July 20, 2021

Debra Fileta

You might know our latest guest on Trevor Talks from her highly acclaimed book and blog True Love Dates, but there’s so much more that Debra Fileta has to say. In this episode, Debra shares a little bit about her own journey through depression and into healing. She offers compassionate wisdom on what true relational, mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health looks like, sharing expertise gained from her practice as a licensed professional counselor as well as her life experience. This is a conversation for anyone wondering what the next step in their own healing might be.

You might know our latest guest on Trevor Talks from her highly acclaimed book and blog True Love Dates, but there’s so much more that Debra Fileta has to say. In this episode, Debra shares a little bit about her own journey through depression and into healing. She offers compassionate wisdom on what true relational, mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health looks like, sharing expertise gained from her practice as a licensed professional counselor as well as her life experience. This is a conversation for anyone wondering what the next step in their own healing might be.


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Trevor Tyson  0:01  
Thank you for tuning in to Trevor talks podcast where we talk to real people about real topics in real stories. Today, we are going to talk about mental health in depth with someone who knows a thing or two about it. Deborah fleta is a licensed professional counselor, best selling author, speaker, and the host of love and relationships podcast, we're going to talk about getting real about your mental health, the church and the message behind her latest book. Are you really okay, getting real about who you are, how you're doing and why it matters? Here is my conversation with Miss Deborah fleta. Deborah, thank you so much for joining me.

Debra Fileta  0:41  
Thank you for having me.

Trevor Tyson  0:43  
Look, I'm just like, super grateful. And I want to point out everyone listening that this episode is extra special, because we had some of the best technical difficulties in the world started. So thank you for being patient and practicing your counseling skills on getting all this worked out where we can do. So I am just fascinated by everything that I've learned about you just in our short conversation that we just had. And through skimming through the book, you have four children, husband, that depends on who you ask can compare to a child at times, typically, but some people so you are writing books, recording podcasts, a professional counselor, an influencer to the influencers, all while raising children, that has to be a full time job in itself. How do you make time for all this?

Debra Fileta  1:36  
I know it is a lot to juggle. I think a couple things. First of all, I married really well. And I always tell people, especially singles who you Mary impacts every part of your life. And I could have never foreseen that life would look like this, you know, and the the time and effort it took to establish a healthy dating relationship that turned into a healthy marriage, that turns into the fuel of ministry. And life is just so important. You know. And so that's the first thing. And the second thing is John and I and my husband, we've gotten really good at saying no to peripheral things, and just kind of focusing on the essentials and saying no to everything else. So we don't live that rat race life, like the average, again running from this to that to this game to that practice. Like that's not our world. And I think that helps to make space for the essentials. And for for us a big part of that's ministry.

Trevor Tyson  2:45  
Yeah, and saying no, isn't always the easiest thing to do. When did that become a thing for you guys, as a couple just like, we need to say no to this, we can say yes to this. Just valuing the things that and really just stewarding your time, if you look at it the same way, as you will get tithing, you know, you want to type your time in the correct places. When did that become a conversation? And how did you pursue that.

Debra Fileta  3:07  
So it's kind of in both of our natures to be people who are more focused. And so I think we've always been, but I would say it's also in both of our nature to be people who achieve a lot. And we both come from families of immigrant parents. And when you come from a family with immigrant parents, there's a difference in culture because immigrants have to work their butt off to succeed, and you kind of watch them. And you start thinking that value equals hard work and success. And so it's in our nature to focus, but it's also in our nature to do too much. And I think over the years, and especially for me in my personal journey of navigating things like depression, and anxiety, you realize the human has capacity. You know, we've got the max capacity emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, and you cannot live maxed out and think that you're going to be healthy and think that you're doing great things for the Lord. Because you're gonna burn out and crash and I've had to reach the point of burnout in my life before kids, thankfully, that sort of made me realize that I have limitations. And so John and I have really been serious about what that looks like in our family and our home and the culture we're creating for our children so that they don't go through that. So it's been a slow, steady process of learning and evolving in this whole area.

Trevor Tyson  4:50  
Yeah, and I think it's beautiful how not only in the book, but in your podcast and your platforms. You're using it to vocalize that. It's not just mental health. And it's not just physical health, how is your overall health being. And it's not really talked about as much with mental health as Oh, going for a short run or even going for a short walk and cleaning up your nutrition a little bit is so important for your mental health. With being locked at home over the past year, did you find any creative ways to stay active and be nutritionists while like living in a pandemic with your children?

Debra Fileta  5:27  
Yeah, for us, it looked like going on a lot of walks and family activities turned into literal active activities. We're being active, we would go on hikes and bike rides and family walks, sometimes we do two walks a day and we call them night walks. We take our flashlights at night and just go for a walk and just kind of kept active that way. Because I don't think exercise is the solution to mental health. But it certainly has a role to play. And it certainly makes a difference in your serotonin and dopamine levels to be active physically. So when we look at health, we're looking at this holistic experience, you know, what am I doing with my time? What am I doing with my emotions? What am I doing with my physical exercise activity, diet, sleep, my family of origin issues, my trauma, like there's so many working pieces to the equation of health, and one of them is physical health. And so I actually think we had more time for it during quarantine, and lockdown, then we did when we're in normal life mode, you know? So it actually just showed us that we've got to prioritize this, you know, and how can we integrate it more? How can we do two walks a day in our real life when things go back to normal, so it was actually really good for us.

Trevor Tyson  6:56  
Amazing. And you obviously kept a busy and balanced life during the pandemic, because it looks like you had a book to be written during that. And when I see this book, the first thing that pops out, is, it's really just a question like, if you look at the cover everyone watching it says, Are you really okay with a question mark, and the Oh, which I think is amazing. So shout out to whoever designed that for you. Getting Real about who you are, how you're doing and why it matters. If you're walking through Barnes and Noble growling through Amazon, and you see this is asking you a question. Which is a very brilliant thing to do. But where did this message come from? Are you really okay, I know that I've had friends be like, how are you doing this night? No. How are you really doing? And I feel like that's what this book covers speaks to me. So where did this man?

Debra Fileta  7:50  
Yeah, I like that you identified that question? Because I find that people react to this title in two different ways. Those people who instantly like you will be drawn to the title. Am I okay? And maybe I need to stop. Before I answer really quickly, like we're so accustomed to I'm good. And to stop and really process what how am I doing? Let me actually stop and think about it. So the people who respond to it in that positive way. But then there's a whole other group of people who read that title, and they instantly reply, I'm good, and I don't need any further questioning. They're almost write it off because they think they're okay. And those are the people that scare me the most. Because we all have a level of healing in our life. And we all need to be constantly working on some area of healing emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically. If you're not moving forward in healing, you're moving backward. And so it's not the people who respond well that I'm worried about that say, you know, what, maybe I'm not doing okay. No, I'm proud of you for that response, because that means you're engaging in the work. It's the ones that write it off, and they think they're fine. Or they think this is just a book for people who are depressed and in their head, or suicidal or addicted to drugs, sure, it's for them, but it's also for you, because healing is a preventative maintenance. You don't go to the doctor, just because you've had a complete meltdown and crash. In order for you to be really healthy. You stop beforehand and you do checkups along the way. You get your mammogram. You get your colonoscopy you get your physicals. But what do we do for our emotional and mental health? How often do we stop and take inventory before we get to that place of burnout and despair? You know, always so just because you're a Christian doesn't mean you're healthy. Just because you're blank. Doesn't mean you're healthy just because you make this amount of money just because Is your in this age group, just because you've never struggled before just because blank, like we're all susceptible. And I think we just need to be aware and check in on a regular basis.

Trevor Tyson  10:10  
Yeah. And you mentioned that before you had children, you had a burnout moment. And can, I'm really just, I feel like your story is going to impact a lot of people. So is that something that you'd be open to sharing like your story in general, but also leading up to that burnout and how you got through it.

Debra Fileta  10:29  
Of course, in fact, I open up a lot in this book about my personal journey, probably for the first time in this level of detail. Because I'm a therapist. As a therapist, you're trained to be a therapist, I don't sit in therapy sessions and say, let me tell you what I've been through. That's not my job, my job is to hear your story, and to walk you through your story. And I want this book to feel like a therapy session because I'm walking you through your junk. But I'm also sharing with you what I've been through as a, as a fellow, as a friend, as someone who's journeying this road with you, I'm not immune to these struggles, just like a doctor isn't immune to getting sick. And for me, I noticed my history with depression starting in graduate school. When I look back, it was a busy season. Like I look back and recognize those triggers the family of origin beliefs that I had carried that I told you about a few minutes ago, you know, that kind of equate value with doing with what you produce, right? And then not only that, but I was working and in graduate school, and I was leading ministries, and I just had a lot on my plate. And not only that, I had some different changes in medications that I was taking hormonal imbalances, medication changes, like all of that stuff, was like the perfect storm, for me to sink into this severe depression. And, you know, you have to begin to unravel all the different parts to that depression is not just like a one size fits all solution. Because each of us go through it in different ways with different needs. So I had to kind of unpack what's the spiritual solutions here with the mental solutions, what are the physical solutions were the emotional solutions, and really work to get through that season. But that wasn't the first or last time that I would face this. I fast forward a few years, I faced postpartum depression with two of my children. Fast forward again, I faced severe depression and anxiety after experiencing a really hard trauma where I almost lost my life. And then a few years later, my body kind of reacted to that trauma. The thing about trauma, Trevor is that it doesn't impact us in the moment. You know, when a soldier goes off to war, and they're in the middle of the battlefield, like fighting for their life, it's not the time to process trauma, it's the time to survive it get through it. And so many of us have trauma from our past that we didn't experience. We don't process through it in our past, but we were going through it because we were in survival mode. And that's what happened to me, I went through this life altering miscarriage where I almost lost my life. But I got through it. And then two years later, when life was safe and secure, the trauma started coming back up and impacting me. And that's kind of the journey of trauma. And what people don't understand is that it comes up in layers. And just when you think you've dealt with it, it can come up in a different season looking at looking different, you know, and so that was kind of a journey for me if navigating these mental health challenges through different seasons of my life

Trevor Tyson  13:53  
is amazing. And did you really have a passion for mental health and such as a child? Or was that something that you discovered in your college years later in life?

Debra Fileta  14:04  
I think I thought I was going to go into the world of medicine because I come from a medical family. But I was I love that emotional interaction more than the medical piece. And so I quickly went quickly knew that that's what I wanted to do for a living. So I went, you know, undergrad in psychology, graduate school in professional counseling, and it's through graduate school that I experienced my first my first run in with depression. So you can call it irony. You can call it God's timing, like I was studying it. And then here I was experiencing it. And it's a completely different ballgame when you're in it, that's for sure. But so anyway, the passion has been growing and it's only grown more as I have walked through the journey myself and how I can help people through it.

Trevor Tyson  14:58  
Yeah, and when you wish Sitting in college and graduate school and struggling with that depression was writing books and having a podcast, anything like that on your radar, do you just

Debra Fileta  15:09  
not even close. I mean, that was I was literally just a therapist for the longest time. And then I would say eight years ago, I started to really I wrote articles, I love to write my whole life. And I would write articles for different magazines and stuff, just little things here and there about counseling. And then one day I wrote an article that kind of blew up on the internet. And people started asking me to write more. And because at the time, looking back was probably more like 10 years ago, because it was two years before I published my first book, people were not integrating psychology and faith, they were two different worlds. So here I am a therapist writing about toxic relationships in the church, people were like, no one's talking about this stuff, you know. And so that kind of opened my eyes to the importance of writing. And I ended up getting my first book deal. Back in 2013, I released my first book about dating and relationships called True Love dates, which started this website that kind of took off and turned into a standalone ministry focused on healthy relationships. So how do we get from healthy relationships to mental health? Well, I'm a licensed counselor. And the one pattern that I kept seeing over and over and over relationship work that I did, whether it was single, or dating or married is this healthy people make healthy relationships, and the level of health of your relationship is a reflection of your personal health standing alone. So if you want to create the culture of a healthy relationship, you've got to take inventory of your personal health, and the junk that you're bringing to the table of marriage. And so healthy people make healthy relationships. That's the theme. And I feel like that's where it starts is by taking the time to look in and assessing our personal health.

Trevor Tyson  17:07  
What would be the first thing that you brought to the table if a client came to you, and they were like, I really just think getting married is going to fix everything? For me, whether they're cheating on the person they're dating, or they have a history with that, or alcoholic or pornography? If they think getting married is going to fix that? Obviously, it's not but what would you bring to the table in that moment?

Debra Fileta  17:31  
Well, I would be struggling to control my irritation. Because deep down, you know, that is not even close to reality. You know, nobody can complete you, nobody can heal you. Nobody can bring you that satisfaction and self worth. But at the same time, I have compassion because that is the story of so many people who have come from families and homes and childhoods where they feel like they're missing something. Maybe they weren't given emotional connection and value in their family version, so much of who we are today and how full or empty we are, has to do with the family culture that we've come from some of the deficits that we've lived with, because our parents are humans, they're not perfect. And so if we don't acknowledge some of those deficits and wounds, we bring them into relationships with the assumption that that's going to fill me up and give me what I didn't get. But that's not the answer. The answer is, I have what I need, with God's power and strength to heal from those things and go into the relationship hole. Where a lot of times people feel like they're a half empty cup and, and that this relationship can fill them up and it does for a little while. When you have a half empty cup, and you put it together with another half empty cup, you get a full cup and it feels good for a while until you realize that full cup is still made of two half empty people who are desperately trying to use one another to fill up and that creates codependency not interdependency. You know interdependencies when you have two healthy people functioning on their own, that choose each other. codependency is when you have four people who are desperate and a need of each other. And there's a huge difference there to how the health of a relationship plays out.

Trevor Tyson  19:32  
Wow, that's That's so good. And when people start on their journey of overcoming their mental health issues, whether it's depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, all of the things if they're struggling with having that decision, and they feel maybe a little bit of pride of I don't need a therapist, I don't need medication, where should they start, whether it's some kind of application that you recommend? With or at Teachers are any of your books, what resources should they

Debra Fileta  20:04  
try to find? Well, I would definitely start with Are you really okay? Because I feel like it gives you an easy audit of those four areas of your life. Let's start with your emotional health How? How good are you at processing your emotions, naming them, expressing them in a healthy way, and questioning them. Because just because you feel something doesn't mean it's true, you know, your feeling is real, but it's not always the truth. So we'll be doubling a gauge on your emotional health. And then it moves you into getting a gauge on your spiritual health. And when I talk about spiritual health, I'm not talking about how often you pray how much you read your Bible, unless you go to church, I'm talking about your view of God and self. I'm talking about your relationships with people community, because those things tell me more about your spiritual health than the external things that you're doing. And then we move into your mental health. And we talk about your trauma, we talk about your struggles with worry, anxiety, depression, the things that you've been through the patterns that have been passed down to you. And lastly, we talk about your physical health, everything from boundaries that you set around your life, to your sleep, exercise, your nutrition, and at the end of each chapter, you're going to have these checkup questions to kind of help you answer. How am I doing in these areas? And it's almost like, like, I would literally call it a checkup, you know, you're really checking up on how you're doing. And I think it could bring to light some of those areas that you need to work on and even offer you some next steps like where do I go from here? For example, one of the things I have you do through the book, it's not just a book you read, it's an experience. One of the things they have you do is a timeline where you talk right out the things that have impacted you in childhood and growing up. And the other thing I have you do is take a stress inventory, that you check things off to tell you like, how likely are you to have a mental breakdown in the next two years based on the different stressors in your life today. So it was just a lot of inventory and work to kind of help you figure out how you're actually doing and what you need to do next.

Trevor Tyson  22:19  
Wow. And when you got into writing, in the short articles, and then you got your book deal. Did you have any doubts? Like why are they reaching out to me? Why am I getting this offer? I can't do it did? Did you have any of those thoughts at all?

Debra Fileta  22:34  
You know, I always thought it was just the irony of all of it. Looking back, you know, I'm so grateful that the Lord has given me confidence in the calling that he's given me. So lesson that I I never lacked in the confidence and knowing that this is what God has called me to do. I think what I would have wondered, though, is, you know, how can I make an impact at the time, I didn't have a big platform, or big blog or an Instagram or getting hundreds and 1000s of hits on my blog, like I was literally a therapist with a little baby and another one on the way. And I remember I remember forget this because now you know, there's all these numbers and Instagram and podcast downloads. But at the time, I think I had like 82 Twitter followers, and I remember that number. So clearly because I thought it was good. At Twitter followers, this is great. It's better

Trevor Tyson  23:35  
than nine. It's better than

Debra Fileta  23:37  
none. But But But here's what's crazy, Trevor, back then, two years before that happened. I had a very dear dear pastor and mentor and he prophesied over me one day. And I will tell you, I'm older, like I don't trust any old prophecy. Let me just put it out there. That's just not how I roll. Yeah, you have to be near and dear to my heart for me to take anything from what you're going to tell me. Rightfully so. This trusted mentor and Pastor prayed over me one day and he said, You're gonna reach millions of people. And I'm like, Is he crazy? What is he talking about? I didn't have a book deal then I didn't have a blog or potluck. I mean, literally simple. Life was simple ministry in my community working with inner city like I had nothing. None of this was on my radar. But it just goes to show you that that's not the stuff that God looks at, you know, God wants someone who is passionate, because they have been there they have experienced it. They really care. And I would say if those requirements then I am confident in the calling that God has put on my life because I have been there. I have experienced it. I've come out the other side. And I care so much about helping people get healthy and how helping people get into healthy relationships. So I'm just grateful to be a part of what God is doing in this important message.

Trevor Tyson  25:07  
Yeah, and I think something really important that we can highlight in that is you were faithful with the 82 followers that you had in mind you Jesus had 12 disciples of his circle of influence very small, which was very wise on his part. But in this generation, everyone feels like I've got to have a million followers, I gotta be verified on this, this that, and it never stops at all. And it seems like it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And with social media numbers, you know, people go viral on Tiktok, and Instagram all the time. And it gives them this almost false sense of celebrity. It's like, Oh, I found some importance in this, I'm going to chase that. I'm going to be this, that and the other. How do we stop that? I know at the beginning of the interview, you mentioned that you and your husband jumped out of the rat race. I'm currently in the process of that, like, I want to go not like full on minimalism tiny house, like I'm open to it. I'm not against it. But you know, just jumping out of the rat race, you don't have to have a crazy mortgage, you don't have to have a crazy, expensive car. How can we just focus on the smaller things in life that will truly make us happy?

Debra Fileta  26:18  
I think the key is, what is the calling that God has put in my life. And number two, what is my measuring stick, because when our measuring stick is social media and all these other people in what they're doing, one day, we will be on top of the world, the next day, we're going to bomb, because there's always going to be somebody better and somebody worse, like that's just life, you know. And so for me, the temptation is always there. But then to revert back and and say, Okay, Lord, this is the calling that you've put on my life. That's what I want to run after. And it's not about what everybody else is doing. It's about me being faithful to what you've called me to do, even when nobody notices, even in the early days, when I used to blog, this dance lessons learned, blogspot, you know, and just share the lessons that God was teaching me. I think the faithfulness is what he's looking for. And for some people that faithfulness means you never see the fruit. I mean, even in my stage of life, like I right, millions of people have read my work, I don't get millions of emails thanking me, and there's so much fruit that you just trust that God is doing it when you don't see it, you know, and if nothing else, it's the fruit that he's accomplished in my heart and life. Like, if nothing else, the fruit that he has worked in me speaks for him speaks volumes of who God is and what he's doing. So that's kind of been for me what what keeps me grounded and helps me just to keep my head down and focus on what God has called me to do.

Trevor Tyson  28:01  
And it's such an important message. And Deborah, this has been just a beautiful conversation. And you have so much insight, especially in your new book, but in your wife, like you as an individual, me talking to you right now and everyone else listening, you have so much insight and you're sharing it with the world and you're being vulnerable and passionate. And I think it's amazing. And truly just thank you so much for joining us today. And where can people find you on social media?

Debra Fileta  28:26  
Yeah, I'm on social media. At trove of dates. I'll eventually be moving over to Deborah felida. Um, so you can kind of keep your eyes out for that. But you can find my blogs, my podcasts, my books, everything about me at true love.

Trevor Tyson  28:43  
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us and everybody, be sure to go check out her podcast as well true updates. Go to true love As she said, and we're gonna put the link in the description for every single one of those things. And we just want to shout out better help for sponsoring this episode. If you feel like you need to seek out a licensed therapist or someone that you can truly trust to walk with you through this mental health journey. Go to better forward slash Trevor talks and they would love to find a counselor to work with you go pick up are you really okay on Amazon and at true of Thank you to new release today for making this episode happen and we will talk to you guys next week.

Transcribed by

Debra FiletaProfile Photo

Debra Fileta

Before anything else in her life, Debra Fileta is a woman in love with Jesus. That love has been the driving motivator propelling her forward in her pursuits as a wife, a mother, a licensed professional counselor, a speaker and an author.

She’s is married to the love of her life, who pushes her to pursue her dreams and is her number one fan! She and John are parents to three beautiful children- Ella, Elijah, and Ezra. They live in Lancaster, PA.

Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in dating, marriage and relationship issues, along with a spectrum of mental health disorders and issues. She’s also the author of True Love Dates, Choosing Marriage, and Love in Every Season! She’s also the host of the Love + Relationships Podcast, a hotline style show where people call in to get their relationship questions answered!

Her popular relationship advice blog reaches millions of people each year with the message of healthy relationships!

Debra is a regular contributor at Relevant Magazine and, with over 200 articles around the web about love, marriage, dating, sex, and relationships. Her articles have been featured in magazines, websites, and publications such as Today’s Christian Woman, Verily Magazine,, Proverbs 31,,, The Christian Post, Charisma Magazine, Converge Magazine, Christianity Today, Her.meneutics, and many others. The majority of her work is featured at her blog,

Debra loves to travel the country speaking about love, sex, marriage and relationships and has been privileged to partner with organizations and churches such as Saddleback Church, Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, The Boundless Show,, as well as radio programs throughout the country, colleges and universities.