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

I am thankful to have this outlet to share my experience with anorexia, shame, loneliness, and recovery. I started writing this blog in 2018, one month after I completed treatment. I promised myself if I outed myself into the virtual world, I would do so with honesty and authenticity. I vowed I would talk openly with people about my past struggles with the disease and the challenges I've faced in recovery and I would listen, dialogue, and support those who reached out to me. It was a risk. Although I wanted to share my story in hopes of helping other people who may be living with the shame of a fiercely held secret, I was very well aware that if I relapsed, I would have to be honest about that too. To be frank, the fear of relapsing in front of all of you who have supported me the past two years has kept me on the rails at times, especially the past nine months as we all try and navigate this strange, anxiety-ridden, pandemic laced world.

Thank you for accepting my invitation to join me on my journey of recovery. Your support has made a difference and for that I am very thankful. ( Mt. Hood, 2020)


My intention in writing sharing my story was, and continues to be, an intentional invitation for others to join me on my journey.


When I decided to go into treatment, I was not exactly anxious to shout it from the rooftop. In fact, I wasn’t anxious to whisper it from the basement either. I didn’t know how to tell my tennis teammates I could no longer play tennis because I was grappling with anorexia. Just the thought of uttering those words made me want to crawl back under my blanket of shame. So I kept playing, secretly wishing I would twist my ankle or break my arm. Something tangible that would allow me to step aside with some dignity. When my workout buddies at the gym asked me why I was no longer in boot camp, I lied and said I was bored with the class. And when my absence was noted at my son’s Tuesday night lacrosse games, I claimed I had Board of Directors meetings rather than admitting I was in my RO-DBT group. I realize now I owed an explanation to no one, nor would one be requested in many cases. But back then I still put too much weight on what people thought of me, and at the time, I saw my reach out for help to be an admission of failure. I made “excuses” in an attempt to thwart being “found out.”


However, I didn’t go into treatment wholly shrouded in secrecy. I shared my plan with my immediate family and a few close, long-time friends. Part of me felt like I owed them some relief from the years of worry I knew I had caused them. I figured if I told them, they could step back and stop worrying about me. It was my way of saying I got this so you don’t have to. But it didn’t turn out that way. By sharing my plan, I realized that, in some ways, I was inviting them on my journey, and that caught me off guard.


Because that was not yet my intention.



  • sherrisacconaghi

I walked out onto the court for the first match of the season. It was my first since starting treatment six weeks earlier, and I was distracted. My favorite tennis skirt was fitting a bit too snugly around my waist, and I couldn't stop touching the little roll of fat I imagined it created above the band. My opponent was strong but beatable. Always a slow starter, I figured I would find my rhythm, but I couldn't get moving. My body felt foreign. And more distracting than the extra jiggling around my thighs was the guilt that consumed me with every groundstroke.


Walking and yoga. After much negotiation, those were forms of exercise Gretchen, and I agreed would be acceptable throughout my treatment, although Gretchen strongly advised no exercise. Arguing my body needed to rest so it could heal from the years of abuse I had put it through. But I was adamant I needed some movement. I honestly thought I would go insane if I could not move my body, and Gretchen willing to meet me halfway, as long as the walking was slow and the yoga was gentle. Tennis was nowhere in the agreement.


Anorexia was my illness. The exercise was my addiction. I spent over a decade making sure I could exercise every day. Like a drug, I used it more than I should, sometimes until I made myself feel sick. I often skipped attending my kids sporting events and family get-togethers because they interfered with my workout, feeling guilty if I missed even one sweat session. And I lied. I lied about when, if, where, and how I exercised.


I knew I shouldn’t be playing but I hadn’t yet shared that with Heather. My favorite partner on the court who has become my treasured friend off court. (Winning second place at a local tournament, 2017).

In treatment, I agreed to walking and yoga because I was grateful to be getting approval from my treatment team to do some movement. I was willing to give up some forms of exercise like the elliptical and stepmill. I even agreed to give up my six am boot camp. Those activities were like a wine cooler to an alcoholic. They did the trick to quell my anxiety about life, but I didn't enjoy them. Tennis, however, was like perfectly aged wine or a craft beer. It was my top shelf.


The high I got from the exertion of a long singles match was second only to the high of WINNING a long singles match. On the court was the only place, for years, I felt strong and confident. Where I could prove to myself and others, despite my skeletal frame, I was not sick. I loved everything about playing.


But treatment changed that. It dimmed the rosy glow I got from hitting that yellow ball. Because in treatment, I learned what exercise, in any form, was doing to my body, testing my fragile bones, putting stress on my weak heart. With every groundstroke I sliced, with every lob I chased, with every serve I hit, I knew I was taking a risk with my life.


I was well aware that I should heed my treatment team's advice and stay off the court. But something was stopping me, and it had less to do with exercise, calories burned, or stress relief, and more about something else.


I was facing an opponent I had met many times before. And this time it was trying to stop me from winning the biggest match of my life.



  • sherrisacconaghi

When my friend Joyce invited me along with two others to her new vacation home in my favorite Bend, Oregon, I wanted to go, or more specifically, I wanted to want to go. I adored this group of women. Joyce, Mary, Victoria, and I had been playing tennis every Friday for the past year. Actually we laughed, gossiped, supported, and sometimes managed to get in a game or two. Although our friendship was relatively new, there was something about them that made me feel comfortable. Accepted. They knew nothing of my struggle with anorexia or that I was currently in treatment. They never commented on my body or questioned my soda water and two chip limit at our post tennis happy hours. And being a bit ahead of me in life (read older), they all had been through the rocky marriage moments and parenting angst I was currently experiencing. Their support and guidance felt, at times, like an umbrella in a shitstorm. 

The trip sounded perfect in theory. Good friends, my favorite city, a luxurious home, and a lot of wine/whine and although I was making slight progress in treatment, I was still slowly learning to let go of many of the unhealthy habits I put into place. I had not tested my recovery in unfamiliar territory without my old vices, my own food, exercise, structumeal times to turn too if I need to. I couldn’t go.


Could I?


What if they had no plan for meals and just wanted to graze all day? What if they wanted to lounge around and read with no intent to hike or bike? What if I didn’t get alone time to freak out with discomfort? What if I was so uncomfortable I spent the whole time wishing I was in the safety of my own home. The thought terrified me.


On the other hand;


What if I stayed home? What I took my morning walk alone? Ate my lunch exactly at Noon? And stayed well within my comfort zone of structure and predictability? Wishing the whole time I was laughing and bonding with my friends. The thought terrified me. 


I had a choice. Stay safe and stay stuck, or face my fear and move forward.  


“Do you feel safe with them?” Kirsten asked me, knowing this decision was brutal for me. By safe, she meant in the event I needed to out myself to these women, to admit I was in treatment and that I was scared shitless, could I? 


“I do,” I replied.


“Then I think you have your answer,” She replied, smiling.


 But after packing and unpacking three (or seven) times and planning for every “what if” scenario that might come up, I was exhausted and pissed off at myself for making something fun, be so damned hard. I decided if I was agreeing to go on this trip, bond with my friends, be part of a tribe again after so many years feeling alone, then I was going to GO on this trip. Meaning I would leave all my stupid rules at home, including my food, workout gear, and escape plan.  Staring at my half packed (or unpacked) suitcase, I made a promise to myself. If they were going to lounge all day, so was I.  If they were going to eat breakfast at eleven in the morning, so was I. If they were eating steak and potatoes for dinner, then dammit, so was I. It was the only way I could for see getting through it.


Would there be moments of physical discomfort and emotional terror? Most likely. Would there be thoughts of “what the Hell was I thinking? Probably. Was I risking my recovery pushing myself too hard? Maybe. 


But  I was being offered a chance—a chance to do it differently. A chance to feel a part of something special —a chance at recovering.  


It was a chance I was ready to take.


The fantastic moments far outweighed the scary ones (even finding out there was Mayo in the potato pancakes).. I never felt the need to reveal I was in treatment. I was having too much fun with these amazing women. It was such an incredible feeling to just “be”. This trip was a game changer and motivated me to commit to recovery. I wanted more of this.

From Left: Joyce, Victoria, Me and Mary (Bend, Oregon 2016)




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