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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

Life loves to throw a curveball. Which is an issue for me as I’m a planner. I like structure and routine, and I don’t like surprises, unless it is a tropical trip or jewelry, (I’m over controlled not crazy). Back in 2005 the tension between Marc and I over his drinking left me feeling very shaky and uncertain. In trying to control his behavior, I felt out of control in my own, and I was focused on trying to find some balance, so focused in fact, I never saw what was coming, a surprise wrapped not in a little blue box, but rather in the shape of a phone call.


NOTE: Instead of rewriting this part of the story, I am including an excerpt of a piece I wrote in 2017 while treatment for anorexia as I tried to figure out how, as my treatment team suggested, this diagnosis was related to my eating disorder.


“Hi Sherri, this is Dr. Broms,” my doctor announced when I answered the phone, “is this a good time for you to talk?” I was instantly on alert, as his medical assistant was always the one to call with test results.


“Of course,” I answered despite having a backyard of four year olds splashing in a plastic pool and my friend about to disclose the latest neighborhood gossip.


“I hate to have to tell you this over the phone but your biopsy came back. It shows a malignancy.”


I was caught off guard. The ultrasound I had the week before was just a precaution he had told me, probably another benign cyst in my breast. I had many over the years and being only thirty six years old with no family history of cancer, I wasn't concerned.

.

“What does that mean?” I asked trying to keep my voice steady, hoping this was a misunderstanding.


“You have breast cancer.”


It was a warm, sunny afternoon and I could feel the perspiration run down my back, but it had nothing to do with the weather. My legs felt weak and I collapsed into the chair nearest to me.


“Mommy come watch me,” I heard Dylan’s little voice calling from the backyard.


“Are you sure of this?” I asked the doctor, holding out hope he could be wrong.


“Yes.” He responded solemnly.


“What stage of cancer?” I asked, not ready to resign myself that this was even true.


“I don’t have that information,” he patiently replied.


The real question was on the tip of my tongue. It was what I really wanted to know and was trying to muster the courage to ask.


“Am I going to die?” I croaked, my throat so dry as if I hadn’t had water in days.

A long pause that seemed to last for ten minutes but in reality, was probably closer to ten seconds hung in the air like a heavy fog.


“I have scheduled an appointment with a specialist on Monday at four, he will be able to tell you more, this is just out of my area of expertise.” WTF, Monday?! I have to wait until Monday?! I screamed silently to myself.


I dreaded the end of the call, as if the finality was a way of accepting I had cancer but there was nothing left to say. I thanked him and hung up the phone and allowing the fear to burst forth in a flood of uncontrollable sobbing tears.

My friend generously offered to stay and watch the kids while I tried to maintain some composure. I called my husband, my mom and my best friend, then I did what any rational person with fifty-five hours to sit and think about the fact they have cancer would do. I Googled. The “what if’s” ran through my head all weekend, the biggest being, what if I never see my kids grow up? What if they have to go through life never having me as their mom?

With my mom and grandma on Mothers Day, a month before my diagnosis. What if, what if, what if? (2005)

I stood in my bedroom later that evening, staring at my face in the dresser mirror. The vibrant laughing woman, whom just hours before, was playing in a plastic pool was gone and the woman in the mirror looked old and tired. Hair askew and bags under her eyes that could carry a lifetime of worry. I starting imagining the cancer inside me growing by the minute, like a little dried sponge that was being exposed to water and expanding with every drop. I wanted it out and out now. A flip switched inside me and I felt a little burning ember starting to flame and I said, “God, I will do whatever it takes to survive this. Anything. Just let me live through this so I can raise my kids. Please let me be with my kids.” Those words are etched in my memory. I have never wanted something so badly.



  • sherrisacconaghi

The gut is commonly referred to as our second brain. It’s true, our brains and our gut share some of the same neurons that can influence mood and decision making. In fact, according to the publication, Scientific American, ninety five percent of our serotonin, aka the “happy chemical”, is found in the bowels Our Second Brain. A fun fact for the office lunch room today. You're welcome.


That being said, I have always functioned in my first brain.


There we were, six years of marriage, a lovey home, a growing business with two adorable toddlers yet Marc and I remained at odds about his drinking. I continued to be uncomfortable with aspects of Marc’s demeanor and suspicious of his increased time away from our family. I was sure this was due to his drinking and became determined to “catch him.” I would discreetly tag his scotch bottles with tiny pencil marks to track how quickly the level dropped, I would rummage through the garbage and recycling bins to look for empty wine bottles, and I would insist on checking his breath after a night out with his buddies. I would yell and accuse, he would deny shut down. It was taking a toll on our relationship.

One thing I was certain of however, what was happening in our household would stay in our household. It was very important to me to keep up the appearance of a “normal” family, despite my gut feeling that things were anything but normal. If social media were a thing back then I would most likely be sharing posts of sandcastle building on misty beach trips, cotton candy infused outings to Disney on Ice, and holidays filled with Santa and snowmen. Not that we didn’t enjoy doing those things as a family, there were happy times, moments I could convince myself that everything was “fine.”

Definitely some happy moments. These two!

Keeping up appearances took a lot of energy. I was so tired yet found it increasingly difficult to sleep at night, thoughts whirling through my head like laundry on the spin cycle, what has happened to us? To me? I was pretty confident I was the only mom in the neighborhood rummaging through garbage bins while their kids watched Dora The Explorer in the playroom upstairs. If people only knew! But I made sure they never would because I refused to talk about it. To anyone. I just kept my anger, fear and shame locked inside, allowing the pressure to build until I was like a rattled can of soda, ready to explode at any moment.

During this time, I continued to be diligent in my food tracking, although more out of habit than anything, as what I was eating became very routine. The same general menu every day, oatmeal, bananas, spinach and cheese omelets, steamed broccoli, barbecue chicken, cous cous, salad, low fat ice cream. Sure, it varied a little, (I did go through an unexplainable Hot Pocket phase) but overall I was Bill Murray in the movie Groundhogs Day when it came to food so the strange feeling of fullness I felt one evening after dinner caught me by surprise. I felt like I had swallowed a big balloon that filled not just my stomach but my whole abdomen, up through my ribs, making it difficult to even take a deep breath. I chalked it up to some bad chicken and went to bed. When I awoke the next day I was back to my flat tummied self but soon after my oatmeal breakfast, my abdomen was full again making my stomach distended and uncomfortable. This went on for weeks before I admitted to the fact this wasn't going to pass and something was wrong.

It appeared my gut was done merely talking, and my body was taking more drastic measures to get my attention.


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  • sherrisacconaghi

When I decided to publicly out my struggle with anorexia, I promised myself I would be honest and truthful, setting aside any shame and embarrassment in efforts to heal myself and hopefully help others. But I don’t live on a deserted island and there are people who have had an impact on me, people that I love, respect and admire so sometimes I struggle in writing publicly about my experiences. How do I authentically share my story while being respectful of those whom do not wish for me to share theirs? Most importantly my husband, Marc.

Marc is a very private person and although he has been supportive of this blog, he doesn’t completely agree with my desire to speak so openly about my battle. I respect that, and we are working through it as I go.

Throughout the years Marc and I have been together, there has been one consistent thing that has, at times, brought us together and almost torn us apart. I knew when I went to Marc’s apartment for the first time twenty-two years ago and saw a table made out of empty wooden cases of Henry Weinhard that drinking was a part of Marc’s life and I, having just come off of my post-divorce wilding was no teetotoler myself. I have described in previous posts our shared love of icy lemon drops at the local pub, Spanish coffees at our favorite beach bistro and outings to local vineyards to sip fine wine. There was a time we enjoyed drinking together.

A self portrait Marc and I had commissioned back in the day. We now joke we should change it to tea mugs, regardless, I still love it. ( Chad Crouch 2000)

When we had kids that shifted for me. My alcohol consumption, slowed way down for a variety of reasons, pregnancies, and breast feeding being the two obvious ones. Also as the business was growing and Marc was traveling more frequently, I was often solely responsible for two little humans and I was sure the minute I had a sip of wine one of them would have to be rushed to the ER for a head bump and the doctor would smell Kendall Jackson on my breath and, well, yet another reason alcohol took a back seat. Then of course the calories. Anorexia aside, I have always been someone who would rather eat my calories than drink them. It all added up, and over time alcohol just took a backseat.

As my drinking slowed, I noticed Marc’s did not, nor was he responsive to my request that he slow his alcohol consumption. It began to bother me. A lot. I became very focused on how much he was drinking at home, and how he was acting when he came home late after a night out at a club listening to music.I would fire questions at him on his drinking, how much have you had to drink? Have you been drinking beer or scotch? “Who were you with?”(I was much more on alert when he was with the group I had labeled his “drinking buddies”). The more focused I became on Marc’s drinking, the more I believed he began to hide it from me. At the time, I did not make the connection that Marc’s behavior was triggering some of the stuff from my childhood. But my old behaviors were emerging rapidly. Like with my mom, I became hyper aware of anything that seemed “off” that would signal he had been drinking; the look in his eyes, the cadence of his voice, the way he held his body. And more often than not, I was pissed off with what I saw (and heard) and I, at times loudly, let him know it. I would accuse Marc of drinking too much and he would deny it, saying I was punishing him for my mom’s behavior. Around and around we would go. I felt like a crazy woman. Was I making it up? Was I creating a problem where there was none? Was my perception skewed from my own childhood in an alcoholic home? My gut instinct was screaming at me, LISTEN WOMAN, YOU ARE RIGHT, YOU ARE NOT CRAZY, but as we know, I was never very good at listening to my gut.

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