2019 was a hard year, with a lot of big moments and big changes. There was a lot to be thankful for, but I will still be glad to see this date in the rear-view mirror.

I started the year with a push to get better support for my mental health. My family doctor has many great qualities, but she’s definitely one of those “exercise-and-diet” types when it comes to dealing with depression and anxiety, and it was pretty clear that wasn’t working for me any more (or really, at all). My friend Noizangel had been talking about her experiences with ADHD on Twitter quite a bit, between her posts and some useful threads by Erynn Brook, I had a better understanding of how the disorder manifests in women and realized that I checked off quite a few of the boxes. I was also, frankly, hoping that seeing an ADHD specialist might lead to a better idea of what my problem is, if not that particular disorder.

In February, I started seeing a pretty great specialist who ran me through a gamut of tests. My mom also started seeing a specialist for some back pain she’d been having.

By late March, I had a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, mild anxiety and ADHD (inattentive type) and was on an anti-depressant medication that was doing wonders for my mood and productivity.

By late April, my mom had a diagnosis of cancer.

In May, we were told she had six months, maybe a year with treatment.

By mid-July, she was gone.

Everything happened so fast that I am still just beginning to unpack it all, five months later. My mom was always valued her health and worked hard to maintain it. She ate well and exercised regularly, going to the gym and playing badminton. Before retiring, she worked as a gym teacher and earned a degree in physical education. Watching her sudden decline was shocking and heart-breaking.

Mom in her element. When she wasn’t on adventure travels around the globe, hiking and snorkeling, she loved to make beautiful quilts that combined warmth and artistic expression.

All this was complicated by the highs happening elsewhere in my life. The first of the Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guides which I co-wrote came out four days after my mom’s death. We’d flown out to Los Angeles in May as part of D&D Live, making some amazing friends and getting to talk up the books in front of a huge streaming audience. Reviews and reader feedback were incredibly positive, and Jim was on the road for conventions all through late July and August. I had bailed on most of the spring & summer events when we first learned Mom was sick, but in the fall I went to New York and Paris, both of which were fantastic trips.

In terms of publishing, this year was filled with new milestones. I’ve had three books published in the D&D Young Adventurer’s series, plus the long-awaited Manga Classics: Dracula hit the shelves just in time for Halloween. I’m not at Jim levels of production yet, but between existing projects and pitches, next year is looking good.

I was also making great strides in understanding and managing my various mental idiosyncrasies. Medication may not be for everyone but it has made a remarkable improvement in my quality of life. Learning more about ADHD helped me to build better coping strategies than I’ve ever had before. It’s also made my relationships stronger, with both Jim and friends, as I finally have the words to explain my more complicated quirks.

Even so, my strongest memory of 2019 will likely be standing by my Dad’s side, holding Mom’s hand as she took her last breath.

Bring on 2020: I promise this place won’t always be so emo.

Jim and I signing at the Penguin Random House booth during New York Comic Con 2019.