Welcome to the Bookshelves: Who Am I?

Book Banner

It’s the big day! Megan Cyrulewski’s book,
Who Am I? How My Daughter Taught Me to Let God and Live Again
is available in paperback and ebook! As a treat, Megan has allowed me to publish this synopsis here and also to offer you a tantalizing excerpt! Enjoy…then go buy the book!

Synopsis
Megan’s book, Who Am I?  How My Daughter Taught Me to Let Go and Live Again, is about her journey into post-partum depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, stays in the psych ward, divorce, emotional abuse, domestic violence, law school, how she managed to graduate from law school and a beautiful little girl who emerged from all of this chaos.

Author Bio
Megan Cyrulewski has been writing short stories ever since she was ten-years-old.  After attending Grand Valley State University, Megan eventually settled into a career in the non-profit sector for eight years.  She decided to change careers and went back to school to get her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.  While in school, she documented her divorce, child custody battle and postpartum depression struggles in her memoir. Megan lives in Michigan with her 3-year-old daughter who loves to dance, run, read, and snuggle time with Mommy.  Megan also enjoys her volunteer work with various organizations in and around metro-Detroit.

An Excerpt Just For You!

Buy the Kindle version on Amazon

Buy the paperback on Amazon

Buy the paperback and Barnes and Noble

Buy the Nook version

Advertisements

An Interview With Megan Cyrulewski

Happy Friday, Friends! I have a special treat for you today, an Meganinterview with the indomitable Megan Cyrulewski. I say indomitable and mean it in every sense of the word. She recently posted the first chapter of her book, Who Am I, on her blog. When you read it,  you’ll get it 🙂

I confess, I’ve conned Megan into sharing an advanced copy of her book with me when they’re available, so I’ll review that for you here, too. After slowly reading the delicious first chapter, I’m pining to know the rest of the story.

But for now, without further adieu,

What is your name? And while we’re on the subject, do you have any nicknames and where did they come from?
Megan Cyrulewski.  Friends call me Meg.  My dad calls me Meggie, which was my childhood nickname.  Only my dad can get away with calling me that!

In your book’s teaser, you mention your daughter. How old is she and what’s her name? How did you choose her name?
Madelyne Rose was born on 12/2/10 so she is a little bit more than 3-years-old.  Her name comes from two different places:  Madelyne from the book (and mini-series) North and South and Rose was my grandmother’s name.  She passed away in 2006.

Your other “baby” must be this new book we can’t wait to read. What is the title and how did you come up with it?
My new book is a memoir called, Who Am I?  I came up with the title because in the middle of this traumatic period in my life, one day my dad called me Meggie.  I remember thinking to myself, I’m not Meggie anymore.  Who am I?  

I know your book is your memoir, what convinced you to write your story? What sets your story apart from other life-stories?
I love reading about adversity and the courage people have to rise above.  I was inspired by the book Her by Christina Parravani (who is actually a FB friend now…it’s totally a celebrity moment for me!)  Her words were just so poetic and harsh at the same time.  It’s as though I could feel Christina’s pain reaching out of the pages.  I thought that if I could write my own story half as good as she wrote hers, I hope to inspire people too.

I think what makes my story so different is that there was just so much going on in my life in a 2-year span:  a new baby, divorce, postpartum depression, hospital stays, child custody battle, domestic violence, and much more all while I was in Law School.  To this day, I’m really not sure how I managed to survive that time period.

Is there a message or moral that you want your readers to take away?
There are two very important messages I want to get across:  First, domestic violence is not just physical.  It comes in all forms.  There was some physical violence in my marriage (and after) but my ex-husband emotionally abused me, which is just as bad as physical violence.  To be told over and over again that I am fat, lazy, ugly, a joke, etc. made me feel suicidal because if the person I love feels this way about me, then others must think the same thing.  It took a lot of therapy to help me realize that I am worthy again.  Second, postpartum depression is not about wanting to hurt your kids.  (i.e. Andrea Yates.)  That is a stereotype that I am very passionate about changing.  I felt that I wasn’t a good enough mother for my child and therefore, I wanted to kill myself because I felt that my daughter deserved better than me.  It is an awful feeling.  

What was your writing process? Did you outline your book first or just let it develop as you went? Did the book turn out as you expect it or take on a life of its own?
My wonderful brilliant attorney (who is like a second father to me) advised me to keep a log of everything my ex-husband did right after I filed for divorce.  So when I was ready to write my book two years later, I sort of had an outline already.  

There are parts of the book that were extremely hard to write.  I didn’t like reliving some of the events that had happened.  Those were the days I had to walk away from the computer.  While I was writing the book, I was finally able to write my thoughts down on paper.  There were a lot of times I wanted to say something to my ex-husband and his new wife, but I couldn’t.  Now, I can…and I did.

What was the editing process like?
I have to admit that I am not as good at grammar as I thought!  My book has gone through the first round of edits and it amazed me at how many grammar mistakes I had made.  Thank God for editors!  Authors can’t live without them!

How did you find your publisher, Black Opal Books?
To find an agent or a publisher is extremely tough.  It is a very subjective industry so if you don’t have thick skin, you aren’t going to make it.  I sent out tons of queries and got back 33 rejections before Black Opal Books offered me a contract.  I will forever be grateful that they took a chance on me and my story.  They are a wonderful publishing company and all of us BOB authors feel more like family than clients.  

Do you have any more books “in the works”?
I am working on my first book of fiction, a legal thriller.  (Think John Grisham.)  I have to use that law degree for something, right?!  I’ve only told the plot to one person and the moment her jaw dropped and she gasped at the big “twist,” I knew I had a good story.  Now all I have to do is add more hours to the day so I can finish writing it!

What hobbies do you have or what things do you do when you’re not writing or working?
Most of my free time is spent with Madelyne.  It’s been rough this winter because of the polar vortex here in Michigan.  Right now Madelyne takes dance and gymnastics classes.  But as soon as it starts to get warm, we love being outside.  I take her to the zoo almost every Sunday in the summer.  There is nothing I love more in this world than being with Madelyne.  My second most favorite thing is my girl’s nights!  I have to have non-mommy time and hang with my girls!  (And by hang, I mean put on some yoga pants, head over to someone’s house, drink some wine and eat some chocolate.  Party on.)

And Just a Few Fun Ones:

Coffee or Tea – COFFEE!!!  Must have coffee every morning!

Night owl or early mornings?
Night owl for sure.  But Madelyne is a morning person, so I really don’t remember the last time I’ve slept past 6:30 AM.

Dogs or cats?
Cats.  At one point, my ex and I had 5 cats.  Now I have 3.

Sweet or salty?
Salty.  I’m addicted to chips.

Beach or Mountains?
Beach!  I’ve been to Hawaii twice and want to go back.  Bora Bora is on my bucket list.  I just need someone to go with me!  Any single men reading this??  😉

Thank you, Megan Cyruleski, for visiting Predatory Lies today. I truly am pining to read your book! And I’m grateful for the time you took to interview me as well. Your passion to support other authors makes you one-of-a-kind and a treasure!

New Book! “Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia”

book 2

Dear Friends, I am thrilled to announce that my book, Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, will be available in ebook on all formats in January! Bettie Youngs Book Publishers will be publishing my book and stay tuned, the print copy will be available soon as well!

I’m so honored to share this review of, Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, by Ramsey Coutta.

Everyone has needs and wants, but imagine if yours are so deep and so strong that they lead you to self-destructive behaviors that imperil your very life. Imagine that in your profound need to be noticed, admired, and loved, you literally starve your body of the nourishment it needs to survive and thrive. Sadly, such is often the life of those afflicted with anorexia.

In her compelling new book, Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, Abigail Kelly courageously lays bare her personal struggle with anorexia and the heavy toll it has taken on her life and those closest to her. She does not flinch from sharing with the reader how anorexia magnified her natural flaws causing her to act in ways that will seem inconceivable to those not familiar with this disorder.

Kelly insightfully reveals that her lifelong battle with anorexia is more than just a human battle against mental illness; at its core it’s an ongoing spiritual battle, a theme which she skillfully weaves in and out of her story. At one turning point on her road to recovery she acknowledges the power of God to strengthen her against the force of anorexia, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13…It was the only truth I actually believed. The road ahead was long; my ambition to stay well, still shaky. But I knew that Christ was in me. I knew that He was going to have to do this because I still wasn’t sure I wanted to.”

Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, spans a significant portion of Kelly’s life from when she was a teenager to the present as a grown woman married to a career military officer. She details the beginnings of her experience with anorexia and how as a teen it started as a personal choice in order to appear thin and desirable as well as a way to compete for the attention she longed for. Eventually though, the anorexia took on a life of its own to the point she was no longer able to control it, even during the rare moments she actually wanted to do so.

Repeated stays at inpatient facilities and ongoing therapy with counselors brought periods of insight and healing, but inevitably relapses occurred leaving Kelly and her family feeling desperate and defeated.

Marriage brings Kelly a sense of purpose and fulfillment on one hand, but on the other she experiences intense feelings of loneliness and searching. At one point, throwing herself into long distance running she once again finds the demons of her illness rising up causing her to grow thinner and thinner greatly worrying friends and family.

The illness of anorexia along with the stress of repeated moves and deployments from her husband’s career eventually bring their relationship to the point of collapse. However, God is always present in Kelly’s narrative and it’s through His power that the couple are able to face their adversities together.

Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, is a compelling true life story of ever shifting hope and despair in the life of an amazing woman. The reader will simply shake their head and wonder at how one person can go though such a tremendously long and painful struggle and still come out so hopeful and determined. The redeeming power of God’s love and grace is never far away in Kelly’s saga. Those who read her book will come away feeling inspired and better as a person for having been introduced to the life of this extraordinary woman and author.

This review was graciously written by the founder and editor of Believer Life, Ramsey Coutta.  Ramsey is a successful author in his own right and has many books available on Amazon. I will be posting an interview with Coutta in the coming weeks.

Missing Peace, Chapter 13, Extension

Keri looked like a bleary water color painting through my tears. Long blond hair, hung like a pale sheet to her shoulders.

I never noticed how plump her cheeks are, I mused. I don’t want to look like that! How on earth am I supposed to trust a fat therapist?

I wedged my hands between my bony buns and the seat cushion. The woven material left checkered marks on my palms. My fingers felt wooden, like fine branches on a winter tree, brittle and dead. Keri’s office was always 71 degrees, but I was so cold. My dietician, Cheryl, said that I was because I had no fat for insulation, I just needed to fill out a little.

Despite the chill, my belly burned with anxiety. Heat crept up my throat and dried my tongue. I dreaded these conference calls with my parents. It was terrible trying to decipher the inflection in their voices. Dad always sounded put-out or resigned. Was Mom on the edge of tears? Perhaps they’d rather be doing anything else. I was such an imposition.

Jenny and my folks left three weeks earlier at the conclusion of our Truth in Love week. Nothing had changed. Within hours of their departure, I believed again that they didn’t want or need me.

Safely out my sight, buckled into stiff airplane seats, surely they had commiserated. “Well, I’m glad that’s over,” I had imagined my dad saying.

“She still looks too thin. I don’t know if she’ll be ready to come home in a few more weeks,” Mom replied.

I never thought this day would come; slightly more than a week away from my original discharge date. But what if I couldn’t go home?

Keri and I stared at each other across her desk. She had that aggravating, steady, therapist-gaze of a person fully zipped up internally, leaking no emotion, giving away no sentiments. Keri had the perfect poker face. I knew she cared about me, she had said so. But I was just one of her five patients, part of her job.

“Barry and Janis, are you there?” Keri spoke into the speakerphone on her desk.

My parents’ voices crackled across the miles from Oklahoma to Arizona. “We’re here,

Keri.” Dad was always brief and to-the-point during conference calls.

I took a deep breath to quell my earlier sobs and suck back my tears. The taste of an abominable lunch, chicken nuggets, canned peaches and celery, clung to my taste buds. Lard seemed to be oozing through my pores; I watched my thighs flatten wide and fat against the seat.

“One less-healthy meal every now and then won’t hurt you.” Shani had tried to assure the eight girls at her table. “I promise.” Then dug into her lunch with pleasure. Like tortured prisoners, we followed suit.

“Abby, are you there?” Mom’s voice was slightly warmer than Dad’s.

Oh how I wished she would come rescue me. I wanted to bury my chin in her shoulder and inhale her mom-scent, a mixture of Amber Romance from Victoria’s Secret and the fading fragrance of Scruples’ coconut conditioner.

“MmmHmm.”

Keri’s office smelled antiseptic, belying the homey decor. I grabbed her neon pink Kush ball and twisted my fingers through the sticky, slimy tentacles. Adult voices echoed in an alien language around me. Insurance, doctors’ notes, insignificant issues to my teenage mind. I picked the legs off of the Kush ball and wound them around my fingers watching my fingertips turn blue.

“Abby was unable to gain the suggested three pounds since our conversation just over a week ago.” Keri’s announcement of my failure brought me back to reality. “Because of her slow weight gain, her treatment team is suggesting an extension of her stay here at Remuda Ranch.”

Silence.

In my mind, Mom stepped out of the bedroom with the cordless phone so that she could see my dad tethered to the landline in the kitchen. He rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, palms up in resignation. Mom blinked on a tear, tilting her chin up to keep the waterworks dammed behind her eyelids.

“Abby?”

Bile surged in my throat. As much as I wouldn’t have minded being rid of lunch, I couldn’t throw up. Then, they would accuse me of being bulimic and I’d never leave The Ranch.

“Whatever,” I managed. “It doesn’t matter what I want. You guys are calling all the shots anyway and what I think doesn’t really matter.”

The tension of suppressed sobs pushed tiny hiccups through my lips. I couldn’t hold it back much longer.

 

Sweet Sixteen, Chapter 12

Before you begin, I beg you to remember that this is the first and roughest draft of my fledgling memoir. Please read gracefully, knowing that it has not been fully edited. And by all means feel free to offer comments and suggestions.
Lastly, I’m still in flux as to the title. I welcome any ideas!!

Sweet Sixteen

Love is:

The purpose for living

Important to express

A hug, a kiss

Forgiveness

A compliment

Caring

More than a feeling

Healing

What you want to focus on

The solution

Peace and joy

Priceless and invaluable

Free and abundant

The shining light that guides us

###

The Truth in Love is a critical component of treatment at Remuda. It’s staged at the halfway point, 30 days into an adolescent’s minimum stay of 60 days. Parents and family members who play a significant roll in a patient’s life are invited to The Ranch for one week. It’s a time for family counseling, large group therapy and a chance for the patient to practice healthy behaviors in their family environment.

My family shared a week with three other families. Each family was given one day that week to have their Truth in Love. The rest of us sat in a circle around them, offering emotional support, solidarity and praying to learn something we could apply to our own story.

Each patient’s personal therapist directed their family’s conversation. Similar to a twelve step program, we made lists of offenses and amends. Then, according to Ephesians 4:15, we tried to share our feelings truthfully, but gently and in love.

Throughout the first month of treatment, Keri and I discussed the family dynamics that had contributed to my eating disorder. Once a week, we had conference calls with my parents, and often my sister, Jennifer was included. As our week approached, Keri suggested that Jennifer join my parents when the came to Arizona.

“I think Jenny plays a big role in all of this,” Keri tread lightly. “Remember, the eating disorder isn’t anyone’s fault. But because Jenny and Abby are so close in age, I think it will be really helpful if she’s here to be a part of this.”

Keri stressed that no one was at fault, it was simply the way we perceived each other, just the way things were. But, at the time, it seemed so easy to play the victim and pin blame on someone for making me act out through anorexia. As I made my lists of offenses and amends to share with Mom, Dad and Jennifer, I faced the impossible question: What caused me to develop an eating disorder?

My Truth in Love was scheduled for Tuesday, March 12, the day after my birthday. Dad, Mom and Jennifer flew into Arizona late Sunday night. I hardly slept. What if they were put out having to come here to help me? What if they were exasperated that my brokenness cost them money, time and energy? What if they didn’t want to be here? And worst of all, what if this was wasted, and I couldn’t get this recovery thing right?

I was grateful that Monday breakfast was always a bran muffin, cottage cheese, canned peaches, peanut butter and milk. It was a relatively “safe” meal for me, and satisfied my required exchanges of three bread, two meat, two fruit, two fat and one milk. The butterflies in my stomach were able to focus solely on the arrival of my family and not worry about breakfast.

Did they remember it was my birthday, my 16th birthday? Or had my family forgotten since for a full month they hadn’t had to be aware of me. Maybe I was a non-issue in the Blades family by now.

“Abby, as soon as you’re finished, can you come to the med window, honey?” Evelyn, my favorite nurse waved at me from the edge of the dining room.

“Am I in trouble,” I mouthed. She shook her head and disappeared back around the corner.

I liked Evelyn because she had mastered the art of being everyone’s mother. She was the supreme comforter when you had to eat all of your fat exchanges in one sitting because you had declined them earlier in the day. She was the one who would rub your back in lazy circles while you cried yourself to sleep.

Evelyn was part Hispanic. Neither too heavy nor thin, she always wore light purple scrubs and smelled like lavender. Everything about her was soft, from her deep, black eyes, to her wavy, untamed hair to her large, capable hands.

Evelyn daughter named Shani who was also a nurse at Remuda. Shani was still in school and didn’t plan to make Remuda her career as her mother had. But she was as spunky as Evelyn was maternal. Her right ear had eight piercings, including the tragus, which made her all the more daring and edgy to me.

Usually, no matter who finished first, everyone at the table waited for the slowest person to suffer through their last bite. Thankfully, Shani was our table monitor that day. With a slight nod, she released me to go find out what Evelyn wanted.

“Surprise!”

The shout came from in front of and behind me. Standing in the same hall where I had first entered Remuda, before the med window where I had first seen Alicia, stood both my parents and my sister.

“Happy Birthday!”

This time the shout only echoed from behind me as I buried my face in Mom’s familiar black jacket. All the girls, still dutifully planted in front of their plates, turned and shouted again, “Happy Birthday!”

Jenny stood next to Daddy holding a heart shaped mylar balloon that proved they hadn’t forgotten my special day. Daddy reached to hug me next.

“Happy sixteenth, kiddo,” he whispered into my hair. “I love you. When you get home, we’ll get your driver’s license first thing.”

I pulled back and grinned at him. “Really?”

“Yep! But we did bring something for you today, too.”

I broke loose from Dad and threw my arms around my little sister. In those minutes, it seemed impossible that I had ever doubted their love for me. It seemed crazy that I might accuse these wonderful people of making me sick. Of course they loved me!

“Come on in here, Abby.” Evelyn beckoned me into the dining room. “Bring your family in here so we can meet them!”

“I heard them say they brought you a gift! We want to see it, too. Open it! Open it!” Alicia bounced lightly in her chair, and for once no one shushed her or accused her of trying to burn extra calories.

I took a light blue bag from Mom’s out stretched hands. No one in our family does elaborate gift wrapping, but Mom can do a great curly ribbon bow. I grabbed a butter knife from the table and sawed through the white ribbon. Beneath wads of crushed, voluminous tissue paper, I found a small jewelry box.

I laughed, “Is someone proposing?”

I lifted the box from its cocoon of paper and pried it open. A huge aquamarine, my birthstone, gleamed from the crease in the box.

“I bought that stone and a topaz just like it in the Brazil on my last business trip,” Dad said. “I had them set in identical settings, this one for you and the topaz for your mom.”

“It’s gorgeous, Daddy! Thank you, thank you!”

“Oh, and we can’t forget these,” Mom pulled a large manila envelope from her purse. “These are all the birthday cards from your church friends, school friends, grandparents and everyone else. See, you’re unforgettable.”

I heard the truth in Mom’s words. For that day, I believed her. The lie would resurface; it was one of my grievances or offenses listed for the Truth in Love tomorrow.

I feel unimportant.