My story: Circling the drain
Updated: Jul 17, 2020
In the summer of 2017, my best friend since I was 3 years old was diagnosed with ALS. She was 33 years old. The news hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. To date, it's the most devastating thing I've ever had to deal with in my life. It rocked my entire world. I grew up with Amy. We know everything about each other. She is my sister, someone I've always idealized. She's beautiful and vibrant and healthy and adventurous. She's everything I'm not and vice versa.
Dealing with a loved one's death is one thing, but coming to terms with the fact your best friend has a degenerative and incurable disease that will some day take her life in the most devastating way imaginable — well, that's a whole other foreign concept to wrap your head around. I think immediately there were a lot of tears — I cried for weeks.
Around the same time I'm trying to cope with Amy's diagnosis, my dad was going through the hardest time of his life. I won't go into the details right now, but with no car, license, money or job, I had to bring him home to live with me and Matt in Waynesville.
And things at home were also rocky. As I was bringing my alcoholic father home to live with us, my husband was also struggling with his own depression and alcoholism so taking care of his mental health became a top priority.
As the self-proclaimed fixer in the family, I tend to take care of everyone else's mess while ignoring my own mess. I work so hard to be the steady one that holds things together, I didn't realize how close I was to the edge. I just kept eating and drinking my way through it, waiting for things to get better.
By the spring of 2019, I was circling the drain but still in full denial. I'm working my ass off, I'm trying to finish my term as president of WOW (Women of Waynesville), I'm trying to repair my marriage and help my husband with his sobriety — hell, I'm even trying to give my friends advice on how to improve their lives — and here I was sneaking off to the bar after work to get plastered before going home to my sober husband. In May, two of my best friends moved away, leaving me without my routine and without distraction from all my shit. In the meantime, I knew my work was suffering. I didn't have any motivation and just wanted to blame others. I cried in the office bathroom a lot.
In July, I went to the doctor for the first time in probably 10 years. It was just a new patient appointment. When I woke up that morning I had no idea it would be a defining day for me. I stepped on that clunky old scale in the doctor's office — 270 lbs. I could have passed out right then and there. I never weigh myself. I had no idea I was that heavy.
The nurse took my blood pressure — 140 over some other obscene number. Jesus, this isn't going well at all. The nurse starts asking me questions — history of mental illness or alcoholism in your family? For sure, my mom was diagnosed manic depressive when I was young, her sisters suffer from depression and anxiety, my siblings suffer from high anxiety and my dad is an alcoholic. Any cancer in your family? Yep, dad had colon cancer 5 years ago but is now in remission. Experiencing any other big stressors? Yep, my best friend has ALS, my husband is depressed and anxious as well and I've got too damn much on my plate.
I'm sobbing in the doctor's office at this point. She asks me about any issues I'm having — well, I get a lot of headaches, I have chronic acid reflux, for some reason my right thigh keeps going numb, I keep gaining weight, I'm moody and weepy — the list went on forever it seemed. They did blood work — thyroid and everything else was fine. I was still somewhat surprised when the doctor prescribed me antidepressants. I'm not depressed, I just have a lot of shit going on right now, right? Regardless of the meds, I knew I was ready to make some serious changes when I walked out that door. I didn't know what I was going to do yet, but I knew what I had been doing — living on auto-pilot — had to end.
Pictures below show me at 270 lbs. While I love the memories these pictures represent, it's hard to see where I was at the time. From left, me holding my precious niece; Amy and me after the ALS Walk in 2018 when I almost passed out walking 2 miles; and finally me pictured at our WOW Kentucky Derby Gala in 2018 with some of my favorite gal pals.