will discuss our unique spin on books/movies/other media, current events, our favorite things, and rants (which can cover anything from stupid drivers to conspiracy theories). And each month, we will have a special event that you can attend. This month, we are having an Oscar partyon February 24. ! I promise you, it will be a blast! So hop on over and follow our blog.

Until next time,

Deborah

P.S. You can now read my blog on my website. Visit http://www.deborahgracestaley.com/blog.html

Why Baby Why

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Why Baby Why

 

I don’t know about you, but I get hung up in the why loop. I think this peculiarity is what made me a writer. I always wonder why. Why things are the way they are. Why people are the way they are. Especially why people are the way they are. Why do some people like being around other people, and why are others more introverted and struggle in crowds. Why do some people love the holidays while others don’t? Why do some people like to cook and others prefer to not. Some people have tons of motivation; others don’t. Why?

But here’s where I can really get hung up. Why do I feel like I do? Why do I think the way I do. Why can’t I get excited about that holiday gathering? Why do I have days or weeks where there’s much that I am thankful for and excited about followed by days or weeks where I struggle to get excited about anything. The things I enjoyed last week don’t interest me now. Highs and lows. I think highs/excitement suck my energy and the lows naturally follow. It’s ebb and flow, right? Don’t get me wrong; they’re not debilitating lows. It’s just a kind of ambivalence for everything. But it passes. When the lows don’t pass, I know I’m in trouble.

I watch other people when I’m ambivalent. I’m interested in people who are upbeat all the time. These are my favorite people. They fascinate me. They are the perky cheerleader types. They are encouragers. They decide they’re going to have a positive outlook no matter what. But I think all that energy they put into being positive affects their productivity, because they don’t seem to get much done. But I do appreciate the encouragement they spread. Some of us really need it!

And then there are the driven people. I used to be driven. I was determined that I could achieve my goals. I set some high ones. I wanted a college education. Check. Then I wanted a masters degree. Check. I wanted a career. Check. I’ve had several. I wanted to be a published author. People used to ask me, do you really think you can be published? Honestly, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be published. So add another check. And boy, has this led me down a rabbit hole where I have absolutely no control over many, many aspects of this beast called publishing.

For example, I can write a really great book. And that’s pretty much it. The rest is not up to me. I can’t make a publisher want to publish it. I can’t make them want to market my books. I can’t control whether people will buy the book. I can’t control whether they’ll like the book if they read it. And Oh Mercy, when there is a promotion going on, like this month where two of my titles are 1.99 on Amazon, I can make myself nuts watching the numbers. While I’m so grateful that the publisher is doing a promo for me, it makes me crazy. I can’t NOT look at the numbers and wonder. Why is my book doing just okay while others are doing great? What ramifications will an average promo have for me? Why can’t I just be grateful that people are buying my books? I am grateful people are buying the books, but there’s so much other stuff going on in my head that sometimes the grateful gets crowded out.

So, yeah. I used to be driven until I realized that I’m no longer driving. Nope, I’m just along for the ride, wondering where I’ll wind up. Is there going to be a spectacular crash or is there a sweet little luxury car that will take me into the future? I, of course, am hoping for the latter!

Which brings me back to why people are the way they are. Clearly, I overthink things. And often my thinking is wrong. That, they tell me, is part of depression. So, I try to recognize it. I even do that self-talk thing where I say to myself, “Stop thinking that way. Think another way.” Usually it helps.

Mostly I wonder, why baby why?

 

Debbie

Help Feed My Insanity, Buy a Book

A Home for Christmas and What the Heart Wants

Both Still 1.99

BUY NOW

Pieces of Me–With Excerpts from Unforgettable, The Next Angel Ridge Novel

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Patrick sighed. Blame it on the alcohol. “Have you never done anything that you regretted, Frannie?” he asked. “Something for which you didn’t deserve forgiveness, but wished for it anyway? Not to ease the guilt you feel, because trust me, the guilt is a demon that won’t leave me alone. The forgiveness is so you know that the person giving it has gotten past what you did.”

Frannie focused on the intensity in his eyes, giving what he’d said some thought. She almost wished she could say she had done something that needed forgiving. The sad truth was that because she’d been gravely ill and survived, she’d taken care to stay safe and do what was expected of her. Any time she’d ventured to do anything out of character or something that involved taking risks, she’d regretted it, including the one time she’d kissed a stranger in a bar. That was something she regretted—that and the fact she’d wasted the years since her illness playing it safe. In both instances, the only person she had to blame was herself. She didn’t want to be afraid to live her life, but fear had been her constant companion for many, many years.

As an author, I’m often asked what inspires my writing. That’s such a hard question to answer. So many things inspire my writing. I guess the better question might be what influences my writing. I always want to create characters who have big issues in their lives that they need to overcome so that they can live a full live. I think someone once said something like, “Life is messy and no one gets out alive.” I think that’s so true. Stuff happens. The question is, how are you going to deal with it?

In the passage above, the two main characters of my latest novel, Unforgettable, are having it out over a kiss they shared years before. The situation? Both were in a bar, getting drunk; Frannie because her sister had just died, and Patrick because he was dealing with his wife’s terminal illness. Two things influenced this scene.

First, with Patrick, I wanted to show that people make mistakes. Terrible mistakes. In this book, Patrick is making every attempt to put the past behind him, going forward as a sober father, friend, and professional. I wanted to show that people are not the sum of their past deeds. With hard work and determination, I believe that people can make real, meaningful change in their lives. It helps if they have the support of people around them who are willing to give them a second, third or fourth chance. But even without that support, I think people can still prove everyone wrong and make those changes that will pave the way to a better life for them.

So, getting that message out there is what influenced the creation of Patrick, a character who had a checkered past, but who’s looking for redemption. On the surface, you can look at Patrick and say, there’s nothing redeemable about a drunk who makes poor choices. However, I firmly believe that things are not always as they appear. Look beyond the surface and find the underlying reasons why people make the choices they do. Things are rarely as they seem.

There are reasons why Patrick drank. He denied some core truths about himself, and speaking from experience, denying one’s core truths always leads to trouble. I denied that I was a writer. This led to my falling into a deep depression. To get better, I had to start writing again. For Patrick, he had to find the root causes that led him to drink. By acknowledging these things, he’s able to stop drinking and create a new life for himself, one day at a time. But Frannie comes roaring into to town reminding him of that person he used to be. Will he fall back into people’s old expectations of bad behavior for him or will he prove to Frannie that’s he’s a different man? Read the book and find out!

The second influence for this scene has to do with Frannie, my heroine, who has a past as well. One that might seem a strange choice on my part. As a child, Frannie battled a serious illness. This was based on my own experience. While I didn’t have a terminal illness, I was very sickly as a child. I was born early with lung problems. I had severe asthma and allergies as well as kidney problems. Up until I was seven, I was in and out of the hospital, and I spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices. Hardly a week went by that I didn’t see dear Dr. Kenneth Lynch. What an incredible man. My mother was very careful with me, and that in turn caused me to be cautious and fearful—of everything. I spent a lot of time indoors because I was allergic to most everything outside. As a result, I wasn’t comfortable around people. I didn’t make friends easily. I was super naïve about everything and way too trusting.

She’d taken care to stay safe and do what was expected of her. Any time she’d ventured to do anything out of character or something that involved taking risks, she’d regretted it.”

This passage characterized my life growing up and carried over into adulthood. I became accustomed to being alone because staying inside away from everyone but family kept me safe. Like Frannie, it seemed like anytime I ventured to do anything that involved taking a risk (and trust me, sometimes just venturing out was risky), I wound up regretting it. Of course, I was unhappy being alone so much, but at the same time, being alone was comfortable.

Another thing that growing up sick and cautious did was give me a fatalistic outlook on life. Like Frannie, I didn’t believe I’d live to be old. I never wanted to marry or have children. I wanted education and a career. I used to love pretending I had an office with a desk! But I did get married to an amazing, wonderful man. And I did have one child, who is so much like his father. He, too, is amazing and wonderful. Even though he doesn’t look like me, I like to think he gets his strength and fabulosity from me J

Still, I had a deep feeling that I wouldn’t live to be old, until, like Frannie, something happened to show me that I was wrong. A few years ago, during that time that I wasn’t writing, I got out my laptop and decided to go to the library and try to write. Before I got out of my neighborhood, I was in a horrendous car crash. I pulled out onto a four-lane highway right in front of a car I didn’t see coming. I was hit in the driver’s door of my car. My head broke the window of the driver’s side door. I was knocked unconscious. I should have died. That’s what I thought at the time. I should have died. But I didn’t.

Because I was wrong about not living to be old.

A wonderful therapist helped me to see that. And Paul Selig, Director of the Creative Writing Program at Goddard College, channeler, and friend confirmed this in one of his famous workshops by telling me, “You’re here. I see you. I see you.” And now, I see the truth myself and have no doubts. I have a full, wonderful life with a husband, a child, family, friends, puppies and a career that I love.

I did get that education and enjoyed a number of offices with desks. But the desk I use now, as I write this post, sits in an office I’ve made inside my home. It has faded pink wallpaper that was installed sometime around the turn of the century—the 20th Century. There’s a bay window in front of me with 150-year-old wavy glass. Outside stands a strong, old magnolia tree and a view of the mountains just beyond. I’m blessed with the here and now. I do myself, and everyone around me, a disservice if I don’t live every blessed day to the fullest. I can promise you, that’s what I intend to do. If someone reading my books is encouraged to do the same? Well, that just means I must be living right.

Writing Under the Rainbow

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Writing Under the Rainbow

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I’ve made no secret of the fact that I deal with depression in my everyday world. I’m not embarrassed by this. In fact, I have depression to thank for my writing career. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I went to see a counselor, I wouldn’t be writing. You see, I’d given up my dream of being an author. There’d been too many years of disappointment in the form of rejection after rejection, and I mean rejection letters as well as people rejection.

 

After about fifteen years of taking classes, going to conferences and writer group meetings, entering contests, writing and submitting novels, I quit it all cold turkey and didn’t write a word for five years. I had just launched into another vocation where I put in forty hours a week and came home miserable. While waiting to be published, I’d worked as a travel agent, a high school French teacher, a receptionist, a legal secretary, a paralegal, a transcriber, and a disability services specialist in a college. In short, I was lounging at the bottom of the barrel and couldn’t see any way to get up. It’s so cliché, but I sought professional help where this counselor tells me I’m in a deep depression, and if I don’t start writing again, I’m not going to get any better.

 

Within a week of my diagnosis, and my categorical refusal to write again despite the dire warning, I submitted the first two novels in my Angel Ridge Series to Bell Bridge Books, the new imprint of Belle Books. I submitted to get a rejection so I could go back and tell the counselor that me writing wasn’t meant to be, and the rejection would be my proof.

 

God had other plans. Deb Smith offered me a three-book deal that turned into a six-book deal. And before you know it, not only was I writing again, but I was working on an MFA in Writing with Goddard College.  This month, the fifth Angel Ridge novel, Unforgettable, will be published. I earned my MFA in 2011. Writing is my full-time job. An outsider looking in would say my dreams all came true when I least expected it, and they would be right. So why is this so hard?

 

The short answer is because the depression and self-doubt that feeds it are still there, seething beneath the surface. Day to day problems, the kinds that everyone deals with, affect me differently. My focus shifts to these distractions, and if I’m not careful, they can pull me under.

 

As I said, last year, I graduated from my MFA program. Although I was proud to have achieved this tremendous accomplishment, graduating took away my writing support system. I had to figure out how to do it on my own again. Being in the program addicted me to feedback. Feedback I was no longer receiving when I began writing Unforgettable. Welcome back self-doubt! Then other things happened to shift my focus: a good friend losing her battle to cancer, my son struggling in a sport he loved in his senior year of college, issues with aging parents, and my best friend moved halfway across the country. I hibernated in my house, slept a lot, gained weight, which always attacks self-esteem. I wrote in spurts interrupted by long periods of not getting up out of my recliner after staying up half the night and sleeping most of the day.

 

I went through four depression medication changes while my symptoms worsened, leveled out, then worsened again and again. As the deadline for the book loomed, I knew I had to do something radical. I began researching depression meds and found that many people taking antidepressants long-term reached a point where they no longer worked. So, I looked for alternative therapies. I revisited talk therapies that had worked for me in the past, but got no relief. At this point I felt I had to make the radical decision to go off my meds and try herbal alternatives. CAUTION: do not try this without the supervision of a physician! But hey, I figured I could be depressed, dragging, and wanting to sleep all day without meds. Thankfully, I’ve never been suicidal, but in the past year, I gained an understanding for why people with depression feel suicidal.

 

Slowly, I began to feel better. I had more energy, tons of it. In fact, I had trouble being a little too hyped up since most of what I was taking revved me up. So, I added something to level me out, and so far so good. I’ve been able to write again in a sustained manner. Meaning, I can write for weeks at a time without taking months off.

 

What does all this mean for Unforgettable? I guess you could call it life imitating art. The theme and tone of this book are heavy. There are few light moments in the book. The hero and heroine are dealing with loss, addiction, family struggles, and deep emotional conflict. But as always, they find a way to deal. Like me and perhaps others out there, they go it alone until they realize they need help. They benefit from engaging a support network of family and friends, as well as a happily-ever-after relationship with each other. Their problems don’t disappear, but they are better able to deal with them together.

 

The title of this post is “Writing Under the Rainbow.” I think that’s going to be the new name for this blog. If you feel inclined, share your comments. Support and encouragement are always appreciated here!

 

Debbie

 

 

While I Was Sleeping

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Okay, so I haven’t blogged in awhile. Understatement, I know. In the interest of keeping it real, I’ll just say that I’m struggling with keeping a schedule.

I’ve had a 9 month, extremely frustrating depression medication change. The first medication I was given left me feeling agitated. What that means is, I couldn’t sleep and I went from 0-60, calm to upset/angry/tearful. Never knew which it would be. So, I was up half the night, usually reading. After several months of this, I realized, it’s the medication, not me. So, at the end of the year, I changed meds. The one I’m taking now does the opposite. I’m tired, and I mean sleepy, all the time. Other than that, my mood is pretty good. But the tired makes it hard for me to do anything, and bonus, since I’m less active, I’ve gained weight. I think, I should go exercise, but I’d really rather just take a nap. I need to work on my book. I’ll just take a nap first, and the next thing I know, the whole day is gone. In short, I feel like a slug. And the thought of switching meds again makes me insane. I’m sick of the “let’s try this” method of managing my meds. To that end, I decided to stop going to the Psy and let my Primary Care Doc take that over. However, the last time I went to her, she charged $210 !!!! Had I known I was being held up, I would have gone into the appointment with my hands in the air the whole time. My insurance has a high deductible and no co-pays. How do people manage without insurance? It’s nuts!

Long story short, I guess I’m going to get my blood work done, get highjacked again by my physician, and go back in a couple of weeks to talk about the lethargy. Sigh…

Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking. I mean, it’s April already. How did that happen while I was sleeping? I have a book due to my publisher in a month and a half. My son is graduating college next month. His baseball season ends in about 2 weeks. We have spent practically his whole life on the sidelines. I have absolutely no idea what we’ll do now. I’ll probably go sit at a ball field somewhere because that’s what I’m programmed to do. It’s sad to see it end, but exciting to see what’s next for him! My son rocks. I’m so proud of the man he has become!

A few things have happened on the book front. I’m plowing through the new book, which I’m calling Unforgettable. And when I say plowing, I mean I using the old fashioned kind of plow pulled by a stubborn mule in rock-hard, dry earth. It’s slow hard work with few glimpses of what I’d call “good.” I just want to finish, is that too much to ask?  I also published a new short story on Amazon. It is the third in my Fast Break Romance line. The title is Aphrodite’s Garden. It’s a really cute story about a florist and a doctor who grows roses. With a little help from the goddess of love, they both might just get everything they want.

On the subject of Amazon, I know that they are controversial. You may have heard that they are putting book publishers and bookstores out of business. And there’s all that noise about price fixing that has resulted in the government filing lawsuits against some of the big players in New York. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I really feel that the book publishing business was lucky that technology didn’t catch up with it sooner. They should have seen the writing on the wall and looked ahead to the innovations that were coming and tried to figure out how that could fit in to their business model. Instead, they  waited, and publishing is notorious for this. They sit back and wait for it to blow over, and then they pick up where they were before the little bump in the road. Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t think that ePublishing or eReaders are going away. Case in point, Amazon has sold MILLIONS of eReaders. During the Christmas season, they sold over 6 million Kindle Fires alone, and they have three other affordable types of eReaders. And they have apps for any kind of reader you may have, including the iPad. Amazon has been good to me. Very good. When I lost my job, I didn’t know what was going to happen. If it had not been for the income I received from Amazon revenue through my publisher, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I’ve applied for teaching jobs since I got my MFA, but have had only had one interview. So, I am now officially a bonafide working from home author. If I find a job teaching great. If I don’t, I’ll be fine with what I making from the books. So, thank you Amazon and Bell Bridge Books. Keep doing what you’re doing so I can stay at home and write, or could stay at home and write if I wasn’t so dang sleepy all the time!

Also on the publishing front, I am an Associate Editor for a new literary magazine called Minerva Rising. It is a women’s magazine, published by women and all the stories are written by women writing about the female experience, whatever that means to each individual person. We are accepting submissions of short fiction, essays, poetry, art and photography. So, go to our website and submit Deadline for the first issue is May 1. So, do it now! http://www.minervarising.com.

I read a blog this morning that inspired me. I found it on Pinterest, which by the way, I love! It is about a woman who is losing weight practically. No harsh diet, no crazy workout routine. She’s setting a schedule and sticking to it. That’s what inspired me. She had sleeping disease, too, so she did what I began doing last week. Setting my alarm and getting up. I’ll call that Step 1. Step 2, she eats breakfast. I do that as well! Next, she exercises. I HATE to exercise, all caps. HATE it. She hates it, too, for the same reasons as me. She doesn’t like to sweat and hurt. So, she swims. Hmm, I don’t have easy access to a swimming pool, I’m not a strong swimmer, and I really don’t want to chance anyone seeing me in a swimsuit. So, I’m trying to figure out what I can do. I have a gym membership I haven’t used in like 6 months. I should go there and avail myself of the equipment and classes they offer that I’M PAYING FOR, but that requires leaving my house in the morning. Hmm… Not sure about that. I have a bike in my barn. Maybe I’ll try pumping up the tires and doing that tonight. Or I could just walk. Point is, I need to schedule something and do it.

Schedule. I’m working on a schedule starting this week.

Next, she schedules time for work and class. Well, I work, but I don’t have class. So, I should schedule a slot of time when I put my butt in the chair, fingers on keyboard, writing. I can do that. I WILL do that. I always find that when I write, I can write more than what I planned to. I need that right now with the deadline looming.

I also want to schedule time to volunteer. I want to get back to doing things through church. Church on Sunday and volunteer doing something. I used to sing. I’ve always sung in church–always, but I haven’t done that in a couple of years. My son keeps asking me why I’m not in choir. I don’t have an answer. They are also doing a summer fine arts camp at church. Hello–I have an MFA. I can teach writing. Must talk to the volunteer coordinator this week. It’s on the schedule.

As far as diet, the advice is to just be practical. Eat fruit instead of ice cream and chocolate. Eat less. Eat when you’re hungry. I can do that.

So, I’m committing today on this blog, in front of God and everybody, that I’m going to schedule and stick to the schedule. This has always, always worked for me. Have a plan, work the plan. There’s a verse of scripture in the Bible that says (paraphrasing), without a vision, people perish. I don’t want to perish. I have too much to do and people who care about me to perish.

Check back in to follow my progress. The new schedule will include blogging once a week. I would love encouraging comments! So,  let’s cheer each other on. Share this with your friends so they can cheer, too. Maybe you even want to make changes as well. Let’s do it together.

Happy scheduling!

Debbie

The Creative Process

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The Creative Process

It’s an odd thing we do, we artists. Pull ideas and notions out of the ether and interpret them in such a way that they become the written word, art, music, lyrics, a song, a dance.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve listened to two artists talk about their lives and how they maneuver this thing called life while communing with the ether. Some let the process become a torturous affair. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, sees the process much as ancient civilizations who believed that something outside of the artist was responsible for the success or failure of a work—that the artist was just a vehicle. Wouldn’t that be awesome if we could put the success or failure on someone or something other than ourselves!

Singer Keith Urban, who has dealt with alcoholism, said in a recent interview, “When I stopped fighting, life ceased to be a war.” Doesn’t that bring into focus the image of the tortured artist? Just let it be. This resonates with me. I fight against myself and the process of creating. I allow external circumstances dictate my ability to create. It’s the darkness that pulls me down toward the depression against which I struggle. A lot of people have to be inspired. Well, I got over that pretty early on, finding that if I put my behind in the chair and fingers on the keyboard, that it would come. And experience tells me that it always does. But I find struggle in quieting my mind so that when I sit with computer in my lap, it can come.

I’m fascinated with the notion of meditation and the meditator’s ability to sit for hours quieting their mind so that a blank canvas emerges on which God can write the message He wants you to receive. I operate from the belief that He is the power outside me, the only one, that drives the process. He alone determines the success or failure of the work He has given my hands. My weakness is in the quieting that comes in believing and letting Him have sovereignty over those things I cannot control.

I lost my job last year. I had no control over that circumstance. I now write full-time. I have no control over how many or how few people buy my books. I have no control over my income. I don’t even know how much it’s going to be when that royalty check comes twice a year. This vexes my husband, and because it vexes him, it vexes me. I keep thinking I need to do more, figure it out, get another job that pays a set amount each week. But then, that too can go away…

So, how do we sit with fingers on keyboards, or stand on a stage ready to interpret the writers’ words with our voices, or make the first stroke on the canvas, or form the clay from nothing? How do we quiet our mind to receive the message when so many voices compete to be heard above the message it is our work to bring into the world?

I once did a workshop where we had to write a physical description for our muse. I chose a warrior who secured the perimeter, making a safe space for me to work. As long as he stood sentinel, sword at the ready fighting my demons and distractions, I could deal solely with the interpretation of the message into my medium—the novel. I need that safe space. I long to find it and sit in it. But how to find that space . . .

Maybe Keith Urban has it right. Stop fighting. Let go and Let it come. Maybe today will be the day, maybe tomorrow. But it will come. It always does when I get out of the way.