Thoughts By Natalie

Through The Tunnel: A Recovery Story

The following is a guest post by my friend Anne Taylor, a lover of stories. Through writing, blogging, and community outreach, she strives to help people live life with intention and joy, and equip them with the resources they need to share their passions and stories with others to help make a better world. Anne is a writer, owner of the blog Anne The Adventurer, and is currently working on her first book. She lives in Denver with her husband, Spencer. Below she shares her story of recovery—I hope you’ll be encouraged and inspired by it!

Spencer and I had been married for six months when, late one night, I found myself crying on the edge of the bathtub over an ice cream bar. It began in the kitchen, when I opened up said ice cream bar. Spencer innocently asked if I was veering off my latest diet, trying to encourage me. Without warning, I screamed at him to lay off, threw the ice cream into the trash can, and ran off to the bathroom where I slammed the door and started sobbing.

He gave me a few minutes and then came in to sit next to me. He gently asked me what was wrong. I tried to explain, but didn’t know how to. I just felt confused. And amidst the tears, Spencer quietly suggested that something bigger might be going on.

A few weeks later, I found myself sitting on the couch of a therapist. I shared with her details of my upbringing, some of my struggles and insecurities, and how food really left me feeling confused. I just didn’t know how to eat, and I had a horrible time with body image. I felt completely disconnected from my body. I wanted nothing to do with it. I hated it.

It was February 14th, which is so fitting. The day of love was the day I admitted that I didn’t love myself. It was the day that I discovered that I had an eating disorder.

I developed an eating disorder when I was 14. Over the course of 10 years, I struggled with behaviors that have a lot of different names. My eating disorder, or Ed as I like to call it, was unique to me. It never really looked the same, but in it’s very essence, it was a desperate attempt to be accepted and valued.

Having my way of life revealed to me as an eating disorder was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I recall sitting in my therapist’s office, unable to speak, tears streaming down my face. I kept trying to think of reasons why I was healthy and why I was okay doing life the way I had for so long, but I just couldn’t find any. The walls I had built, along with Ed’s help, to protect my heart from hurt and displacement and mean words had a big crack in it. My life as I was living it wasn’t sustainable anymore.

It was in this intense time of darkness where grace and hope and love and healing entered my life.

Recovery is like a tunnel for me. Have you ever driven in the Sumner Tunnel in Boston? It’s a really long and winding tunnel beneath the city. Throughout my five years of living in Boston, I had driven in this tunnel dozens of times. However, my last week living there, I drove into the tunnel and suddenly realized how deep it actually takes you under the city. You drive down initially but then you keep going down. And down, and down some more. I started to panic because there was this giant city and subway system and millions of people above me, and I was in this narrow concrete tube miles beneath them, with cars passing me on each side at 60 miles an hour. I was all alone. My heart started to pound in my chest, and adrenaline shot through my veins with intensity. I began to panic, and I thought I was going to pass out. My eyes darted to the first exit coming up, and quickly, I considered if I should drive out and back into the sunlight. But the tricky thing about the tunnel is that, if I exited out of it, the only way I’d be able to get to my destination would be to once again drive back down into the tunnel. This fact made me panic even more. I kept driving, my knuckles clenching the wheel as I tried to focus on my breathing, and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I came out the other side.

When I decided to start this journey towards healing and true happiness, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. We started going deeper and deeper into my life, into the trauma and the unhealthy habits, and I started to panic, but there was no getting out. I couldn’t go back to my life before the tunnel, and I couldn’t drive out an exit and try to pick up life as usual. No, the only way was to keep going down and keep searching.

When I started recovery, I committed my whole heart to it. I wanted a full life.

Today, I’m learning to love myself as I am. I’m learning to have compassion for myself. After all those years that I heard I had to be this weight or that size in order to be accepted, I’m finally able to say, truthfully, that I like myself as I am. After all those years of being told that I was too much or not enough, I am learning to give myself the compassion I deserve.

This experience has changed my life in powerful ways. I’m not the same person I was that Valentine’s Day – emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. My entire being has shifted into the light of compassion and grace and hope.

I am on a life long journey towards self-acceptance and love. The beautiful thing is, that after all of this, God has placed a passion and a desire in my heart to help others who struggle with similar challenges. It is my belief that our difficulties can be redeemed and used for healing and to help make the world a better place. It is my prayer that my story does just that. If you are alone in the depths, searching for a way out, you’re not alone. Let’s drive through the tunnel together.

Can you relate to Anne’s story at all? When have you experienced recovery from something difficult?

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