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.

  • sherrisacconaghi

I am directionally impaired. When I pull off of my street, there is a good chance I will get lost before I reach my destination, even if I’ve been there many times before.

That is what it felt like the year before I went into treatment. I wanted to go to a place of health, with a body and mind strong and well-nourished, free from obsession, restriction, rituals, and rules. I had been there before. A place where I was flexible, spontaneous, and engaged with my family and friends. A life that was way more fun. But despite my many attempts to get back to that healthy place, I couldn’t find my way. I’d get lost.

About a week into the emotional regrets writing assignment from my therapist, I did indeed begin to feel much better. My body felt calmer and more relaxed. To my relief, the physical pressure I had lived with for months had deflated, and I again found comfort in the feel of my jutting hipbones as I ran my hand across my concave belly. But as relieved as I was, I was also in a bind. I knew too much. Unleashing my feelings in my journal, and finally talking about them honestly with Karen helped me realize that the place of guilt and shame I had been hiding in for so long did not need to be. I was not stuck; I could move.

Or not move. Literally. I had finally come face to face with what I already knew deep inside. I was anorexic. Well, to a point that is. I had been tentatively “looking into” anorexia for many months. Googling signs and symptoms, admitting some were relevant to me, but deciding most were not. Oh, and books. I read many books, mostly memoirs,(Obsessed, Love Fat,Elena Vanishing ) to see how I “compared.” I found it frightening and fascinating all at once. I was well aware that my weight fell smack dab in the underweight range, and from a purely clinical standpoint, my body was anorexic. But because I didn’t feel I had the body dysmorphia, the belief that I was fat, that went along with anorexia nervosa, I convinced myself it was mind over matter. I still saw anorexia as a simple weight thing, not yet connecting how my patterns of behaviors, rituals, and routines, were related. I believed it was something I could fix if I just tried hard enough.

I meant to shift into Reverse. The tree in from of me at the Albertsons parking lot survived. The bumper did not. (2015)

“What is one thing you could do that might help move you to your goal of a healthier body?” Karen asked during one of our sessions after I had declared, once again, I was ready to make a change.

“Hmmmmm, I’m not sure,” I said, chewing my lower lip. Crap, I know, and she knows I know.

“I’m thinking I need to give up running?” As if phrasing it as a question left it open for debate.

“I think that might be a good place to start,” Karen replied gently.

Honestly, I was ready to give it up. I had made several half-assed attempts to stop with no success, the draw of the runners high, and the relief of the ever-present anxiety that only running could alleviate was too strong. Just one more run, then I'll stop, just one more, one more, one more.

I needed a push to help me make a change, and I was about to get it.

  • sherrisacconaghi

Gut instinct. It can be strong. There is a reason that the gut is considered a second brain.

In my case, the brain in my gut has always been smarter than the one in my head. These days I rely on it for pretty much everything, especially as I am still testing the reliability of my healthy Sherri brain in decisions regarding my physical and emotional well being.

But several years back, I had no awareness of my body, gut, or otherwise. When it tried to alert me to potential danger, I tried to shut it up. When my muscles were sore from too much exercise, I took pain relievers and pushed through. When sick, instead of resting, I ran, relying on a trip to the emergency room to slow me down. And when my gut became persistently full and distended, I took pills trying to get rid of the pressure.

“You want me to do what?” I asked Karen incredulously.

“I want you to make a regrets journal, “she said, ignoring the look of disappointment on my face, “write down everything you are afraid to say out loud. For your eyes only."

When I began going to counseling years before, I promised myself I would be an active participant. I was not going to be one of those people that thought an hour a week of blaming my parents would solve my problems, so over the years, if Karen assigned homework, I did it. (EFT for anxiety a favorite). Despite my irritation, this assignment would be no exception. Um, I already journal lady but whatevs.

I settled down that night and nestled into bed with a cup of tea. I grabbed my journal and getting ready to write, I realized something was missing. Words. I flipped through the pages trying to reorient myself to my last entry. Five months ago. Had it been that long? Writing, the thing that had gotten me through the toughest of times; Cancer, my rollercoaster marriage, and my frustration with my body, had come to a halt.

The most important job I will ever have. (2015)

Of course, it did. If I wrote about stuff I didn’t want to deal with, I’d have to deal with it. Like my fear at failing at project ten pound, my shame at destroying my emaciated body with hours of exercise, and hardest of all, the overwhelming feelings of guilt and regret about my boys and my deep seeded belief that protecting my illness had taken priority over parenting them. I had F*%&ed up the most rewarding, important job I will ever have. Being a mom.

All things I didn’t want to face. I stuffed. Shoving them down, hoping if I ignored the feelings, they would go away. That was not working so well. So, I hunkered down and began to write. Like running through unfamiliar terrain, I was hesitant at first, but picking up speed as the familiar comfort of my pen flowing effortlessly over the paper took over and before long I was writing so fast that the words were almost illegible. Almost.

As I wrote, I felt like the cap was slowly twisting off my shaken and pressure-filled body. The thoughts, feelings and secrets I had kept bottled up for months, years, were bubbling up, and flowing over into my conscious mind, sending me a message.

Are you going to listen to me now?

  • sherrisacconaghi

“Anorexic Mom. I’m curious why you have that as part of your blog title?” I was recently asked this question in an interview for an upcoming event in which I am taking part.

“Because it is a part of who I am,” I answered honestly, feeling the pressure building behind my eyes. The tears threatening to spill over and cascade down my cheeks. Damn, damn, damn. Will this ever get easier?

It’s a part of who I am. (2019)

As I re read some of my blog posts from the past year I see that I have gotten better at writing openly about my obsessive exercise, food restriction, and tumultuous relationship with my body. However, when it comes to my relationship with my kids, I find myself touching upon it and pulling back, like picking up a rose full of thorns then dropping it because it hurts.

The truth is that for most of their lives, my boys have lived with a mom struggling with anorexia. Over the years I had become an expert at convincing myself the symptoms of my disease were not affecting them. That the obsessive exercise, ritualistic eating patterns, erratic mood swings, and distracted focus went unnoticed. I did not want to admit I could be doing anything to cause my boys worry or pain. When disturbing thoughts started to creep in or a pointed comment was made making it visible that my illness touched them, I would rationalize and distract. I would shift my focus to something else like obsessing about my body, fixating on my marriage, stressing about money, worrying about worrying. As they got older, the emotions that were gnawing at the edges became harder to ignore.

In 2015, my boys were hitting mini-milestones. Dylan was graduating from junior high, and Brennan, my baby, was leaving the safety of the elementary school. Part of me was grateful for the change. Dylan academically breezed through but was struggling in other areas of teenaged life. And Brennan, restless, was socially ready to branch out and tackle the jungled halls of the junior high. (Math, not so much). I was excited the change would bring a fresh start for both of them. But it also hit me how fast time was flying. They were growing up.

I had difficulty admitting even to my therapist what was weighing heavy on my heart. I could verbalize my feeling in generalities. Talking loosely about the “remember when’s” and “wish I would have’s,” of parenting felt safe, like dancing around the shoreline of a serene ocean. But I feared verbalizing the deeper feelings would cause a tsunami of waves to come crashing down, swallowing me whole.

“Sherri,” Karen said to me after another relatively unproductive session of me talking about my still distended and uncomfortable stomach, “I have a thought of what might ease your physical discomfort.”

“For real?”, I asked skeptically, hoping she would not throw out more hippy-dippy suggestions of yoga poses or gratitude meditations. I wanted something real, a medication, supplement or specialized treatment that would bring instant relief.

In actuality, she had something quite different in mind.

The boys at their graduation ceremonies. They were ready. I was not. ( 2015)


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