Category Archives: Where’s My Towel

Happy New Year! The Year of the Unicorn (Cissell II)

Last August, I typed my New Year’s goals for you after declaring my own year (still working on the calendar system, but I can tell you right now, February is gonna get more days. Possibly at the expense of September. I hate that month).

I haven’t been very present on this blog. Or anywhere, actually. Although things aren’t as bleak as they were last summer, it’s still been an intense year.

I published two books last fall, the first two in a new series.

I started January with shingles, which resulted in constant pain (mostly gone now) and some hearing loss. I went through an entire season of all-to-frequent contact with my lawyer, but after almost 9 months, was able to finish that labor in a great place to protect my child for the next 11 years.

I also published A Wing and a Prayer and hit the USA Today Bestseller list!

I went to Belgium and Czechia.

I got married.

I published another book – like three days later.

A book cover. Green background with standing stones. A woman with long, dark, curly hair and white skin is on the cover. The title is "The Lost Child, An Eleanor Morgan Novel by Amy Cissell."

We celebrated my kiddo’s 1st Liana-versary with hiking and presents and cake and decorations. (I didn’t quite get the layer colors quite right, but she assured me I can keep practicing every year until I do.)

And here I am, almost through August. Ready to send my kid off to 2nd Grade. And even though all the big stressors of the last 12 months are mostly gone (I’m married, my kid is doing pretty well, the legal stuff is over for now, I got four books out in the last 12 months), something still isn’t right.

But you know what? It’s fucking New Years. Last year was the Year of the Phoenix. I had 12 goals.

  1. Feel comfortable in new job by my birthday (2/24 in case you need time to plan your celebratory activities) – done
  2. Publish five books & 1 novella by the end of the Year (8/14/19) – not quite; 3 books & 1 novella
  3. Find three new clients for the editing business I share with the Beer Guy – We have worked with 3 new clients (and then some!)
  4. Get married – Done
  5. Have the most awesome honeymoon ever – Super done
  6. Find a physical activity I super enjoy and do it regularly for fun (preferably trail running) – still in progress – more on that in a minute
  7. Develop a regular at-home yoga practice – hahaha. no.
  8. Stay meds compliant. I’ve never managed to be compliant for more than 6-8 months. I’m currently, as of New Year’s Day, five months in on my current medication. There will be the added challenge of switching providers and insurance. – passed with flying colors. I’m 17 months in, managing the dickish new providers, and making things happen.
  9. Find two really good pairs of jeans. – eh. Yes. Kinda. I’m happy with my new affinity to leggings.
  10. Learn to appreciate massages. – done. I get monthly massages and they are wonderful.
  11. Become more comfortable with self promotion. Still working on it, but if you want to check me out on Amazon, I welcome your participation!
  12. Develop an elaborate framework for the Cissell calendar and Cissell astrology. – well, I created a graphic for Cissell II. So that happened.

I found out this week that I have pretty sever sleep apnea, which has almost definitely been contributing to my depression and exhaustion. During my sleep study, I stopped breathing about 25 times each hour, meaning I’m waking up every 2 minutes or so.

I’m also upping the dosage on my crazy pills. This was the dosage that was recommended by my old psychiatrist a year ago, but when I switched to Kaiser, the new shrink didn’t believe I was bipolar (despite an almost 20 year history of getting independently diagnosed by several psychiatrists) and didn’t want to increase my dosage. So I’ve been coasting along at this ‘not quite therapeutic enough’ level for just over a year while doing my best to avoid the crummy shrink. (Did you know at Kaiser, you can’t just switch therapists or psychiatrists. It is a process of 3-4 months. Fortunately, crummy shrink was on vacation this week and I got to talk to her substitute. He was fantastic and is going to be my temporary guy until I get a permanent placement again.)

So – time for my New Year’s resolutions for this, the second year of Cissell.

  1. Find a fairly inexpensive place to vacation abroad. (Don’t want to break my streak of getting a passport stamp every year since 2016).
  2. Finish the Eleanor Morgan series and add at least one Oracle Bay book to my list.
  3. Work on marketing skills.
  4. Use CPAP machine religiously and find out what it’s like to be rested again.
  5. Learn to be more vulnerable. Strength /= lack of emotion. Ask for and accept help.
  6. Make time, 3-4x/week, for exercise. Even if it’s just 20 minutes.
  7. Rediscover my love of the trails, whether it’s hiking with my daughter or running by myself.
  8. Biweekly swim dates with the child.
  9. Monthly blog posts
  10. Quarterly fancy dates with my husband
  11. Stop frequently and watch in awe as my daughter grows up and completes second grade. Be there when she needs me, but staying a few steps back when she doesn’t. (Also, force her to ride her damn bike already, I mean I was riding before kindergarten C’MON!) Let go of the things that don’t really matter (biking) and work on the things that do (swimming) and find a way to enjoy soccer momming.
  12. Court balance and self care.
Rocks balancing on rocks - five total - in front of the ocean.
Bonus: spend more time in the water, whether it’s ocean, lake, river, or swimming pool. Water is my happy place.

What are your goals as you move into the Year of the Unicorn?

New Year’s Resolutions – The Year of the Phoenix (Cissell I)

What’s that? It’s not the new year?

Well it is for me. So there, motherfuckers! Don’t be a hater!

That was probably a little harsh, but I’m ready for a blank slate (no slate can be perfectly blank, I realize that) and I have some goals for the next 12 months.

Henceforth, 8/15 will be known as the beginning of the Cissell Year, a new reckoning of time that will, no doubt, become a reliable astrological something or other.

So, in The Year of the Phoenix (Cissell I), I am going to work on the following 12 things – 1 thing for every month in the year. The theme, based on the fact that it’s The Year of the Phoenix (Cissell I) is rebirth and growth.

I am going to need some help to achieve all the goals, but I am feeling so freaking positive right now, it’s ridiculous.

  1. Feel comfortable in new job by my birthday (2/24 in case you need time to plan your celebratory activities)
  2. Publish five books & 1 novella by the end of the Year (8/14/19)
  3. Find three new clients for the editing business I share with the Beer Guy
  4. Get married
  5. Have the most awesome honeymoon ever
  6. Find a physical activity I super enjoy and do it regularly for fun (preferably trail running)
  7. Develop a regular at-home yoga practice
  8. Stay meds compliant. I’ve never managed to be compliant for more than 6-8 months. I’m currently, as of New Year’s Day, five months in on my current medication. There will be the added challenge of switching providers and insurance.
  9. Find two really good pairs of jeans.
  10. Learn to appreciate massages.
  11. Become more comfortable with self promotion (preorder Oracle Bay #1! Buy sale copies of Eleanor Morgan paperbacks!)
  12. Develop an elaborate framework for the Cissell calendar and Cissell astrology.

 

Do you have any

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Crazy Train

I have been largely absent the last few months. I come back in fits and starts with goals and promises, but then I disappear. That is due to a few factors.

  1. I am busy AF. I work a day job, am a freelance editor, and am a writer with three books coming out this fall and another four next year.
  2. I have a kid, and while I love that (not so) tiny Alvie Bean, this year has not been easy. Not easy at all. I know I’m vague blogging, but Bean requests that I not include real updates on the blog anymore. Internet privacy for six-year olds is a real thing.
  3. I have had some significant mental health struggles. I want to say “I’ve been struggling the last couple months,” but in reality, I’ve been struggling the last six years, with periods of intermission. This is the real reason I’m here today. (Sorry – no fun gifs or writing facts today.)

In 2012, my father was diagnosed with cancer in January and died in March when I was 38 weeks pregnant. He never met his grandkid and Bean never got to geek out about trains with my father. After I went back to work, I slid into a deep, dark postpartum depression. It was bad. Fortunately, I was able to capitalize on that experience by writing and publishing an essay about it, for which I got paid actual cash money that was worth more than the envelope and stamp it took to mail it to me.

The next few years were nothing but ups and downs. Every time I went down, I didn’t get nearly as far up as I thought I should.

2016 – the year of me – was…interesting. I separated from my now ex-husband, moved out, got divorced, lost my job. I also got my own super cute house, started writing again, became very attached to an amazing man, and went to Iceland. In the midst of all of that, I was starting to come apart at the seams.

It took almost a full year for the total breakdown. There were periods when things were better than others. But overall, things were, to put it succinctly, bad.

I started eating less and less. (Funny thing about not being skinny – no one believes you when you tell them you’ve mostly just stopped eating solid food.) I got really good at hiding my lack of food intake, and the fact that my body hoarded every calorie it got causing me to gain weight helped with my game.

Even after I’d moved in with the aforementioned amazing man and got a new job, I still found myself skipping more meals than I was eating. (Turns out that behavior is terrible for your digestive system, overall health, energy levels, skin, hair, and brain function.)

I was still performing, though. I published three books in 2017 and started my fledgling freelance business. I started a new job, sent the Bean to kindergarten, and took a trip to Mexico. Everything looked fine. (Narrator voice: It was not fine.)

It didn’t take much – a couple minor stressors and one major one – and I lost hold of the thread I was barely hanging on to. The last six months have been hard. Hard for me. Hard for the beer guy. Hard for anyone who has to deal with me.

And now to the main crux of my post.

I have bipolar II. I don’t talk about it much, and for the longest time dismissed every professional who tried to tell me that’s what I had. But there’s really no way around it at this point. Most of my cycling in the past was mild depression to mild hypomania – easy to wait out.

This was…not. I was a hot mess. It took a while to find a mental health professional that was covered by insurance, was taking new patients, and had appointments this decade. It actually took a referral from the doctor I saw about my torn rotator cuff to get me into the system that I’m in now.

This round has had soul-searing depression compounded with over-the-top anxiety. There are some work environment issues which really exacerbate everything, too. (Open offices are the devil…omg please stop talking I can’t concentrate ever please for the love of all things holy.)

Being this depressed means having to actively search for a reason to keep going. It means not trusting that the people who say they care are sincere – after all, they’re just sticking around because they feel sorry for you. It means knowing that any light at the end of the tunnel is probably a train, and if it isn’t, it’s still not a way out, just a reflection of an outside that you’ll never find. It means constantly figuring out if there are any loose ends you don’t want to leave behind. It means weighing the benefits of staying against the benefits of not. Will it be better for the kid to have a mom or better for the kid to not have to deal with a crazy mom?

I don’t have a real five-year plan. I can’t look forward into the future and see anything. I can say I do, but it’s all academic. I can’t envision being present for my kid’s high school graduation. I’m good for one year at a time, tops. I’m bad at long-term planning because what’s the point?

I used to believe that this was something I would grow out of. That mental illness scurried on out like a bug with too many legs and venomous fangs when you turned 35. 40. Maybe 45.

When there are high-profile suicides, they go into one of two categories for me. “Oh, he was 22. Poor guy. The disease got him.” or “Fuck. They’re older than me. They aren’t struggling financially. This isn’t something you can level up out of. This is what I have left forever. There is no other way to exist. It is nothing but darkness.”

I have a meds doctor, and a therapist, and an amazing partner (who is probably not just having the weirdest extended pity-relationship ever), and a couple amazing friends. I take medication every day, and I have people who check on me. I have so much to live for: first and foremost, I don’t want to be brought back by the people who are still mad about the way I ended the last Eleanor Morgan book. I have the best kid in the whole world who’s gonna need a mama like whoa. I am blessed with the most patient, kind, and frankly, delightful partner.  I have twelve book covers that haven’t gone out into the world yet, and that’s just a waste if they’re not used.

This isn’t a cry for help. I would never do that. This is a glimpse into the head of someone who’s struggling.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter in the last week having arguments about mental health. I can’t believe it’s 2018 and there are still people in the world who want to convince me that mental illness is all in my head (heh) and that maybe if I just got off my ass and had some sunshine and kombucha and TRIED REAL HARD to be happy, that I could be. According to these people, I am literally just not trying hard enough. And what I want them to know – what I want you to know – is that I am trying as hard as I can.

Everyone else out there who has mental illness is trying, too. But remember, it’s hard. It’s so hard. And sometimes people need a break. And when they do, it is sad and it is tragic, but it is not selfish. Until you live every day struggling to achieve the most basic of accomplishments, until you have to use every ounce of energy to shine a light in the smothering darkness, until you spend every day in a pain that’s every bit as real as the pain someone with an illness of the body rather than an illness of the mind feels, you don’t get to judge when someone’s reached their end.

In conclusion:

  1. Medication is good
  2. Medical care is good
  3. If I can be denied insurance due to preexisting conditions, I will be uninsurable due to my bipolar, even though medical care and medication are vital at this point to my continued well-being, so that’s fun
  4. There’s a lot to be said for exercise and healthy eating, but they should not replace medical care or medication
  5. It’s no one’s business but the person in question and their care team how it’s treated, and people who judge someone else’s treatment are douchebags.

If you have any questions or want to talk you can comment here, on my FB page, email me (amyrcissell at gmail) or FB message me. If you are my mother, you may text me, but I might ignore said text. I’m okay, or near enough to count, anyway.

Depression is a lying asscandle, but I know how hard it is to remember that. If you need a reminder, hit me up. I can be your stranger in the internet supporter. Because you 100% deserve that.

 

May Day! May Day!

Well hellllooooooo! I have been gone lo! these many weeks. I feel like the last five weeks have been crazy, but then when I look back at my life, it turns out that crazy is the new normal. (That’s what my shrink says. Probably.)

Since The Broken World came out, I’ve been managing to keep myself busy. (True story – 99% of the time I type “busy,” I accidentally write “busty” instead. And I have definitely been keeping myself busty.)

ANYWAY. What have I accomplished?

  • I finished my first draft of “It’s Not in the Cards,” which will be the first book in my Oracle Bay series.
  • I started a new medication that seems to be (knock on all the black cats) working pretty well, now that the side effects have mostly dissipated.
  • I took a quick trip to the coast to visit Oracle Bay with the Beer Guy.
  • I’ve been editing for my freelance clients.
  • I’ve outlined Oracle Bay #2
  • I’ve spent more time learning about blocking IP addresses and dealing with Amazon customer service than I cared to
  • I’ve been momming at a very high level (side note: when does parenting get easy? asking for a friend)
  • I’ve managed to get through 4.5 seasons of Supernatural
  • I saw Hamilton (!!!)
  • I went to the Saturday yoga class that’s been on my calendar for a year. Yes, for the first time. (I’ve been twice now. I’m ready for my Yoga Journal cover shot.)

So, you know, since all that crap’s behind me…

I want to revive my habit of making monthly goals. But I also don’t want to get carried away. Small starts. I’m a huge checklist person. Nothing makes me happier (well, almost nothing) than crossing things off a list. And although I’ve been riding out this never-ending storm, I’d like to get enough perspective/distance to see if I’m just sitting in some rough water or if I’ve lost my ability to determine how hard things are. So. Goals.

May 2018 Goals 

  1. Yoga – six classes
  2. Oracle Bay 2 – 40K words
  3. Two Raj chapters/two Wing and a Prayer chapters
  4. Get the bike out and make sure it’s ridable. Then, if I’m feeling extra feisty, ride it.
  5. 3/6/12 month business plans.

That is ambitious, but achievable.

Dream big, pony boy.

 

And you? Anything big for May? I can’t believe the school year’s almost over and my kid is just about finished with kindergarten. How did that even happen?

Three Things Thursday: Travel Freakout Edition

  1. I am leaving next Friday for a sixteen-day European vacation. This is (a) my longest trip I’ve ever taken since college and (b) the first big trip I’ve taken with the Beer Guy. (We’ve done weekend trips, and a week-long trip to Mexico, but his family was there, and although I love them all, it’s not quite the same.)

    Vacation goal: pics of the two of us. Together. Because I have zero from Mexico or Colorado…

  2. I am a notorious overpacker. My packing list actually says: “Cardigans – all of them.” Which wouldn’t be excessive if I only owned two. However, I have at least a half dozen, perhaps more. I am trying to remind myself that I don’t need 2-3 options for every day, and that the Beer Guy will not make fun of me if I wear the same outfit more than once in 2.5 weeks. Probably.
  3. The worst part? My kidlet. It’ll be the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing him, even though I did arrange with his dad that I could spend a couple hours with him the day I get home, since he won’t come back to me until five days later. (My mom is coming to spend time with him, which is great for them and our cats and our house, but still…so long without Alvie Bean squishes.)

    Ack! This kid. My heart. *sigh*