Getting Grounded and Coming Home

By Kayla O’Brien

I parked across the street in the overpriced garage, 15 minutes before I had to walk in. Sat, thinking about all the previous times I sat there, over the course of eight months, trying to figure out how to breathe and when things would begin to feel different even though a part of me felt content with staying the same. Got out. Paid to park. Half-smirked, remembering how I would use this city’s “boujee-ness” to divert conversation in therapy.

I was getting my blood pressure taken. “Is that a safety-signal, that, there are on your hand?” My therapist, C, says, curiously and smiling, nodding her head at the words “come home” I have written on my hand. I think she meant this jokingly but I didn’t smile which was abnormal. Wasn’t in the mood that day, I guess. “What does that mean for you?” she asked, as she does. She asks these questions which I appreciate. Even in a mood, and unreceptive to our typical back and forth, I still felt heard. “You know. Like coming home…to yourself. Inward shit.” I explained, not knowing that coming home to myself was the goal for treatment the whole time. Not running away, or throwing myself over a bridge or cliff in order to have peace.

Stood at the door and was buzzed in.

Felt familiar.

Said to Bianca, “Can I?” Nodded to the door, signaling to use the bathroom.

This was routine, still. Walked past rooms that are responsible for growth and secret keeping. Felt unbearably anxious, I was in a safe space that felt the same but also different. I was missing people. People who grew with me. People I’ve lost touch with for no particular reason other than us just doin’ our thangs. Walked back to the waiting room, waved to a familiar face. Felt relieved.  

“So I’m deciding to go to res,” I walked back in the group room after having an emotional and eye opening mini-team meeting. Was sad. Scared. “This is what’s best for you, and a chance to take care of you, 100%, without the stress of being at home or worrying about your job,” I was told. By friends. Fighters. My best friends. My treatment team. Hugged people bye. Took numbers to call. Listened to advice that I couldn’t hear because I was too busy worrying about things that would change when I came back. Left that day knowing I would have a place to come back to. People to come back to.

It was time to start the workshop. Reentered the room after two months of coming home to myself without it. Thought it would be more climactic than it actually was. I listened to the gals in the room next to ours, having conversations that I was familiar with, getting ready to have a vulnerable meal but at least had each other. Felt sad, nostalgic. Sat in a spot where I spent many hours. Curled up, took my notebook out, “Body Image Workshop w/ Becca 5/30” was written on the top of my page. Jotted down my emotions because I wanted to remember what I learned.




Happy to see fam.

“Can I check in with you later, after dinner? I have something to give you.” I say to B, who has been through the motions with me. “Sure.”

Walked into the group room. Sat on the couch. “Here. I feel like you’re not going to believe me but I promise I’m telling the truth. I found these under my floor mat, I was looking for a cigarette that fell. I know this sounds ridiculous.” Put three pills that used to control me in her hand.

“I believe you.”

Great, I thought. Stood up to go back to join the group.
“Oh wait I thought we could chat about this, ya knowww catch up! I haven’t seen you in awhile.” B says. Like she does.

Fuck, I thought. Wanting to not deal with the emotions of that transaction. But that was never an option. Thankful for that.

We introduced ourselves. I was expecting the routine “relational check in.” Didn’t happen because that’s not why I was there. It wasn’t routine anymore. Anyway, said I was an alumni. Wanted to say when I graduated, as a justification for the fact that I would later share that I was struggling. Didn’t. Didn’t say as much as I wanted to.

In the course of 90 minutes I listened to others share their story of their body image.

“I think it’s a combination of how I see me and how others see me.”

“It has to do with how I feel in my body.”

Art by Kayla O’Brien, with the Renfrew Center of Bethesda in the background

Nodded, agreed. Still was thinking about all the time I spent in this room and how now I was spending time in the room. Wrote down things to research like “intergenetic trauma,” and “identity vs. body image.” Things that spoke to me. Made eye contact because I felt connected. Turned away because I felt connected. There was a prompt. Wrote some pretty upsetting thoughts down. Shared that I didn’t see a difference between what I see and what others see in me. Said they were the same.

“I just want to thank you so much. I didn’t do a good job of it yesterday because I was too busy worrying about fucking french fries.” I said, because it was true. Began to feel frustrated at myself. Too tired to change that. “We’ve been through a lot,” I say, “It’s been a long ass time.”

C laughs because it’s true. I cry because it’s true.

“This is more of a thanks than I ever could have asked for. Using your skills, asking to check in, crying AND still showing up, still eating, still using your skills. That’s all I could have asked for. Seeing you move forward in your journey is more of a present than anything.”

“I’m going to give you a gift that you already have. And it’s not in your rings, or in a bead, or anything like that. I’m giving you the gift of a full recovery because I know and believe you can fully recover from this. I haven’t given this gift to anyone in maybe a year, so I take it very seriously.” I hear B say this. Felt awkward because I don’t know how to respond to kindness directed at me.

Clinging to these words because I want to believe it. Clinging to these moments because it’s what will help save me.

Watched videos on how diet culture is portrayed in the media. Listened to the words of people who helped me save me.

Felt my eyes well up.

Shook them off, knowing this wasn’t routine.

I couldn’t ask for a check in.

Knew I’d be fine because I’ve spent some time coming home to myself.

So I continued to write. Stopped thinking about the past because I knew I needed to move forward and this would be a step to do it. 

Gathered my things. Straightened up the area where I was sitting, like I do. Said peace out and see ya later. Promised I’d be back at the next event.

Was thankful to have a laugh over an email about goats I sent. Briefly reflected on how far I have come from this room that responsible for growth and keeping secrets. Kind of shocked myself.

Cried on my drive home because I shook them off earlier.

Pulled into my driveway, which is not synonymous to coming home. Felt grounded. Remembered the skills I vowed to continue to use, because, after all, that was a gift.

Texted some pals.

Did some art.

Came home.

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