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

It was inevitable. The relationship was nearing the end. I wasn't sure if I was ready. I needed reassurance I was ready to move on not giving up. I wanted a sign.

When I turned 50, I got one.

"No. Absolutely not," I said adamantly to my husband, Marc, when he proposed the idea.

"But it's your 50th," Marc said with a sheepish look on his face. I knew he had one of his 'Marc Baker' ideas up his sleeve.

"You know I don’t do parties," I whined, getting a little pissed that this man I’d been married to for twenty years didn’t even ‘know’ me.

"Well, what if this wasn't a party as much as an…... event?" He persisted, toying with me.

"Like what?" I asked cautiously, not wanting him to get his hopes up that I might agree to whatever whack-ass plan had in mind.

"Like this?" He said, turning his computer and presenting me with a mock-up invitation to what would be my 50th birthday celebration. Oh, it got my attention.

Marc had it all planned out. A night at one of my favorites, Tony Starlight's Supper Club and even better it was a Barry Manilow/Neil Diamond theme, with food, cocktails, comedy, music, family, and friends. It sounded incredible. A party I would love to attend. For anyone but me.

I hate to be the center of attention. I do not care for big gatherings in general. I prefer intimate get-togethers that allow for authentic conversations. Unless work-related, I steer clear of significant social events that require superficial small talk that leaves me depleted and unfulfilled.

At the point Marc proposed this party, I was two years into my recovery process, and I was doing well. I was contemplating broaching the subject of terminating treatment with my team. My weight was stable, my schedule was flexible, my connection to others was fulfilling, and after ten years without, my period had just returned signaling my hormones were back online. But I still had room for improvement, and I was fearful without the support of my team, I would get too comfortable. I was afraid I alone would not have the courage to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone allowing me to keep learning how beautiful life could be without anorexia.

What better way to prove to myself I had it in me to put myself out there. Something told me if I took a risk and agreed to this party, it would result in more than just a celebration of my birthday.

Okay, let's just do it," I said to Marc over dinner one night. I had spent the better part of the week talking myself into it and after a larger than normal glass of wine, I finally caved.

I had one caveat. I would not invite people just to fill a room. I would only invite those who were important to me—friends and family who have impacted my life in some way. I sat down and started a list.

As it turns out, I am one lucky woman.

Yes I admit it. I am a Fanilow! I would post pics of that incredible night but I have none due to a camera guy malfunction :) (Birthday invitation 2018).

On September 23rd, 2018, I celebrated with a packed room full of friends and family whom I love. Just like always, these people, each special to me in their way, showed up. For me.

As the night ended and the last guest left the room, I felt exhilarated. I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone to find I wasn't uncomfortable at all. I enjoyed being social, and chatty, and unwound. Most importantly, I allowed myself to be surrounded by love. I went home that night feeling more like my old heathy self than I had in over a decade. Like I had walked out of a dark closet and back into my own skin.

And I knew it was time to give up the old narrative of whom I believed I was, and it was time to move into whom I had become.

  • sherrisacconaghi

I was starving. With the bright warm sun breaking through the grey spring clouds, the four of us didn't want to get off the tennis court. I knew I was pushing it. As it was, I would have to forgo a shower if I was going to get across town in time for my scheduled COVID vaccine time slot. Not a chance in hell I was going to miss that. But, thinking I had timed my day perfectly allowing for a quick lunch, I hadn't packed any snacks. The rumbling of my stomach distracting me from my serve. My energy starting wane as I let balls pass that usually, I would go for like a pit bull after a squirrel. I needed to eat.

As I tossed my gear in the car and hopped in, I decided to make a quick stop at Starbucks to grab a chicken chipotle protein box, one of my favorite grab-and-go's. But as I headed down the hill, I started to talk myself out of it. My anorexic brain, tranquil as of late, took advantage of my famished state and decided to come out to play.

AB. You do not need to spend $7.95 on that, Sherri. You really should have planned.

SB. But it's on the way, and I certainly can afford a sandwich.

AB. But it comes with carrots and apples, and you just bought some at the store. It's a waste of money.

SB. I know but I don’t do it often. And I have a gift card.

SB. You can stop at home. You have food there.

By the time I finished arguing with myself, Starbucks was in my rearview mirror and I had resigned to taking an extra five minutes to run home and grab something as skipping food was NOT an option. I sped through town, cursing the older woman in the car in front of me for driving the speed limit. When I got home, I raced in the house and towards the fridge. In grabbing for the deli turkey, I knocked a carton of blueberries off the shelf, scattering them across the kitchen floor. Fuck it, I thought as I stepped over them, searching for the bread and finding the bag empty, proceeding to yell at my son for eating the last of it. I grabbed some crackers and my purse and headed out the door for my appointment only to discover, a half a mile later, I had left my phone sitting on the counter.

But I saved myself $7.95.

I knew better. I had been over this time and time again during my years in treatment. Anorexia is not about food. Although a hot mess, I felt a familiar pleasure for skipping that Starbucks, and that feeling caught my attention. It was telling me something.

Recovery from anorexia can be like that. It's like playing Whack A Mole. When I think I have nailed one trait of the disease, another pops up.

Food. Whack.

Exercise. Whack

Connection. Wack

Flexibility. Whack

Money. Whack.

Self Care. Whack, whack, whack.

I have to be aware and recognize when old patterns start to creep in. In this case, the entangled relationship I have with money and self care. I have a tendency to control one to withhold the other. I automatically buy imported German water for Marc and grab a pack of La Croix for myself. I go out of my way to purchase small-batch organic hair products for my kids and settle on the Costco special for myself. I chose to get the regular pedicure while my husband, sitting right next to me, deservedly chooses the Delux. And recently, I did not think twice about taking my son D, on a shopping spree to Nordstrom, paying never mind to the overpriced tag because the clothes looked so great on him, while I shifted uncomfortably in my thread worn leggings from the local consignment shop.

Sometimes it takes writing things down to see the faulty thinking. So yep, this week I got the deluxe. It’s not a Mercedes but I’ll get there.

“Mom you should get a convertible,” D said to me on the way home from our shopping spree. I was retracting the sunroof on the car while slyly (I thought) eyeing the sleek, red Mercedes with the top down passing us on the left.

“I have a nice car," I said rolling my eyes in a kids these days kind of way, “why do I need a Mercedes?"

“Because you deserve to have nice things,”he said matter of factly before turning the music back up to signal conversation over.

Thanks for the reminder Buddy, but how about we stop at Starbucks first.

  • sherrisacconaghi

Oh, I love those,” I said to my friend Heather. We were browsing at a little sportswear shop, and I had glanced up to see her holding a pair of jeans she had pulled off the rack. “ You should try those on.”

“Let’s both try on a pair,” she said breezily. Already that day, we had been caught up in the shopping spirit, encouraging each other to buy stuff. Being two years into treatment, I had gained enough weight I could once again find clothes off the rack that fit. In hand so far I had two tennis skirts and a tank top. I was enjoying every minute of it.

“Are there two pairs in our size?” I asked, feeling a little like a giddy teenager at the mall with her bestie.

“There is only one size A, “ She said, thumbing through the rack, “But there is one size B so we can try both on and see what fits.”

Heather and I are both similar in stature. Tall and thin. We are so similar; acquaintances in our tennis world often think we are sisters, some even getting us confused for one another. I just assumed we would need the same size.

Heather headed into a dressing room to try on size A, and I went into the adjacent room with B, the next size up. But as I closed the door behind me, I felt a nervous tension start to scratch at my edges. My body was pushing adrenaline through my limbs like before a tennis match. With a click of the door latch, a fun shopping outing with my friend started to feel more like a competition. With her naturally thin frame and healthy body image, it was a game Heather had no idea we were playing.

“They are a perfect fit,” Heather said me through the dressing room wall, utterly unaware of the anxiety that was creeping up the walls of my own. Standing before the three way mirror my heart quickened as I slide the jeans up over my thighs, the material needing a tiny tug to get up over my hips. My hands were sweating as I slowly slid the zipper upwards, feeling the pants pull more snugly around my body.

A perfect fit.

We both bought them, and on more than one occasion, this has happened.

As the button slid through the top hole at the waist, the dressing room transformed into a time machine, taking me back through moments in my life I had fought so hard to escape. A stop in high school reminding me I would never physically match up to my tennis rival, Tiffany; her tiny waist and her long, tan legs making me very aware of every dimply and jiggle in my own. A visit to my twenties, where my co-worker Tara’s slender athletic build and perfectly tones arms made me feel frumpy and doughy standing next to her. Finally, whizzing by my thirties, and the perky mom at the playschool, dropping her kids wearing fitted sundresses and short shorts while I hide my extra baby weight under my signature attire: black sweatpants and a grey sweatshirt.

I had spent my forties striving to outrun that feeling. I was steadfast in the discipline necessary to whittle my body down to the toned, athletic physique I envied for so may years. I was determined to never again feel like;

The plump Megan to the willowy Annie .

The frumpy Tai to the glamorous Cher.

The dowdy Velma to the curvaceous Daphne.

I lost my way of course, the unmanaged stress and anxiety causing me to overshoot my goal, taking me from fit, energetic, and healthy to skeletal and sick.

Standing in front of that mirror, washed in bad lighting, I felt frustrated and confused. I thought I was nailing recovery. After years of being unable to wear adult sized clothing, I should have been giddy at the prospect that any pair jeans would fit me straight from the rack. I no longer found comfort in clothes hanging loosely on my body, and I had outgrown the notion that the size of my pants dictated the quality of my person.

But what I still desired was the calming reassurance of knowing I would always be the skinniest one in the room.

Heather’s friendship, support and razor- sharp sense of direction has helped keep me on the right more ways than one. (2021)


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