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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"You can always go back if you want to," my therapist, Kirsten, suggested to me, in attempt to nudge me out of my long weight plateau. Understanding my fear of gaining more weight, she was trying a new tactic. Implying that any weight I gained going forwards did not have to be permanent. Kirsten, I recognize now, was offering me the option of a" pivot."

Thanks to 2020, I, along with the rest of the world, have mastered the art of the pivot. COVID-19 has forced us to bob and weave through everyday life like a running back dodging a tackle in his quest to go all the way. But until recently, pivoting was not my strong point.

It never occurred to me until Kirsten's suggestion that "going back" was an option. Despite much progress in my eight months of RO-DBT work, black and white thinking was still my default when faced with any situation. My mind still tended towards absolutes. I always exercise in the morning. I never eat late at night. Moderation is good. Overindulging is bad. I am right. My husband is wrong.

I am either thin, or I am fat.

"What's worst that could happen?" Kirsten continued seeing my mind struggling to chew through her suggestion. Her voice was breezy and casual, as if we were talking about a shorter hairstyle or a bolder wall color rather than the thing I feared most in the world.

So many positives, photo bomber and all. (Pre Timbers game, 2017).

To Kirsten's point, the weight I had gained in the past eight months had garnered mostly positives for me. Of course, I experienced a lot of discomfort. Indulgent meals that left me guilt ridden and remorseful. Days I was edgy from the yoga only exercise, and mornings the longing to feel my jeans hang loosely on my body made me weep as if I had just lost my best friend. But the pluses outweighed any of the challenges. Physically I felt stronger, I was more present physically and emotionally for my family, and I was connected to many friends. Kirsten’s weight loss suggestion was risky, therefore, I figured she must have felt confident there were more positives ahead for me. I was not so convinced.

And angsty teens. (Safeco field, 2017).

Although I had gained weight, I was still very thin. The benefit of outpatient treatment was that it allowed me to be with my family and learn-to recover in the confines of my own life. To live life on life's terms, to quote one of my favorite Alanon-ims. On the other hand, it was a slow process. Like a parent tiptoeing into the room of a sleeping baby, I felt like I was sneaking up on weight restoration. Quiet and stealth in risk of waking my body suddenly and allowing it to notice what it had been missing. I feared in reaching a healthy weight, my body would relish in the freedom from the starved state in which it had been kept for over a decade. It would rebel against me like an angsty teen, flipping me the bird and taking off to run wild, free, and out of control.

Never allowing me the opportunity to go back, even if I wanted to.

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This past year I have felt stuck in a never-ending video game, navigating an elaborate maze, racing to gobble up little tidbits of hope to give me the strength to keep going. Not allowing myself to stop for fear I’d lose my way and the ghosts; Virus, restrictions, social distancing, rioting and politicians, might catch me swallow me whole.

"Sherri, are you ready to take it up a notch? My dietician, Gretchen said to me not long after I returned from my girlfriend's get away in Indian Wells in 2017.

I had gone into that trip coasting on a plateau, and despite the weird food schedule, and endless sitting, I had, according to my post-trip weigh-in, also lost weight. But I told myself I didn't care. After eight months in treatment, I had gained just enough to fit into jeans from a department other than the Junior section. I had expanded my food repertoire, allowing me the freedom to eat in a restaurant without going completely "off-menu." And if Palm Springs proved anything, it showed I could be flexible enough with my routine to stay connected to my people. Quite frankly, I was tired of my weeks being filled driving across town, fighting traffic to attend appointments with my dietician, therapist, physician, and RO-DBT classes. I was done with constantly talking and thinking about myself and my "issues."

I knew I had stopped pushing myself. I kept my food and exercise at just enough to hold the status quo. Although I didn't want to lose any weight, I had worked too hard for those pounds, the thought of gaining MORE weight scared me. I feared that allowing my body to have free reign, without my control, would find me ditching my still loved lycra tights and turkey sandwiches for a life of flannel pjs, pizza, and the Kardashians. I believed I needed to stop before I let all hell break loose in my mind and my body. My life was good the way it was.

It wasn't good enough for Gretchen and Kirsten so they set up a double team.

"Sherri, you have made progress in many ways, but you have a ways to go,” Gretchen said to me when I told her my plan to take a break from treatment, careful to avoid the word ‘quit.’ She appealed to my sense of reason by explaining the facts. Patients who stop treatment before reaching full weight restoration are at very high risk for relapse. And even I knew at 5'8 and an almost size 2, I was not even halfway close to fully restored.

"You aren't going to quit before you reached your goal, are you?” My therapist Kirsten, asked me in our session two days later. She had obviously spoken with Gretchen and in her feigned innocent raised eyebrow manner, had deployed the tactic of appealing to my competitive nature. "The Sherri I know doesn't quit."

I sat there in Kirsten's office, silent except for the swishing of my pant leg as I swung my crossed leg back and forth. I was staring at the picture behind her, the one that always reminded me of Dr. Suess, with its whimsical shapes that made no sense one moment and complete sense the next. A picture I had studied so many times before when my mind was stuck.

And I felt stuck. I was wrestling between what I wanted to do and what I needed to do. Caught between stopping and calling “Game Over “ or continuing to run the maze, striving to gobble up the things that would give me strength enough to keep going until I, once again, found my way.

I love competition, whether watching or playing. Gretchen and Kirsten often played upon my “never quit” nature.

From Left: At a Trailblazers game with my dad and sister, bowling with the boys, family game night in which, looking back, I am grateful I offered to take the picture. (Spring 2017)

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"I hate it," I said to my friend Kristi on one of our recent walk and talks. I was referring to a plant my husband “adopted" fifteen years ago from a family member who moved out of town. To me, it was the flora equivalent of Pig Pen from the Peanuts gang. Messy, unkempt, and dirty. With its unruly brown leaves sadly wilting over the old brown pot, it has lived in the corner of my living room for years.

Don’t panic plant lovers, this guy went to a worthy cause.

"Then get rid of it," she said matter of factly.

"Just toss it?" I asked with a pang of guilt, “I mean, it is a living thing”.

"Put a ‘free' sign on it, and someone will take it," Kristi said breezily. She then went on to explain to me me to the wonderful world of Offer Up and Facebook Marketplace. Kristi is a master of re purposing unwanted stuff.

I took her advice and got rid of the plant. The minute it left my house, an immediate giddiness floated through my body. Joyful with the thought I was going be able to sit in my living room and not have to look at that plant, its dusty leaves no longer taunting me like mean girl Julie did in junior high.

That moment of lightness caught my attention. It brought to the forefront just how anxious I have been feeling. COVID aside, certain events have transpired in my life recently that have been having a heavy effect on me. Nothing dire, but challenging life stuff nonetheless. Things in which I have very little control, sending that familiar energy pulsing through my body. A constant adrenaline drip making me feel like a hamster on a wheel. Always moving and going nowhere. Aware this craving for control when I feel out of control is a dangerous place for me, I immediately commenced “Operation Self Care." Writing, massaging, mediating, walking, and Netflixing in an attempt to calm the frick down, but even a Nurse Jackie binge has not succeed in alleviating my amped- upness. It only served to distract me from my thoughts, temporarily tamping down the "what -if's" that so often threaten to occupy my headspace.

But donating that plant made me feel like Pretty Woman Julia on her Rodeo Drive spending spree. Rebellious, powerful, and in control, with a little F you thrown in for good measure.

Yep, you know the feeling right?

And that where that plant donation has led me the past few weeks. Donating, tossing, consigning, and reorganizing. Letting go of things that I realize now have been creating cluttered chaos not only in my house, but in my mind and body. I recognize the manic purging has also served as a distraction but the satisfaction of tossing unnecessary crap is powerful. Stained pillows with worn cases. Threadbare towels from years of washings. Plastic bins and containers that have meant to organize but only tend to store more crap. Mismatched silverware with sharp edges. Shoes with no mate. Gone, gone, gone. And if my husband comes looking for his set of plastic Oregon State University collectors tumblers, I have no idea where they are—just saying.

But this process of purging has also stirred up a lot of emotions. Happy memories from a simpler time. An antique chair where I spent long, sleepless nights rocking my boys to sleep. My Nancy Drew book collection I’ve held on to "just in case." Clothes, shoes, and handbags, most of which my mom gifted to me in the years before she died, sitting unworn and unused in my closet as the thought of donating them has made me feel like I am discarding her memory. And pictures. So many pictures.

Because I need a bag that matches my slippers for my outings to the living room.

Regardless, as I have tossed, recycled and repurposed, I have not only found space in my closets, my drawers, and my cabinets, but I have found space in my own home to breathe. Sitting in in a clean, tidy, organized place has allowed for some clarity of thought. A sense of perspective that ha made me feel less overwhelmed and more like my rationale self. It has been a relief.

Recently my friend Ann, knowing I am going through a challenging moment in life, reached out via text to offer a walk or coffee date. An invitation I would usually jump at as hearing about her crazy life stuff would be a chance to avoid dealing with my own.

"Thank you for the invitation," I texted back, "but I think I need to sit with myself a bit. I have done a good job distracting lately, and now it's time for me….. to deal with me."

Ann, my sweet friend with her infinite wisdom replied;

"Remember, all of this will make you stronger, more connected, and real. Life is about emotion. We are supposed to feel it all."

Feel it all.

I have found the space to do just that.


Thanks for your interest in Skinny: The Truth Behind The Lies OF An Anorexic Mom. I'd love to connect with you so feel free to get in touch and I will get back to you soon!

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