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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This is a serious topic you are writing about,  Polly’s comments, bold and red stared back at me from the page, lines slashed through various parts of the Word document, don’t try and be too funny, it’s distracting.

I had shown Polly the draft of my first Skinny-Truth blog post before I published it fifteen months ago.  Not only is she one of one of my closest friends but she is also an accomplished writer and author and I wanted her opinion before I spilled my guts to the virtual world.

Her comment caused a bubble of self-doubt to float around my brain. I wasn’t sure I could write anything worth reading without the sarcastic barbs and witty puns I scattered through so much of my writing.

But that’s my thing, being funny, I wrote back to Polly, trying to defend what I believed to be my creative talent. 

Just don’t hide behind it, she responded immediately.

I saw her point. Writing about my experience with anorexia, a disease I spent so many years trying to hide, without the protection of a well-placed joke or sarcastic barb, felt like walking down a crowded beach butt naked. I wasn’t sure I had the balls to do it. 

I have always enjoyed making people laugh, and it gives me joy to put a smile on someone’s face. However, over the years, as my struggle with anorexia progressed, my sense of humor became more than getting a satisfied chuckle from family and friends. It became a coping mechanism, a way to get through those painful, confusing, lonely years of living with an illness. The sicker I became the more unleashed I became with my humor.

Not much of a football rivalry when one team knows how to win and the other one....well, has baseball I guess.

Being funny was the way I connected to others. The further I isolated myself, the more I relied on my sense of humor, especially in regards to my life of a wife and mom. It was my way of saying, "I know I look different, but I am just like you." For this reason, I loved social media and posting universally funny things. Stuff I suspected might resonate with others. Food containers put back in the fridge with one bite left, empty toilet paper rolls sitting on the holder for weeks, and pretty much anything to do with my Oregon Ducks kicking the crap out of my husband’s OSU Beavers. The three men in my life have given me a lot of good material over the years.

But humor was more than just connection, it served as my protection too. If my friends and acquaintances thought I was funny, maybe they wouldn’t notice my body or disordered patterns. Perhaps my absence at neighborhood events ( wine at three in the afternoon, no thank you) or my kid’s team celebrations ( ugh, a pizza buffet for lunch, gross) would be excused, and my lighthearted humorous persona would override any concerning differences in my behavior.

Most profoundly, however, being funny was how I kept family and good friends at an emotional distance. If I could keep the mood light over a night out with the girls, perhaps I would not have to hear about their concerns over my dwindling weight. If I could distract at family get-togethers with witty stories of my kids’ shenanigans, then maybe I could prevent the comments about the lack of meat on my plate that so often would cause the heat of embarrassment to spread cross my face and leave me wishing they would all go home.

Maybe if I were funny enough I could convince everyone I was fine.

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“I like that painting, I never noticed it before,” I said to my dietician Gretchen, as I walked into her office for my weekly session. It was a sizeable striking abstract of golds and dark reds that hung above the chair in which I had been sitting for the past year.

“Oh, sweetie, I’ve been waiting for you to say something like that,” Gretchen said, smiling widely and giving me a radiant look, “this is a great sign.” 

I stared back at her, confused. Gretchen, a creative and confident woman, never struck me as one to seek compliments, but I figured she must be very proud of the painting.

It turns out Gretchen wasn’t proud of the artwork; she was proud of me.

A zoo animal. That is what living with anorexia felt like for me, pacing, and watching from my self imposed cage, as people milled about living their lives, seemingly carefree from the rigid rules and rituals in which I felt so burdened. Freedom that allowed them to do the things I could only dream about; enjoying happy hour cocktails with friends, eating pizza while watching college football or enjoying an ice cream sundae in the middle of a hot summer day. In turn, I felt these people staring back at me, the frantic woman in her skeletal frame, always moving as if in a rush, drinking soda water and eating carrot sticks while her family lounged by the pool, enjoyed homemade pasta, and ate pie for breakfast. That poor woman, those poor kids, such a shame.

 I felt isolated, different, a freak.  

I never paid much mind back then that others might be struggling, and that those seemingly happy carefree people, eating, lounging and laughing might be dealing with their own stuff.  Perhaps struggling with health issues, financial worries, or personal secrets they too were trying to hide. And maybe they were so insecure about their own bodies, they didn’t notice mine at all.  

I learned through recovery that anorexia is like that.  An abusive partner, my eating disorder made sure it was my main focus taking all of my time and attention.  Managing it, feeding it, and above all else, protecting it from being discovered as a genuinely manipulative force, left me with very little bandwidth to concern myself with anyone or anything else. So consumed with controlling my illness, I isolated myself and missing the essential things in the lives of the people I care about, their struggles, their milestones, their achievements, or even their favorite piece of artwork.

A big achievement that did not go unnoticed. In 2015, Marc was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, and my amazing friends, (Victoria, Joyce and Mary) were by my side to celebrate. At the time of this photo, they were unaware of my struggle, they just accepted me, as me.

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I went straight into treatment after the candy dish incident. 


However, after the initial shock of the incident wore off, it took a stronghold on me, and I could not shake it. My father in law’s words followed me around like an unwanted shadow. They were with me as I showered in the mornings, bringing extra attention to my concave stomach and jutting hipbones. I heard them as I got dressed each day, reminding me to cover my arms, and hide the veins that protruded through my skin. His voice echoed as I obsessively checked my refelction in the mirror, and tried to convince myself that the body Neil saw was not the body everyone else saw. Do I look like walking death? Skeletal? The possibility buzzed around my psyche, but I would bat it away like an annoying fruit fly as I was not ready to face what Neil being right might mean.   

My parents 50th wedding anniversary party. Before hand my mom said, "you look pretty today Sher, you don’t look....sick.” (With my sister, above, celebrating my parents, below)

“Do not ever leave me alone with him. Ever!” I shouted at my husband. We often spent time with both of our parents for family get-togethers, and I wanted to make sure I was perfectly clear that in no way was I going to put myself through that again. 

My husband pursed his lips as if he had just eaten something sour and blinked slowly at me. I could sense he was trying to find the balance between supporting the woman he loved without hurting the man he idolized, hoping my anger would pass like a thunderstorm in the tropics. I was pissed that he was not as outraged as I over the whole incident but not surprised. My husband avoided conflict like it was a colonoscopy. Over the eighteen years we had been together, our disagreements often comprised of me yelling, Marc shutting down, and both of us ignoring each other for the rest of the day. 

Without feeling my husband’s support, I turned to my friend Lori as an ally in my self imposed war with my father in law.

“WTF?" I vented as I explained the saga to her during one of our weekly walk and talk’s where we would solve life’s problems amongst the tree lined paths in our neighborhood , “who does he think he is?”

“Well, Sher, “ Lori said in a gentle voice, “ do you think he may have a point? You are so thin.” 

Lori had danced around the subject of my weight several times over the years. Friends since college, we had been through a lot together and she knew I could be touchy when faced with feedback of a personal nature.   I imagine she never pushed too hard, for fear it would fracture our friendship. 

Friends since college, we (with Lori, Megan and Polly) refer to ourselves as the “Core Four.” I put these ladies through the wringer. (2015)

“I cannot believe you are taking his side,” I said, picking up my pace, trying to hide the hurt in my voice. I wanted Lori to tell me he was an ass, out of line, and wrong. I wanted to spend the hour talking about how I was okay, and he was the one with the problem.   

I was desperate for someone to agree with me. I found myself alone in my anger. I was fighting not only Neil’s words but against something else, a feeling that was pushing at my edges trying to gain access to my conscious brain.

When I allowed it to get too close it caused me so much pain it took my breath away.


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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