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

She was so composed, calm, strong. Her story so unbelievable, it was as if she were reading from a book rather than relaying her own experience, only the tears threatening to spill over onto her cheeks giving away her pain. The church basement, had yet to warm up, but it was not the cold that left me chilled. The room was so quiet I feared my own thoughts could be heard by others as they shouted through my head.

Thank God that isn't me.

I began going to Al-anon when my kids were young, just eight and ten years old. My discomfort over my husband's drinking had me feeling crazy and out of control. My life felt unmanageable. After a birthday celebration gone south had left me sobbing secretly (or so I thought) on the bathroom floor, I knew I had to seek help, if not for myself, then for my kids. Finally, taking my therapist's advice, I found an Al-anon meeting. It changed my life.

I love rules and structure so I thought this would be easy.

In Al-anon, I had the opportunity to hear from other men and women whose relationships were affected by their loved one’s drinking. Their stories served as a light switch, shedding light on the dark corners of my life, allowing me to see my situation more clearly. It was in those circles I realized I was not crazy, and I was not alone. Over time, as I practice the principles of Alanon, I learned to set boundaries for myself, and find compassion for my husband. Learning to let go of his struggles allowed me to find the space to finally deal with my own. It took a few years but I felt had the Alanon program nailed.

For a while anyway.

But listening to her story that night, a familiar feeling was poking at me, like an annoying sibling trying to shake me from a deep sleep from which I did not care to wake. Twisting the damp kleenex balled up in my hand, I listened to how substance use had taken from her the boy that she once knew. Her son, just two years older than my sixteen-year-old, went from a sweet, active kid who excelled in school and sports, to slowly over time, becoming unrecognizable. Her once vibrant boy now went through his days sleepy, unmotivated, and belligerent. Her life that was once filled with family meals, team mom duties, chaperoning school dances, and carpools now left her struggling to find balance in a world riddled with calls from school attendance, concerns over missed team practices, and hiding her wallet and valuables. The "I love you mom," as he breezed out the front door was replaced with barely a grunt as he snuck out the back. Nights spent restlessly hoping he would get home safely, if at all. His behavior eventually escalating to a point where trying to manage the drug-fueled stealing and verbal abuse created a strain on her marriage. She found herself desperately trying to set boundaries that would allow her to feel safe physically and emotionally in her own home.

There is a difference between rules and boundaries. When it comes to the people I love, finding the balance is a continuous work in progress. (2017)

She spoke from a place strength yet extreme heartbreak that I felt resonate throughout my chest. Her story honest and raw, serving as a light illuminating my darkest fear, allowing me to see my story more clearly.

  • sherrisacconaghi

“Sherri, you are overreacting,” my husband Marc said to me one day as I was Googling signs of drug use on my laptop. Our son, D, had started sleeping a lot and I was concerned.

“My mom gut is talking to me,” I said distractedly,” he looks pale, and he is sleeping so much.”

“Listen,” Marc replied, “you are jumping to a conclusion, he’s a teenager, and teenagers sleep. He hasn’t given us any reason to suspect him of drug use, for goodness sake.”

Sleepy, moody, and distant can describe almost any teen at some point, and for months I convinced myself that D was going through the typical phases of adolescence. I wanted to believe everything was fine. There were signs, but Marc and I did not see eye to eye when it came to substance-related things. Whereas I, having been raised in an alcoholic home, was very sensitive to suspected substance use, Marc, not so much. The subject had been the instigator of significant bumps in our marriage over the years. However, I was hopeful the concerns of substance use would never rear its head regarding our kids.

When they were younger it was my job to protect them from experiencing the dangers in the world. And now, as they grow older, it is my job to stand beside them as they do. Hardest lesson I’m still learning. (2017).

Overall, D didn’t display the warning signs found in my online searches. His grades were near perfect, he held a starting position on the varsity lacrosse team, and after a rough freshman year struggling to find a peer group, he had found a small, tight group of friends. Maybe I was overreacting.

Or perhaps not.

Like smoke from under a bedroom door, one of my greatest fears was wafting slowly into my consciousness, making me feel edgy, restless, and uncomfortable. My mind told me to ignore my concerns about D, to numb my fear with a long workout, and find control in self restriction. But my body was telling me in no uncertain terms, that something was wrong, and it wasn’t going to let up until I paid attention.

  • sherrisacconaghi

When I was a kid, the Barbie doll had a little sister named Skipper. The Skipper doll's notable thing was that she grew breasts with a twist of her arm, going from a flat-chested child to a curvy teen, just like that.

I gave up on my boobs long ago. Between breastfeeding two kids, a lumpectomy, and extreme weight loss, they were saggy lopsided, and tiny, and no arm twisting was going to fix that, which was fine by me. My small breasts fit my desired body just fine. I loved how they didn't get in my way on long runs or tennis matches. I appreciated not having to wear a bra with straps that slipped and bands that pinched, and most of all, having tiny breasts allowed me to feel my jutting breast bone, serving as my physical scale, reassuring me I was still thin.

"You have hit your all-time high,” my dietician, Gretchen announced enthusiastically about nine months into our sessions, forgetting her usual stoic weigh in demeanor. Her face was glowing as if she were my mom, and I had just scored my first soccer goal. "I knew you would do it."

All-time high. The words that would make any anorexic strap on a pair of Adidas and run for the hills. Words that would have scared the shit out of me if I had not already suspected I had gained notable weight. My hand instinctively pressed against my chest, feeling for the reassurance of my breastbone as I plopped down on the green velvet chair.

She sat down across from me, still beaming with pride, watching for my reaction. I did my best to smile like it was no big deal. Although I was shaken by Gretchen's confirmation, the control freak in me was pleased she had cracked and shared the usually secret weight report. I was afraid that if I showed my lack of enthusiasm at the news, she might never again share my weight progression.

"What did you do differently?" She asked, settling back, placing her clipboard in her lap, ready to take notes.

"I got over myself," I told her with a huff, venting frustration that had been building at my inability to get out of my own way, slowing the whole recovery process.

Eat more and move less. No one was going to make me do it. I had to do it. (2017)

After weeks of sitting in a plateau, I sat myself down and gave myself a much-needed talk. Despite the depiction of every TV special on the subject, no one was going to force me to recover. I would not be locked up and spoon-fed mashed potatoes until I came out plump and glowing. Nope, only I could do that. I was aware I was nowhere near weight restored. I also knew I was not a quitter and that I would be disappointed with myself if I stopped treatment before I was ready. And like my therapist Kirsten had boldly suggested, I could always lose the extra weight. So I pulled up my big girl pants, doubled down on Ben and Jerry's, and backed off on the extra exercise that had crept back into my life over the past year.

I didn’t know exactly how much I had gained to reach this "all-time high,” but with every bite of chocolate mint cookie, I was preparing myself for my stomach to expand and pouch uncomfortably against my waist band. I was caught off guard when the weight stealthily bypassed my stomach area, and headed straight for my chest, making me uncomfortably aware of my ever growing breasts. Rationally I knew the change in my chest was imperceptible to others, but to me, I felt like Dolly Parton in a push-up bra. Over the years, other than a flat stomach, my tiny boobs were the one dependable body part I had to assure me that I was thin. I relied them and their consistent non-existence to help me feel unencumbered by the weight of my own body.


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