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 find myself fascinated that anorexia is the disease I have lived with for well over a decade considering, not only have I always loved food, I have also considered it my comfort, my reward, my medicine, my ally. I identified as having bulimia in my twenties but as the binge/purge urge eased, I believed having an eating disorder was just a phase I had gone through, I never imagined that when eating disorder 2.0 emerged it would be so different, so sneaky, so fierce. Why anorexia?

Apparently, I have the right personality for it.

When, after her initial assessment, Kirsten suggested that I had the traits of a person with an over controlled personality, I laughed.“Tell me something I don’t know,” I said to Kirsten, “my family gets on me all the time about how controlling I am.”

“Being over controlled is not the same thing as being controlling,” Kirsten patiently explained, “it is more a matter of excessive self-control.” As she continued to describe some of the characteristics of an over controlled personality, my brain simultaneously tried to absorb and resist the words. Was this accurate? Was this what I had become? Over controlled characteristics.

“It’s not a bad thing Sherri,” Kirsten tried to assure me, “people with over controlled tendencies are the people who get things done in this world. They are do-ers.” Ok THAT I could kind of see.

The get-er done” mentality was the reason Marc and I married, had a second kid, and live in our current home. It is also the reason Marc has thrown up his hands in frustration much of our life together. Marc likes to think about things, write lists, and research before making a decision, all which have made him a successful business owner. Me not so much. When I make up my mind about something it’s not an “if” it’s a “when”.So, when Dylan was just over a year old, I decided it was time to shoot for a second baby. I was hung up on that whole "two years apart is the ideal sibling age difference" theory. Good thing I got us going because unlike Dylan, this was not a one and done deal. It was more like five months and done.

“Marc, we cannot raise two toddlers in this house”, I adamantly declared two months into my pregnancy, “It isn’t kid friendly and I think we need to consider looking for something smaller and flatter,” (now with two teenagers I regret those words). Our house was a spacious tri level on a hillside lot. The backyard was two stories down from the main floor as were what we planned as the kid’s bedrooms. Nope. Not gonna work for this mom.

Tired much? Maybe giving birth and moving into a new house in the same week was a little TOO ambitious. (2003).

“Sherri, let’s think about this,” Marc was using his calm voice, the one he uses when he is trying to slow me down. “We have only lived here two years, we will lose money if we sell now so let's talk more about it when I return from my business trip next week ok?” Needless to say, we ended up talking about the FOR SALE sign he found displayed in our yard upon his return. Oops, were we going to talk about that first?

So when did it all change? When did I go from a get it done do-er to a risk avoidant, rigid, compulsive, perfectionist? And more importantly why?

  • sherrisacconaghi

My oldest son is graduating from high school today and I sit here, my body achy from the mix of emotions that have been tumbling around inside of me the past few months. Emotions that in the past I would have run from, literally, running miles until my joints hurt and my mind went numb.

But today, as hard as it is, I am sitting and feeling it all. I feel so proud of him for accomplishing this milestone, it hasn’t been an easy journey for him. I feel excited to see what he does in the next chapter of his life, but I also feel a desperate desire to turn back time for a great big F*&%ing do over. Although I have come to accept that anorexia served a purpose for me for many years ( many blogs to come about that) It also took things from me, it kept my brain so occupied with maintaining my addiction preoccupation with foodand I can’t help asking myself, “was I there for Dylan?” I don’t mean physically present, I mean emotionally. Was I his safe place as he learned to navigate his world or was I too pre-occupied with food, and exercise and my rigid schedule to really be there? Was I a good mom?”

“You did the best you could at the time Sherri, that’s all any of us can do,” my therapist Kirsten, a mom of a teenaged boy herself, said over and over again during our sessions, “and you have so many years ahead to be his mom, a healthy mom. You aren’t done yet.”

But still.

When I made the decision to quit my job and stay home with Dylan, I was all in. Just making the decision calmed my brain and my nervous system. I loved being home with him. Not only was he an easy, happy kid, he also had three sets of grandparents and one great grandma who were waiting at the ready to spend time with him. Seven adults and one toddler. Yep, his life was pretty good. And so was mine.

The biggest adjustment was the pace of my day. Being at home with one kid who was napping twice a day was quite different than my job, where crisis management was the daily motto. Between reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, watching The Wiggles (toot toot chug chug), and outings to the park, the hours went by S-L-O-W. And of course, me being me, I passed the down time with two things. Food, and exercise. Oh and Dr. Phil, ok three things.

I used to politely nod to women who would stop me as Dylan and I were in the grocery store, me sweating and cursing while trying to grab bananas as Dylan wailed loudly while trying to climb out of the cart. “Enjoy this time dear, long days and short years.” Um thanks lady, can you toss me that bag of grapes.

But I loved it. Then life got messy and complicated and as a result,Dylan has grown up with a mom whom, for a majority of his childhood, had anorexia. It has had an impact on him and our relationship. But today, his graduation day, instead of wallowing in the “I wish I would have’s” and the, “was I enough’s, “I will celebrate the amazing kid he is and man he is becoming, and consider the possibility that the best I could was good enough. And I’m not done yet.

It's been a road for Dylan and I, but I'm happy to say we have come out the other side closer than ever.

Did he know something we didn't? Dylan is headed to the U of O in the fall. Go Ducks!

  • sherrisacconaghi

I don’t like to sit still. At all. I have gotten better over the past couple of years and I can now comfortably sit through a long meal with friends, a Blazers game and even an evening binge watching the Game of Thrones. But man, the past ten years my body has seen a lot of standing, pacing, running, jumping, anything but sitting.

“Why do you think have a hard time sitting and resting?" My therapist, Kirsten asked during one of our first sessions, as I sat, legs crossed, my foot kicking in a nervous, rhythmic fashion.

“It makes me feel uncomfortable,” I answered without hesitation. Movement had long become more than a calorie burning thing.

“Physically?” Kirsten inquired, giving me a knowing look, “or emotionally?” Yes and YES!discomfort with inactivity.

Sitting still wasn’t a problem for me seventeen years ago, not that I had much time for it. I had returned to work, about twenty pounds away from my precious Gianni’s (fifteen if you count the giant safety pin I eventually used as a fastener), and I was trying to figure out life as a working mom. Marc was traveling more as his insurance book was growing which left me feeling frazzled and overwhelmed most of the time. Although I had little time for exercise, I managed to do something every day, mostly walking. I quickly got back into the routine of daily hill hikes with my coworkers at lunch hour, and then again in the evening, taking Dylan out for a walk in the jogger to the Jamba Juice by our house. It was not exactly strenuous exercise, in fact in later years I would not consider walking "real" exercise at all, but at that time, as long as I was doing some sort of purposeful movement, I counted it towards calories out and I needed to burn those calories. Something had been weighing on me for the past eight months since returning to work, and when something was bothering me, it was food I turned to to deal with it, or more accurately, NOT deal with it. Most evenings I found myself eating past the point of being comfortably full. One too many slices of Hawaiian pizza or helpings of pesto pasta, just enough to numb the guilt, and assuage the sadness.

A month after the career decision was made. No doubt I made the right choice. (July 2002)

You see, I liked my job as the Human Resources Director at The Christie School, I had worked hard, and I felt like I was making a difference for the employees, and ultimately the kids we served, ( and I loved the paycheck). But, I adored Dylan and dropping him off at childcare for eight hours a day was taking a toll and I was pretty sure crying every morning at drop off was not exactly a sign of emotional stability. I wanted so badly to be with him but being a stay at home mom wasn’t high on my bucket list. So instead of making a decision either way, I talked incessantly about the pros and cons of each, to my mom, to Marc, to my friends, and to the checker at Thriftway. And I ate, sometimes mindlessly, sometimes purposefully, waiting for an epiphany, a sign, anything that would give me the right answer. I was years away from realizing, if I would listen to my gut rather than trying to silence it, the answers were usually staring me right in the face.


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