SKINNY

The Truth Behind the Lies Of An Anorexic Mom

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Note:  This blog contains descriptions of eating disorder behaviors.  Although I have tried to be mindful in writing about specific behaviors, there are parts of  that may be difficult to read for those actively struggling with an eating disorder.  For support please see the "resources"page on this site.

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  • sherrisacconaghi

"Hey, girl," my friend Kristi said to me as we were leaving a six AM cycle class, "are you free this afternoon?" 


"Sure," I replied, figuring she was going to suggest grabbing a coffee as we were known to do from time to time. 


"Oh good," she said, happily clapping her hands, " meet me back here at Noon for a yoga session, I need to practice."  


"Oh my God, you cannot be serious," I moaned, rolling my eyes, "you know I do not DO yoga."


I was aware Kristi, who in addition to teaching cycle, was was training to be a yoga instructor but surprised she was asking me, a cardio junkie who found yoga to be less enjoyable than watching golf on TV, to help her out. I hated "slow," so the fact she reached out, gave me the sense it must be important to her.


Through months of post cycle chats, Kristi and I had discovered we shared a lot in common and quickly formed a strong connection. I felt I could talk to her about anything, well, almost anything. I didn't want to let her down. So five hours later, I found myself back at the rec center, my ass on the old blue yoga mat I had dug out of the hall closet, and ready to get it over with.  


“We will start with a moment of silence to connect to the breath," Kristi said, closing her eyes and taking in a deep breath . The music playing softly in the background was a serene instrumental I'd expect to hear at a spa while getting a massage, but I was far from relaxed. I shifted restlessly on my mat laid across the polished hardwood floor, my breathing shallow and quick.  


"Deep breaths in and out," Kristi said through her breath. She looked serene. Peaceful. I however, couldn't calm my antsy body. I wanted to bolt out of the room to the nearest treadmill.   

I had a choice, keep avoiding my pain or do something different. With this amazing woman by my side, I continue to see ways to do it differently. ( With Kristi at our weekly coffee, socially distant style, (6/2020).


Kristi was patient and supportive as she led me through the basic yoga poses. I felt big and uncoordinated next to her graceful, flowing movements. My lack of post-workout stretching over the years made my body performing yoga about as easy as turning a two by four into a pretzel. My hands hovered near my knees as I bent into a forward fold, attempting a warrior two pose made me look like I was reaching for the last container of yogurt shoved in the back of the grocery refrigerator. And in down-dog I looked like a plank with a butt.  


"Deep breath in and let it out," Kristi's voice broke through the silent cursing in my head, bringing my attention to the fact I was once again, holding my breath through the movements, frustrated with my inability to do each pose perfectly (or at all).


I was shocked by how hard it all was. More difficult than the high-intensity interval training on which I'd come to rely. The chaturanga pose, where I had to hold my body parallel to the floor, left my arms shaking, and core screaming. And holding chair pose had my legs burning like one of my old hill runs used to do. But it was more than just a physical challenge.

“Remember to breathe," Kristi's quiet voice once again reminded me as we held the poses.


As our hour in that room continued, I did begin to relax, my breathing becoming more purposeful, finally allowing myself to become lost in the movement. Focusing my mind on moving my body in unfamiliar ways. Determined to find each pose and hold it, even when it was difficult. Practicing in that room what I struggled with in life; When reaching a place of discomfort, resisting the urge to avoid it, and instead, learning to breathe through it.



  • sherrisacconaghi

We walked silently side by side, the rain fluctuating from a light mist to a heavy drizzle, but neither one seemed to notice. Down the hill, past the fire station and by the park where we passed a small group of kids playing soccer on the lush freshly mowed field, their laughter piercing through the quietness of the neighborhood. We turned left at the stop sign at the end of the road, and continued our silent journey down the tree-lined path to the sleepy neighborhood mall, stopping briefly at the pizza place for soda water before completing our loop around the park and back up the hill towards home. We were two people walking together but lost in our own thoughts. Both hurting.Not only had I lost my mom unexpectedly leaving me stunned, emotions hanging and words left unsaid but, my husband Marc was watching his dad painfully lose his battle with cancer. With the end drawing near, the weight of saying goodbye every day left him emotionally depleted. We were barely able to get ourselves through the day, let alone be there for each other. So we walked, several times a day, while the kids were at school and practices,  finding comfort in our silence. Aware that neither one of us had anything else to give the other except for space.  


I walked because I could not sit still. When I allowed myself to have a moment of stillness, the walls began to close in around me, sucking the air out of the room, leaving me gasping for breath as if I had been underwater for too long and had just broken through to the surface. Outside is where I could distract myself by watching kids playing, dogs walking their people, and moms pushing strollers, their passengers blissful contentment bringing a wistful ache to my heart . I tried to lose myself in the life swirling around me so I would not have to think about the life I had just lost.

  

These guys needed me. I had lost my mom and I feared if I didn’t pull myself together, they might also lose theirs. (2016)





And that is how it had was for me, when life got tough, I got moving. A stressful job meant cardio classes. A tumultuous marriage meant long runs through the hills and being a stay at home mom without an outlet of my own resulted in hours on the tennis court. The movement was my coping strategy. Just like some may find relief in a bottle, a pill, or the internet, I too found the best way of dealing with unwanted emotions was to distract from them. To move until the threat of feeling anything uncomfortable subsided, and I felt numb.  I knew it wasn’t healthy or helpful for me to stuff my emotions about the loss of my mom with more physical exercise, but I was too depleted to try and figure out another way to cope so I kept moving. Fearing that stillness would allow the grief to engulf me and my world would go dark. Unaware that only until I welcomed the darkness would I begin to see the light.






  • sherrisacconaghi

I felt chilled. My dad and my sister, Lisa, were standing on either side of me as if we were part of a wedding receiving line rather than greeting guests at a memorial service. The grey day matched the mood of the occasion, but the goosebumps on my arms had nothing to do with the weather.  


Earlier that morning, I had attempted to make myself look presentable. I was aware that, as the daughter of the deceased, I, along with dad and Lisa, would be the center of attention, and I was dreading it. All of it. Earlier that week, I had wandered, sobbing, into my favorite boutique. I asked the saleswoman to help me choose something appropriate but not depressing for my mom's memorial service. She was sympathetic and kind, and I walked out with a pair of black capri pants and a top in mom's favorite color, purple. For any other occasion, I might be excited to wear a new outfit. Still, as I dressed that morning and assessed myself in the mirror, I realized I could not go to the funeral dressed in those clothes. The capri's hung on my frame, making me look like a six-year-old playing dress-up. The top I had fallen in love with on the store hanger, a sleeveless tunic with a diamond shape cut out in the back, accentuated my bony arms and protruding spine. I needed to feel confident to get through the day of hugging, shaking hands, and speaking in front of hundreds of people. Instead, I looked and felt frail and tired. The swollen purple bags under my eyes stood out prominently against my pale skin. The week spent looking at urns, picking out flowers, and cleaning out mom's closets took a toll, leaving me depleted and unable to do even the basics of self-care, like sleeping and eating. I needed to pull from reserves to keep functioning. But my emaciated body had no reserves.  



I have not one pic of the memorial, but here, a couple weeks later with Dad and Lisa, at mom’s internment reality was setting in. (2016)

"Come on, hon, we should get going," my husband said gently for the third time, "you said you wanted to be at the church early." 


 Frustrated, I slapped on some waterproof mascara, grabbed a white long sleeve sweater to cover my rail-thin arms, and headed towards the church where I joined my sister and dad at the front to greet people as they arrived. And arrive they did. My mom was dearly loved.  


Yet, I couldn't help but notice that intermingled amongst our relatives, neighbors, and dear friends, were other familiar faces. More recent friends of mine. Unlike the core four who knew and loved my mom, these friends had never met her. My tennis teammates, women I worked out with at the gym, and people who worked at our family business. I was confused, like a first-grader seeing a teacher at a grocery store. They were out of context. 


"What are you guys doing here?" I asked my tennis friend, Heather, who arrived with half my team, trying to wrap my head around why they were at a memorial service for someone they never even met. 


"We are here for your mom's memorial, silly lady," she responded as if the answer were obvious. 


"That's so nice," I said, genuinely touched, "you never even met her, did you?" 


"We are not here for your mom, Sherri," Heather said, hugging me, "we are here for you."


And they were there for me. Despite a decade's worth of keeping my friends at arm's length. I had over the years declared anorexia to be my BEST friend,  closing myself emotionally away from others. I tucked myself safely into a world of food, exercise, rituals, and routines. I hid behind excuses and superficial banter for fear the people I cared about would get to close and threaten my secret relationship, the one I was convinced I needed to survive.


I wasn’t going to have to go through grief alone. (At mom’s favorite spot, the family cabin in Lake Tahoe, 2016)

But my friends' presence, from all stages of my life, felt like a soft blanket engulfing my aching body and warming me. Slowly melting the walls, I had so meticulously built around myself. Standing there that day, they made me feel safer and more loved than anorexia ever had.






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