Stories of Transformation: Debbie

Depression couldn’t keep Debbie down — thanks to you

It’s easy to see someone on the street whose life is in shambles and think, “That’ll never be me.”

Just a few years ago, Debbie had every reason to believe it. She’s always been a hard worker. She had a good job and a house. She paid her bills and even had a boyfriend who, she was hoping, might soon become a husband.

But none of us are immune to tragedy.

For Debbie, and many others on the streets, one bad day is all it takes to turn a life upside-down.

It was 2012 when Debbie’s bad day hit her like a ton of bricks.

“My boyfriend passed away from cancer. Losing him put me into this deep depression that I couldn’t get out of. I stopped going to work. I couldn’t get out of bed; my whole world just fell apart.”

Debbie quickly found out that depression doesn’t care who you are, what you have in the bank or what your work ethic is. It’s capable of hollowing out a life just as quickly as any addiction.

Over the span of a few years, Debbie’s hold on life spiraled out of control.

She went from living in a house, to an apartment, and when the savings finally ran dry, to her car.

“I had never been evicted before. I always paid my bills. It was horrible. It was scary, too, because I knew how the homeless were treated. Living in my car, people would look at me like I was some kind of monster. I wasn’t a human being anymore.”

Debbie lived this nightmare for a little over a year and a half, driving her Nissan Sentra up and down Thunderbird Avenue looking for a safe place to sleep.

“I took care of my car, but sometimes you do stupid stuff. I let a friend drive it one day and he was really reckless with it. He tore the gearshift up and suddenly there was all this smoke coming from underneath. It was totaled. I didn’t have any place left to go.”

That’s when your love stepped in.

“I came here [Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center] on the Hope Coach. Cliff [our former Hope Coach Coordinator] picked me up. I had no idea what this place was or what I was getting myself into, but I knew my life had to change. I told God, ‘Whatever you’re planning, Lord, I’m in.’”

Over the course of a year, your compassion gave Debbie the tools she needed to break the grip of depression on her life.

“I got counseling that I would never have gotten before. The trauma egg took a huge burden off my shoulders.”

A trauma egg is a counseling exercise designed to draw out past traumatic experiences in a tangible way. A large egg shape is drawn on a poster-sized sheet. Then, those in recovery fill it from top to bottom with traumatic events from their past, both big and small. With the help of Ta’Mella Pierce, Debbie’s counselor, she was able to work through each event one at a time.

“It opened my eyes to what was holding me back: the co-dependency, the anger, the resentment, the depression, the people-pleasing, it showed me where all that came from when I did my egg. It gave me a road map for what I needed to work on.”

Through the exercise, Debbie also discovered there was much more to her depression than the passing of her boyfriend.

I found I had a lot of repressed anger toward my family. My father was very abusive. My mom had been abused as a child and never stuck up for me. I stuffed things down for so long.”

“To help get it all out, Ta’Mella had me write resentment letters. I don’t feel any resentment for anyone anymore because I wrote everything I wanted to say down and gave it to God. I told Him, ‘I don’t want to carry these. I don’t need them anymore.’”

Today, Debbie’s a different person, thanks to you.

“Looking back now, I can see where Jesus has been with me through all the rough times. Even here, when I was going through one of my lowest points, He showed me He was right beside me. The counseling here helped me out of my depression. I feel so much stronger now and I’m never going to go back to my old lifestyle.”

In fact, Debbie’s made it her goal to help others find find hope and healing. She’s completed her Peer Support Certification and hopes to serve those who are experiencing homelessness with hope and guidance.

“I know how people on the street feel, I know how they’re treated. No one should be made to feel less than human. I want to be out there giving them the kind of positive experience that changed my life. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”

Debbie is off the streets, depression-free and she’s got you to thank for it.

“We are so blessed here by all the donors. I am thankful every day for what you’ve given us here. God wakes me up and helps me do better than I did the day before. It’s hard work, but this is the best program there is. It changed my life completely.”