Author and Yonkers resident Elisa Gabrielle Donahue spends her days trying to write the sequel to her debut novel, A Shopgirl’s Tale, fighting her sometimes crippling anxiety, and playing with her dog, Graham. Growing up in Woodlawn, just across the border of Yonkers, Elisa developed a love of reading and writing early on. “I get it from my mother,” she laughs. “Some of my earliest memories involve being at pools or beaches and looking up at Mom smiling while I’d sit on my blanket, her beautiful blonde hair and big sunglasses peeking out from a book. Here I was fretting over my toys getting sunburnt or if my sandcastles look good enough and I’d think to myself ‘now that’s happiness, just sunshine and a good book.”
It was that love of reading that led to Elisa submitting her own book to the New York Public Library.
“Libraries have always held a special place in my heart. Growing up my mother would often take me to our local libraries and I remember attending many events at the Will Library- attending movies in the theater, spending hours delving through shelves, and attending the children’s book readings.” Elisa is currently in the process of getting it in the Westchester County system, specifically a copy at the Will Library, her local branch.
Having meticulously concealed her worrying and fears from her loved ones since her childhood, It wasn’t until she wrote A Shopgirl’s Tale that Elisa realized the anxiety she was writing in her main character, Erika, was actually her own anxiety.
Several years ago she was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. “It was actually completely by accident,” she says shyly as she begins to fidget with her golden locks before joking that, similar to TV’s I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, a docuseries on her would have been titled I Didn’t Know I Was Having A Nervous Breakdown.
Dealing with several familial health scares and unfulfilled with a career she wasn’t passionate about she says reading on breaks at her then job, and a few short hours with her pup were slowly becoming more and more the only joy she’d feel so she started using her writing degree to write what she described as frivolous little fictions of her own in hopes of making her friends smile but thought that her growing apathetic state was just adulthood. “I have a good friend who told me once that there was a time when you would start waking up hurting a tiny bit somewhere everyday and I assumed that on most days, it was simply that the part of me that was aching was my soul.“
Once she started feeling a bit off physically as well the self described “hypochondriac” decided it was time to find out if she was, “dying of some rare and highly incurable disease.” When her physician casually asked how work was, she proceeded to burst into ten minutes of tears. She soon explained her recurring hives, vertigo, and other strange symptoms were all caused by stress and while she didn’t pay attention to the actual meaning of his words, or research General Anxiety Disorder, Elisa did happily embrace the mental health sabbatical he’d strongly suggested that he would recommend to her place of employment and during that sabbatical her protagonist was born.
“I wrote a completely different person than myself, but in flushing it out, I gave Erika what I’d assumed were typical coping tools and mundane worries everyone got until people were telling me that it wasn’t.” She smirks. “I had an uncle notice the similarities and ask if I was okay. Thats when I thought I needed to start dealing with it.” Since opening up about her own mental health issues Elisa found she could better manage her anxiety. Elisa wants people to know how important speaking about our mental health is.
If you’d like to support a local author Elisa’s book is available in print and ebook on Amazon and barnesandnoble.com, and audiobook on Audible. If you do buy the book please consider leaving a review as Elisa loves feedback on her writing. You can also follow her on Instagram @elisadonahuewrites for updates.