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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I couldn’t bring myself to go in. Not yet. Instead, I sat on the cement bench, staring at the thirteen-story building across the street—the sun causing its shadow to loom over me, like a character in a sci-fi movie. Surrounding me was the hustle and bustle of busy downtown Portland. Business people speaking loudly into Bluetooth devices, disheveled college students guzzling Starbucks, and an array of homeless, pushing their grocery carts of worldly possessions. I was grateful for the distraction.

Even now, when I walk by this building, I can’t help but remember that first day. (Portland Terminal Building).

Before ending our conversation, Kelly had given me the name of a therapist in town who was conducting a body image group. I suspect after peppering her with a barrage of excuses of why inpatient was not an option for me, she felt she needed to throw me a lifeline. I am the mom of two boys I told her. They just lost two grandparents, I explained. I am the sole driver in our very busy family, I pleaded. All true, yet even to myself, I sounded like a fifth-grader explaining to my teacher why I was late. But it rescued me from more inpatient talk, and I was relieved.

I called Kirsten; the therapist Kelly had referred me to, the minute I returned home from the hot car conversation, still reeling from the shock of what I felt was Kelly’s refusal to work with me. I was afraid if I waited, I would lose my nerve and allow my anorexic brain to convince me I didn’t need help. But as I made the call, I was more cautious. Kelly’s extreme response to my reach out for help made me feel more guarded about the facts of my situation. 

“Well actually, the body image group is full,” Kirsten said to after I explained why I was calling. I felt my heart sink, leaving me feeling instantly hopeless. Afraid now that I was finally reaching out for help, no one would be willing to help me.

 “Tell me a little bit about why you are interested in such a group.” she continued, her voice relaying a genuine interest. Something about Kirsten, this unknown woman, made me want to spill my guts, releasing the secrets and lies I had been carrying around inside for so many years.

But, I held back, giving Kirsten my well-rehearsed watered-down story. When I finished, I stopped and waited for the questions about my, weight, exercise and food intake that I was so sure she would ask. But she didn’t.

“I am starting a new group,” she said with a hint of contemplation in her voice, “ it’s not a body image group, but I think you might be a fit.”

Leaving them was just not something I was willing to consider. (2016)

“That would be great,” I said enthusiastically, forgetting to ask questions about what she was thinking. My hopes were soaring again with the idea that maybe she could help me. 

“ I would like to meet with you first to make sure this would be a fit,” Kirsten said, “ Would you be willing to do that?” 

I eagerly agreed to meet her the following week. I was ready to grasp at anything that might help me fix my situation. But when the appointment came, and I found myself sitting on that busy street, in front of her office, I couldn’t bring myself to move. 

I felt anything but ready.

  • sherrisacconaghi

“Mom, I can’t believe I forgot to tell you,” my son said to me a few days ago. He startled me, as just moments earlier he was planted firmly at the counter engrossed in some podcast he was watching on his phone.

“Tell me what?” I asked casually, continuing my despised task of unloading the dishwasher. I’ve learned when either boy is willing to share a tidbit what goes on in their strange, cryptic teenaged lives, I will get more info if I don’t appear too eager.

“This woman came into the store today,” he continued, referring to his summer gig at a local grocery, “Oh my God, she was so anorexic.” 

“What do you mean?” I asked, immediately stopping my chore and turning to look at him.

“I mean, Mom, it was so hard to look at her. SO hard,” his voice getting louder as it does when he wants me to pay attention to what he is saying.

“That is so sad,” I said quietly, feeling instant compassion for this unknown woman. 

“No, you don’t’ get it,” he said, “it was so gross.”

“Hey bud,” I said, making sure I had his attention, “I do get it. You know that is how some people felt when they looked at me?”

He was quiet, his brow furrowed and I could tell he was thinking about my words.

“Oh, I guess that’s true,” he muttered before popping his ear pods back in, a signal our conversation was over.

Perhaps their memories have faded. (2014)

Perhaps, over the past couple of years, as I have recovered and life has normalized, their memories of having an anorexic mom have faded. Maybe my kids have forgotten how I used to look.  

I have never forgotten.

When I had reached out to therapist Kelly for help that hot July day in 2016, I was no different than the woman my son described. I dreamed of being able to walk through a grocery store in a sleeveless tank on a hot summer day instead of bundled in long sleeves to cover my bony arms . I would have given anything to slip unnoticed through the aisles, leisurely picking through produce and comparing prices.  Without the heavy feeling of judgment weighing down upon me, causing me to scurry in and out of the store as if I was executing a grand plan of shoplifting bananas. I told myself I would do anything Kelly suggested so I would not look “gross” to those around me.

 Well I’d do almost anything.

I will never forget. (2014)

"I would encourage you to check yourself into an inpatient program.”Kelly said to me after our brief phone consultation.

“Wait? What?” I stammered, her words drowned out by the static in my head that sounded like our old family television when it lost its signal. I was shocked at her words as I hadn’t even told her the whole truth.

“From what you have told me, I believe your situation is too severe. I cannot help you,”Kelly stated, her voice calm yet firm. " I can give you a referral to a very good program in town."

I began to panic, the car shrinking around me, making me feel like I was trapped in a hot metal box. My mind was rushing with anything I could say that would change her quick diagnosis. I needed her understand she had mis read our conversation. I was not THAT bad. I wanted her to tell me she was wrong. That she could help me.

But mostly, I needed her to stay on the line because I was afraid if she hung up, that would end the only call for help I would ever make.

  • sherrisacconaghi

I felt sweat dribble down my back when I answered the call. I'd had the number tucked away, deep in my wallet for two years. I don't know why I pulled it out and left a message that day but I didn't have much time to think about it as here she was calling me back.

I was sitting in my car in front of my sister's house, about to spend the afternoon with my niece when I saw the number pop up. I ignored my immediate urge to let it go to voicemail and forced my hand to answer the phone. The air in the car suddenly felt heavy, and I was having trouble catching my breath. 

"Why don't' you start by telling me a little about your situation,” Kelly, an eating disorders therapist, began after we exchanged greetings.

"Well, I think I might have some food and body issues," I said vaguely.  My heart was pounding with the reality that for the first time, sitting in that hot, stuffy car, I might out the secret that I had kept shoved deep inside for over a decade.

"Okay, tell me a little more about that," she prodded gently. 

"I'm thin. " I blurted out, taking a deep breath to calm my shaking body, slowing the rush of adrenaline roaring through me like an angry river. 

“Okay, well, let’ start with the basics,” Kelly said seemingly un phased. “How tall are you?

"I'm about five-eight," I answered, forcing a casualness I did not feel.

“How much do you weigh?” She continued, unaware the impact of those five words were having on me.

Although I had braced for it, and promised myself I’d be truthful, hearing the question out loud shattered my bravado. I wanted to skitter into my dark, safe corner of denial.

"I'm not sure how much I weigh," I lied before giving a number slightly higher than my scale read just hours earlier.

There was a pause as if she were jotting something down.“Do you exercise?” She asked cautiously. 

"Yes," I said, and rattled off the same rehearsed spiel I've given my doctors over the years, "I mostly play tennis, but I throw in other things like boot camp, weight training, and cycling, you know, when I have time." Hoping that would answer her question and she would let it go at that.

She didn't. 

Just a week before the phone call, my family was unaware of the internal struggle raging inside of me. ( 2016)

"How many hours a week would you say you exercise? "Kelly persisted.

"Well, it varies," I stalled, doing the math in my head and giving her half the actual total. A number that I hoped relayed that I was active but not obsessive.

"That is quite a bit," she said, concern creeping into her voice." And what about food?" She continued, "about how many calories a day would you say you are eating?"

Like the others, I anticipated this question. I answered with a calorie count that I believed sounded reasonable yet nowhere near the truth. 

 She was silent for several seconds, although it seemed more like minutes. My shirt was sticking to my body from the hot summer sun streaming through the car window. I was exhausted from revealing more to Kelly than I had to anyone outside my journal. I sat there torn between hoping she would say she could help, and saying I was perfectly fine. 

When she finally did speak, an icy shiver went down my spine.


Thanks for your interest in Skinny: The Truth Behind The Lies OF An Anorexic Mom. I'd love to connect with you so feel free to get in touch and I will get back to you soon!

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