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 was starving. With the bright warm sun breaking through the grey spring clouds, the four of us didn't want to get off the tennis court. I knew I was pushing it. As it was, I would have to forgo a shower if I was going to get across town in time for my scheduled COVID vaccine time slot. Not a chance in hell I was going to miss that. But, thinking I had timed my day perfectly allowing for a quick lunch, I hadn't packed any snacks. The rumbling of my stomach distracting me from my serve. My energy starting wane as I let balls pass that usually, I would go for like a pit bull after a squirrel. I needed to eat.

As I tossed my gear in the car and hopped in, I decided to make a quick stop at Starbucks to grab a chicken chipotle protein box, one of my favorite grab-and-go's. But as I headed down the hill, I started to talk myself out of it. My anorexic brain, tranquil as of late, took advantage of my famished state and decided to come out to play.

AB. You do not need to spend $7.95 on that, Sherri. You really should have planned.

SB. But it's on the way, and I certainly can afford a sandwich.

AB. But it comes with carrots and apples, and you just bought some at the store. It's a waste of money.

SB. I know but I don’t do it often. And I have a gift card.

SB. You can stop at home. You have food there.

By the time I finished arguing with myself, Starbucks was in my rearview mirror and I had resigned to taking an extra five minutes to run home and grab something as skipping food was NOT an option. I sped through town, cursing the older woman in the car in front of me for driving the speed limit. When I got home, I raced in the house and towards the fridge. In grabbing for the deli turkey, I knocked a carton of blueberries off the shelf, scattering them across the kitchen floor. Fuck it, I thought as I stepped over them, searching for the bread and finding the bag empty, proceeding to yell at my son for eating the last of it. I grabbed some crackers and my purse and headed out the door for my appointment only to discover, a half a mile later, I had left my phone sitting on the counter.

But I saved myself $7.95.

I knew better. I had been over this time and time again during my years in treatment. Anorexia is not about food. Although a hot mess, I felt a familiar pleasure for skipping that Starbucks, and that feeling caught my attention. It was telling me something.

Recovery from anorexia can be like that. It's like playing Whack A Mole. When I think I have nailed one trait of the disease, another pops up.

Food. Whack.

Exercise. Whack

Connection. Wack

Flexibility. Whack

Money. Whack.

Self Care. Whack, whack, whack.

I have to be aware and recognize when old patterns start to creep in. In this case, the entangled relationship I have with money and self care. I have a tendency to control one to withhold the other. I automatically buy imported German water for Marc and grab a pack of La Croix for myself. I go out of my way to purchase small-batch organic hair products for my kids and settle on the Costco special for myself. I chose to get the regular pedicure while my husband, sitting right next to me, deservedly chooses the Delux. And recently, I did not think twice about taking my son D, on a shopping spree to Nordstrom, paying never mind to the overpriced tag because the clothes looked so great on him, while I shifted uncomfortably in my thread worn leggings from the local consignment shop.

Sometimes it takes writing things down to see the faulty thinking. So yep, this week I got the deluxe. It’s not a Mercedes but I’ll get there.

“Mom you should get a convertible,” D said to me on the way home from our shopping spree. I was retracting the sunroof on the car while slyly (I thought) eyeing the sleek, red Mercedes with the top down passing us on the left.

“I have a nice car," I said rolling my eyes in a kids these days kind of way, “why do I need a Mercedes?"

“Because you deserve to have nice things,”he said matter of factly before turning the music back up to signal conversation over.

Thanks for the reminder Buddy, but how about we stop at Starbucks first.

  • sherrisacconaghi

Oh, I love those,” I said to my friend Heather. We were browsing at a little sportswear shop, and I had glanced up to see her holding a pair of jeans she had pulled off the rack. “ You should try those on.”

“Let’s both try on a pair,” she said breezily. Already that day, we had been caught up in the shopping spirit, encouraging each other to buy stuff. Being two years into treatment, I had gained enough weight I could once again find clothes off the rack that fit. In hand so far I had two tennis skirts and a tank top. I was enjoying every minute of it.

“Are there two pairs in our size?” I asked, feeling a little like a giddy teenager at the mall with her bestie.

“There is only one size A, “ She said, thumbing through the rack, “But there is one size B so we can try both on and see what fits.”

Heather and I are both similar in stature. Tall and thin. We are so similar; acquaintances in our tennis world often think we are sisters, some even getting us confused for one another. I just assumed we would need the same size.

Heather headed into a dressing room to try on size A, and I went into the adjacent room with B, the next size up. But as I closed the door behind me, I felt a nervous tension start to scratch at my edges. My body was pushing adrenaline through my limbs like before a tennis match. With a click of the door latch, a fun shopping outing with my friend started to feel more like a competition. With her naturally thin frame and healthy body image, it was a game Heather had no idea we were playing.

“They are a perfect fit,” Heather said me through the dressing room wall, utterly unaware of the anxiety that was creeping up the walls of my own. Standing before the three way mirror my heart quickened as I slide the jeans up over my thighs, the material needing a tiny tug to get up over my hips. My hands were sweating as I slowly slid the zipper upwards, feeling the pants pull more snugly around my body.

A perfect fit.

We both bought them, and on more than one occasion, this has happened.

As the button slid through the top hole at the waist, the dressing room transformed into a time machine, taking me back through moments in my life I had fought so hard to escape. A stop in high school reminding me I would never physically match up to my tennis rival, Tiffany; her tiny waist and her long, tan legs making me very aware of every dimply and jiggle in my own. A visit to my twenties, where my co-worker Tara’s slender athletic build and perfectly tones arms made me feel frumpy and doughy standing next to her. Finally, whizzing by my thirties, and the perky mom at the playschool, dropping her kids wearing fitted sundresses and short shorts while I hide my extra baby weight under my signature attire: black sweatpants and a grey sweatshirt.

I had spent my forties striving to outrun that feeling. I was steadfast in the discipline necessary to whittle my body down to the toned, athletic physique I envied for so may years. I was determined to never again feel like;

The plump Megan to the willowy Annie .

The frumpy Tai to the glamorous Cher.

The dowdy Velma to the curvaceous Daphne.

I lost my way of course, the unmanaged stress and anxiety causing me to overshoot my goal, taking me from fit, energetic, and healthy to skeletal and sick.

Standing in front of that mirror, washed in bad lighting, I felt frustrated and confused. I thought I was nailing recovery. After years of being unable to wear adult sized clothing, I should have been giddy at the prospect that any pair jeans would fit me straight from the rack. I no longer found comfort in clothes hanging loosely on my body, and I had outgrown the notion that the size of my pants dictated the quality of my person.

But what I still desired was the calming reassurance of knowing I would always be the skinniest one in the room.

Heather’s friendship, support and razor- sharp sense of direction has helped keep me on the right more ways than one. (2021)

  • sherrisacconaghi

I wrote this during my time in treatment. It was at my dietician, Gretchen’s suggestion as I was struggling to let go, fearing what might happen if I completely severed ties with the skinny, over controlled person I had identified with for so long. I pull it out from time to time, when I feel myself slipping, as a reminder that although it would be so easy to run back to the behaviors that numb the hard stuff, I do not need them anymore. It helps me remember that anorexia is like a magnet, and will pull me in if I get too close.

Never in my wildest imagination thought I would share this. But then I remind myself why I started this blog. If this letter helps me, perhaps it might help someone else, regardless of their struggle. It is worth it to me.

Even with so much good stuff in front of me, sometimes it is still tempting to look back. (Phoenix, AZ July, 2018).

September 14, 2018

Dear Skinny Me-

I miss you! I am feeling lost and scared without you. I want to see you sometimes, but I know we can never see each other again.

That being said, I want to thank you for everything you have done for me. I don’t know if I would have gotten through the difficult times in my life without you. The way you swooped in after I had cancer and protected me from my husband’s drinking and the secrets and lies surrounding it. When I felt out of control, you took control. You brought me relief from stress, gave me purpose when I felt empty, and you made me feel special when I felt like I was slipping through the cracks of life.

With you, I felt strong and in control. I felt like I had my shit together. At least I thought we had people believing that. We were a good team. Like some relationships, what starts helpful can become harmful, and that is what happened to us. The control and coping that you gave to me began to take their toll on me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I allowed you to isolate me and keep me from connecting with others to keep our relationship secret. But I was lonely. I looked different, people staring at me with pity or curiosity like a circus sideshow.

Two years ago, when we started to part ways, I was so scared to let you go. Afraid of what life would be like without you. I have let you go little by little, sometimes asking you to come back.

When D started spiraling down a dark hole, I didn’t understand, I needed you to run with, to take control, but I resisted. The dark, cold holidays without my mom, I desperately wanted you to numb the pain by forcing me to work my body until I felt nothing but exhaustion. But I didn’t.

Complete with stationery from when I was a child. I needed to connect with who I am at heart.

I love you for all you have done for me, I will never forget you, but it is time for me to do this without you. I have other things to help me now; breathing, yoga, connection to others, and body and mind strength. I have found compassion for myself. I will lean on these as I move forwards.

So goodbye Skinny Me. I will miss you so much. I love you.

Love, Healthy Me


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