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

What if someone sees me?

This was the concern that stood in my way each time my therapist suggested I try an Al-Anon meeting. I was desperately trying to find a way to manage my extreme discomfort with the discord in my marriage. More often then not our sessions involved me venting for an hour, hardy pausing to take a breath.

“You are not alone in this,” Karen, who I had be seeing regularly for about five years, gently reminded me on more than one occasion, “I think you would find Al-Anon to be helpful. It wouldn’t hurt to check it out when you are ready.”


The thought of going to Al-Anon scared me. I had looked at the website and often contemplated going but each time I convinced myself my situation was not bad enough to warrant a twelve step group.


Until the night, I found myself sobbing silently on the bathroom floor. The night, after a particularly difficult interaction with my husband left me feeling depleted, hopeless and alone.

“Mommy, what’s the matter? Are you coming out?” Brennan, who was eight years old at the time asked in a wavering voice while trying to turn the knob and open the bathroom door. “Are you ready to read a story with me?”


The next night I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting

(Journal excerpt, November, 2011)

As I drove toward the church on the dusky warm October night I desperately hoped the meeting would be canceled. Or maybe no one would show up. I felt the knot in my stomach start to tighten as I pulled into the parking lot spattered with cars, dread filling my body like helium in an empty balloon. With ten minutes to go until the meeting started, I sat in my car scanning people as they walked into the basement of the church, praying I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. What would they think if they saw me here? They would KNOW. They would gossip. I had to remind myself of the desperate, tearful promise I made to myself while on the bathroom floor the night before.


I got out of my car and reluctantly walked into the meeting feeling like a kindergartner on the first day of school. My head down, avoiding eye contact with anyone in the room. Chairs were set up in a circle, a box of tissues and a white clock placed in the center. People of all ages, gender and ethnicity were talking animatedly with each other while holding white Styrofoam cups filled with coffee and hot chocolate. It felt more like a social event than an twelve step meeting. I quietly took a chair, hoping to make myself invisible to those around me. The meeting started by introducing ourselves. I felt like a character in a sitcom as I said “Hi my name is Sherri” and the group welcomed me. The Al-Anon twelve steps were read and words like peace, serenity, and hope were spoken as if those feelings were part of their everyday life. If these people are peaceful and hopeful then their story cannot be as bad as mine I thought to myself. My life was spiraling out of control with no serenity in sight.

There I sat, an anxious, short tempered, sleep deprived wife and mother, exhausted from pretending my life was as perfect as I made it appear on social media. I don’t belong here. But as the group members started to share their stories, my heart began pounding and I felt the goosebumps break out on my arms. One after another I heard my story. Different but the same. Experiences so similar to mine being shared with love, compassion and yes, serenity. I absorbed every word. As I listened to the familiar tales, the tension started to drain from my body like air from a tire. I felt the years of bottled up anger and resentment being pushed aside like dirt from a budding flower and in its place, grew a glimmer of hope. I was not crazy. I was not alone.

  • sherrisacconaghi

“Mom, why are you always so stressed out?!” Dylan huffed at me one day. He was in the fifth grade and I had snapped at him when he asked for a ride to a friend’s house.


“I’m not ALWAYS stressed out,” I shot back, “I just have things to do other than shuttle you around all day. I have a life you know!”


It was just a five-minute ride down the hill.


Holding my family together was my top priority. (2011)

Dylan was right I had become increasingly edgy. In my heart I wanted to be Carol Brady, smiling sweetly at my kids' mishaps while offering a warm cup of cocoa and a hug after a hard day at school, but more often than not, what was coming out of my mouth was more like Rosanne Connor, “suck it up deal kid because life is hard.”


But why? If I were to believe my own Facebook posts, I was a forty-four-year-old woman, happily married to a rock and roll insurance agent who owned a thriving business. A mom of two adorable kids, who was fulfilling her dream as a health coach. We were financially stable, lived in a comfortable home, our families were healthy, we traveled to tropical places and enjoyed premium seats at major sporting events. Not to mention I had the luxury of playing tennis every day, and had one hell of a shoe collection. My life seemed pretty perfect so what did I have to be so stressed out about?


Keeping that illusion alive. That’s what.


At that time I was unaware of my rapidly growing eating disorder, mostly because I was so focused on the secret that continued to plague my heart and my mind. I was embroiled in a marriage that was very unhealthy. I was becoming increasingly aware, after many years, that my husband’s lifestyle choices were becoming unbearable for me.

Life in our house felt unpredictable and unstable to me. My husband and I were often at odds, and although we didn’t argue much, we had perfected the art of cold shoulder. After twelve years of marriage we had reached a stalemate about his drinking. I thought he was out of control and he thought I was trying to control him. I felt crazy. It was causing me to lose sleep, my patience and my appetite. It felt like a big ball of anxiousness had taken up permanent residency in my gut making eating seem unbearable. Some days it felt like I was holding myself together with safety pins and scotch tape. I found relief in distraction.

Hippie Chicks half marathon with the neighborhood posse. This was a fun distraction.

I’ll do an early run, get the boys up, fed and off to school, meet with my clients then go to team practice. I'm volunteering for the school auction/ the class party/the fun run/the team fundraiser and then I have an hour before Dylan gets home from school. Hmmm, I think I’ll rearrange the living room furniture, dehydrate kale and make homemade mac and cheese for the boys but I don't have the ingredients so I have to go to the store. After I help Brennan with homework I will I drop Dylan at lacrosse then I can write my newsletter. I need to clean out the fridge, organize the linen closet and then I can squeeze in a power walk before bed. It’s not like I was the President of Microsoft or a brain surgeon. I was searching for things to keep my day packed. I could very well have spent an hour sitting on the couch, reading People magazine and watching Dr. Phil (two activities I used to love), and of course, the boys would have preferred boxed mac and cheese any day. But I wouldn’t sit still. I couldn’t.

Slowing down meant I would have to face discomfort, in my home, in my heart and in my body.

  • sherrisacconaghi

"Keep asking yourself questions," my therapist Kirsten encouraged me, find the one that takes you to your edge. Makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s where the work is.”


This was the approach used during treatment to keep me moving forwards with recovery. But there was one question. One I skirted around and stuffed down because the mere thought caused me so much distress. One I was certain if I acknowledged would take me, not only to my edge, but up and over the top of it.


Have I been a good mom to my kids?


The reality is, from the time they were very young, my boys have had a mom who has struggled with an eating disorder. Since I didn't recognize I had a problem, it never occurred to me they would sense something was off. Even as I began to toy with the idea I might have an issue, I took assurance that they were too absorbed in their own little lives of Pokemon and Star Wars to notice what might be going on in my own. But they noticed.

It began in little ways. When the boys were young it was easy to incorporate my healthy eating habits into their lives but as they hit mid-grade school they started to push back a little. They became more vocal about their dislike of my green smoothies, the homemade whole grain power bars, and the overabundance of steamed broccoli that crowded their plates. But ultimately, I still had a lot of control over what they were offered. Anxiety kicked in when things came into the house I didn't plan for. Gooey brownies from grandma Sally, chewy frosted sugar cookies from grandma Sandra, and, leftover birthday cake from a friends in the neighborhood. I told friends and family the “kids didn’t need it." In truth, its not that I didn’t want the kids to have that stuff, it was that I wanted it. Badly. Just looking at a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie or whipped frosting loaded cupcake could set my heart pounding, the saliva pooling in my mouth like a starving dog in front of a T bone steak. I wanted to devour one but feared I would ultimately end up eating the whole plate. So much of what came into the house went either into the trash or wrapped up and tucked into the back of the freezer out my sight.

💙💚💛💜

I did enjoy cooking. Recipes for easy, healthy, family friendly meals were one of the most popular requests from my clients so I experimented. On the boys anyways. As a result I found myself making two or three different meals every night. For example I would make the boys a meal of cheesy ground turkey tacos or baked parmesan chicken tenders. I steered clear of making them anything that might tempt me, so lasagna, burgers, and pesto anything were a rarity. For myself each night, I prepared a safe meal of steamed fish and roasted veggies and Marc, being a man with a very picky palette who prefers to snack throughout the day would often times just request a small salad for himself. Slap on an apron and call me Flo, but I felt if they were happy, I wouldn’t get any flack about what I was (or wasn’t) eating. It worked for awhile. I knew my body felt good when I ate my light, simple, clean meals and I convinced myself if I ate a bowl of pasta or, God forbid, a juicy burger, it would make me feel full, bloated, and uncomfortable. And I needed to feel physically comfortable because emotionally I was anything but.

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