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  • Sara Mann


In the words of Dorothy, “There’s no place like home!”

As I’ve mentioned before the past few months have been a teensy bit difficult and I think I reached my threshold of being “strong” and able to deal with it mentally. So a couple weeks ago my husband suggested that I get out of the city and go back home for a week to just have a change of scenery and be around family!

For those of you that don’t know me well, home is Ohio! Ten years ago I married Wyatt and we moved to NYC for his job and then DC, but Ohio will forever feel like a safe place and home to me. My parents have a beautiful home on a bunch of land with a lake and chickens and it’s just a relaxing place to be. So, I took my husband up on his offer, called my parents and decided to go home for a week long retreat!

Going into the week I was struggling pretty bad with body image and anxiety. If you know anything about DC you know that in late June/beginning of July it suddenly becomes, as my sister would say, “hotter then satans butt-crack.” Walking out the front door is basically like opening your oven door pre-heated to 400 degrees. It is gross. I use to love the summer, but ever since I gained all this weight in recovery I’ve come to hate it. There are a lot more nooks and crannies and cleavage to have sweat pool up in and finding clothes I feel comfortable in often feels like an impossible task. I have a very real fear of showing my arms in public and the amount of negative thoughts that run through my mind about being the “fat sweaty girl” is probably why I’m in a constant bad mood. Take all that negativity and add on my pill taking, food restricting, focusing on why-the-heck-my-body-isn’t-f’ing-changing-faster’ing and it becomes the perfect time to get out of town and head to Ohio to take my mind off it all and get some peace!

My youngest sister was amazing and actually flew out to DC to hang out with my husband, my brother, his family and me the weekend before I headed to Ohio! After a fun weekend, her and I packed up my jeep and my giant dog Millie and we road tripped back to Ohio! Honestly, just the drive to Ohio was already a welcome break from all the ugly thoughts I was having. We sang, laughed, got sunburnt (my jeep top was off), got poured on, (it rained with the top off) and answered 30 deep questions according to Psychology Today. Just the ability to connect with another person and laugh was able to lighten my pain and weariness a little.

Once I got to Ohio I felt a sense of space and peace. The panic attacks that I was having almost every day were gone and it was almost like my mind and perspective did an immediate shift. Everything just suddenly felt not as bad.

When I am home in DC, even if I am working, at bible study, hanging with friends, walking the dog, it doesn’t matter…it feels like there is always this cloud hanging over my head about my health. Every day feels like a chore. An endless day of pills, food restrictions, weight that doesn’t change no matter what I do and lonliness. I feel hopeless and the recovery process feels never ending. But for some reason, when I go “home” to Ohio, this dark cloud seems to dissipate and I feel more hope, energy and happiness! I found that I was so busy being present and having fun and living life that I forgot to care that much about the size of my arms or what I looked like in a photo or being overcome with fear that my weight will never go back to normal for me.

Every day in Ohio my sister (who had the week off work) and I would go do something fun. (Sometimes some other family members would come along too) We would hike a new trail, go to a swimming hole, search for cool street art and graffiti for my blog photos, bake pies, watch movies, cheer on my nephews at their baseball games, get our teeth worked on by our dad, take cool photos of things, walk the dog a million times, get pedicures with our Mom, drive around looking at houses for sale, have long talks about nothing or just sit on the porch watching a storm. It was relaxing and did more for me then any little pill I could ever swallow.

By the end of the week I realized that I had spent SO much less time being insecure about my weight. I also had been substantially less stressed about being gluten free, egg free, apple free etc. I didn’t have a cloud making me panic about if I missed a pill or not. I felt like instead of my life being recovery, I was living life and my body was recovering as I was living. For example, I NEVER, EVER get in photos any more. I’m so insecure about my weight and being seen. I think I just mentally decided that I would just ignore cameras until my body went back to normal and then I would act like this never happened! But one day, when I was graffiti searching with my sister, we came upon this awesome wall and my sister wanted to do a jumping photo in front of it. I took a bunch of her and I realized that I too really wanted to participate in this. I wanted a fun photo in front of a big colorful wall! I wanted to jump with my sister and laugh and just enjoy this time…..and so I did! For the first time in a long time I said, “to hell with it,” and I handed her the camera and I went in front of the wall and started jumping like a weirdo! Some photos we deleted right away, others we laughed until we cried at and others we decided were acceptable and super cute/fun! I for once didn’t look at my body like it was this fat thing I hated and should be ashamed of in a photo, I was looking at it like I was having fun with my sister in front of a really cool wall and it was just me laughing and smiling and being ME. It was a freedom I hadn’t felt in a REALLY REALLY long time. It wasn’t about overcoming a fear of the camera or analyzing my body in a picture, it was about capturing a super fun time with my sister in front of a cool wall of art!

That week I also went to a swimming hole, and while I didn’t have a bathing suit I wore a tank top and pulled up my leggings and for the first time in a long time I didn’t care if someone thought I looked fat, I just wanted to enjoy the sun and the water and watch my dog prance around in the river. I went to my nephews baseball games! In the past I would have been too exhausted and too scared I would see someone that might notice my weight to even go, but no, I went anyway! I had a really fun time! There were people of all shapes and sizes laughing and cheering on these little boys who are absolutely terrible at baseball but are cute none the less!

By the end of the week I felt alive and almost as if I could live life again. Yes, I don’t like my weight and yes, all these pills and the diet is really hard and yes, I still swell and have days that I crash and have no energy, but for a couple of days I felt happy and as if there was more to life the just recovery and I really loved it!

Coming back to DC was really hard for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and my friends and a lot about where we live, but there is just something about this place that brings me down. Whether people want to admit it or not I think there is a certain pressure here that doesn’t exist back in Ohio. A pressure to look a certain way, be in a certain circle, make a certain amount of money, have a certain kind of job, be on a certain side of politics, be on a certain kind of health kick and honestly, it’s just not me. I didn’t feel this same pressure in Ohio and there were many times I went out to eat and had conversation with people and ran into strangers. The mid-west is different. It’s softer. It’s kinder. It’s easier to breath.

I am so thankful for my time at home two weeks ago. It was healing and exactly what I needed. If I could just stay there for a couple months and continue to live in that feeling of freedom until I’m done recovering I totally would, but sadly I can’t. I have to work, and take care of my home and I have this thing called a spouse! Haha! I am working hard to continue to channel the freedom I felt that week in Ohio back here in DC. For the first time in a while it reminded me that life is worth living, not just surviving. Life is about laughing and participating, not hiding and living in fear.

I can’t wait for my next trip home!


-Sara -

Here are some photos from my trip home!! Most of these are of my sister and dog Millie, but hey, I finally got in one!!

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