CrossFit Toledo is somewhere I can feel safe. It's the one place I can go for an hour every day and get out all my anxiety and depression.
With her brown hair pulled back into a ponytail and her clothes still damp with sweat, 25-year-old Brittany Sayre looks like any other CrossFitter post-workout: relieved.
Yet, as she tells me her story, I learn she comes to the box for something more than a workout. Here, in Toledo, Ohio, Sayre uses CrossFit to work through the pain of childhood abuse and neglect.
“My mom really partied hard,” Sayre explains. “She has done every drug in the book.”
Within months after giving birth, Sayre’s mother lost herself to alcohol and drug addiction. She would put her infant in a car seat, set her at the front door of her mostly absent father’s house, hit the doorbell and take off to go drink and do drugs.
“That’s how irresponsible she was,” Sayre says.
Starting early in her childhood, Sayre took responsibility for her own needs and those of her little brother. She cooked, cleaned and stayed awake until the middle of the night waiting for her mom to return home.
“I would say, ‘Mom, you said you’d be home by 11. It’s three in the morning,’” Sayre says.
Her mom didn’t appreciate the reminder. “She was a very mean drunk. I would see the anger in her face,” she recalls. “She would just get so mad she’d beat me.”
Unable to fix or escape her home, Sayre’s unmet needs turned into anger.
“I was mad, you know? I was worried,” she says.
Without an outlet, anger began to tear apart her own life. In college, she smoked marijuana to cope, but was kicked out of her sorority. Later, she had an altercation with a relative that left her record marked by a domestic violence charge.
It wasn’t until she found CrossFit in 2010 that things began to change.
She showed up at CrossFit Toledo to get in shape for a vacation, but soon she realized she was gaining more than muscle.
“After three months, I knew I couldn’t live without CrossFit.”
“CrossFit Toledo is somewhere I can feel safe,” Sayre explains, “It’s the one place I can go for an hour every day and get out all my anxiety and depression.”
For once, she has found a stable family where when things get tough everyone bears down and works through it together.
“The intense workouts make you feel like you want to give up, but you don’t. You do it,” she says. “Everyone’s with you doing the same exact workout and you’re all in it together. I have, basically, a CrossFit family doing it with me. I am not doing it alone.”
Now, when she has a hard day at work or finds herself struggling with depression, Sayre goes into the box.
“I’ve gone in when I feel I’ve got nothing left,” Sayre says, “and I give it all to the WOD. A couple of times, I’ve had to walk outside because I started to cry. Those are the WODs that remind me why I do what I do."