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 love you, AND I love me.

That was my thought as I sat on my front porch. My feet were propped up on a footstool, a glass of chilled chardonnay sweating on the table next to me. My secret oasis, hidden from view by blooming camellias, fragrant rose bushes, and shaded by a mature maple tree, giving me privacy while allowing me a perfect view of the happenings on the street down below. I picked up my glass and took a sip; the cool liquid flowed through my body, allowing my shoulder muscles to loosen and my thoughts to slow down as I began to find comfort in the lack of noise.

I had forgotten what silence sounded like.

I have traveled to many beautiful places in this world, but this is where I find my balance. (My front porch).

I had been in a war, fighting battle after battle. Constantly wary of where to step for fear one wrong move would cause an explosion.

Every day for the past year, had included some altercation with my son while each evening seemed to end with silent tension after arguments with my husband. But as I sat there in the quiet safety of my front porch, I realized the biggest fight I had waged was with myself.

For too long, I allowed myself to feel scared in my own home. The unpredictability of D's behavior made me feel, at times, like I was physically in danger. My husband's tendency to minimize D's behavior while suggesting my actions "caused" the outburst made me feel emotionally attacked and alone. Every day my body braced for another fight, my shoulders constantly tense, and my stomach clenched in wary anticipation. I knew I was living in an unhealthy situation. It was clear that D needed more help than I could provide for him. I understood that Marc was suffering too and that he and I were worlds apart on how to manage our family. I was living a life that was unsustainable for even the healthiest person, let alone someone trying desperately to recover from a life-threatening eating disorder.

This caught my attention during that dark year. I hung onto it as a reminder that, despite the consequences, I was doing my job.

"If you send him to treatment, he may resent you for a long time, "my therapist Kirsten said to me repeatedly when I expressed my desire to send D away for help.

"I don't think you need to go to that extreme yet," D's therapist said when I asked his opinion of treatment programs and begged for his help in finding one.

"I won't send him away," my husband said to me at the end of every one of our arguments, walking away to signal the discussion was over.

Yes, the discussion was over.

As I sat in the warmth and safety of my front porch, I felt immense sadness at the prospect that what I had just done might ruin my relationship with D, possible forever. I was scared that pushing my decision on Marc might cause me to lose my marriage. But most of all, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm reassurance that I had done the right thing for all of us.

Because I love them, AND I love me.

  • sherrisacconaghi

By: Dylan Baker

It is no secret that the transition from adolescence into adulthood is stressful. I’m not speaking of filling out college applications, or saying goodbye to your family as you head off to University. What I’m speaking of is the constant uncertainties that flood our minds with doubt and denial. What are my ventures after college? Am I going to meet the right partner and have a family? Will I even be able to support this family by securing a well paying job? For me, this is the true struggle of growing up because the coming of age can’t be slowed down. One must face it head on instead of living in fear of the unknown.

Unfortunately, several years back, my life was consumed by fear. To make matters worse, my coping skills were minimal and my stress was through the roof. All I knew was that I couldn’t handle all the intense emotions I was feeling and they needed to disappear. Yearning for a quick relief, the answer I turned to was drugs and alcohol and at first, it worked like a charm. I made absolutely sure I had constant access to my drug of choice or any kind of alcohol at my disposal to minimize the amount of stress and anxiety I was feeling. In my head, I thought emotions like fear and sadness were negative and that I should never have to feel them in my life if I wanted happiness. However, to my dismay, suppressing my emotions with drugs and alcohol made this problem worse. My family was worried sick about me and I’d never been so disconnected from them in my life. My needs always came first which meant that I was always out of the house trying to relieve my pain. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t put up with anymore. My search for happiness had come to a dead end and my all time low had finally been reached.

A second chance, for Dylan and for our family. (Evoke Wilderness Program, Bend, OR 2018)

Thankfully, I was given a second chance during the summer of my junior year of high school. I left home and was sent to venture to Bend, Oregon in order to take part in a wilderness recovery program that completely changed my life. I learned that using drugs and alcohol were only a symptom of my depression and fear in which I was swimming . Never in my life had I been in so much pain as I was during those three months living in the wilderness. With no suppressants to use, I was forced to come to terms with my future and I chose that summer to stop living in fear and face my life head on.

The most important lesson I learned, however, was that all emotions are valid. Anger, sadness, fear, joy, and everything in between are all valid. The misconception I had picked up prior to this was that there are negative emotions and positive ones. Furthermore, I should only live my life feeling positive emotions if I wanted a fulfilling life. However, it is impossible for one to live in prosper without experiencing the whole spectrum of emotions or else how is one supposed to compare feelings of happiness to sadness, or fear and excitement? In other words, I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Only then was I able to accept life on it’s own terms.

It hasn’t always been easy but it has absolutely been worth it. (U of O, 2020)

Most importantly, however, is that I’m no longer vengeful of my parents. Instead, I look at what they did for me as an act of love and hope. Suddenly, the future doesn’t seem so scary. In actuality, it feels like quite the contrary as I am excited to see what the future has in store for me. Furthermore, the future should be a mystery, or else when would I feel wonder or curiosity. When I look back on myself a few years ago, I realize how much my perspective on life has changed and how it has made me who I am today.

  • sherrisacconaghi

I need to walk, I thought to myself as I gingerly climbed out of the car, my muscles feeling like they might snap as I unfolded my body into an upright position. My husband Marc and I had just returned from dropping D off at a week-long business camp in Corvallis, a ninety-minute drive from our home outside of Portland and I felt a pang of guilt for how much I was looking forward to D being gone. Despite the progress in my ability to sit still, three hours in the car pushed me out of my comfort zone, especially as of late. The stress of trying to find peace and sanity in my house left me constantly edgy. My body was feeling that familiar desire to move. Before getting distracted with the usual weekend chores of grocery shopping or folding laundry, I ran into the house, popped on my walking shoes, and headed out into the 90-degree heat, dragging my stiff legs through the winding paths up the hill to the top of Mt. Sylvania. The heaviness of the summer air was thick, making it feel like I was breathing through a paper bag. Why am I doing this? I asked myself.

I already knew the answer.

"When you stop trying to control your body, it will settle," my therapist Kirsten explained to me once again during our session. I had confessed to her my heat walking outing, knowing it was an old anorexic behavior that had nothing to with enjoying nature.

"I am afraid to sit still, Kirsten," I said, frustrated that I was back in this place of anxious restlessness. I was afraid the chaos in my household was proving to be more than my year of treatment could manage. The skills I had learned as a way to regulate my body physiology in a healthy way had disappeared from my mind like an eighth-grade math equation.

Sherri," she said when I was done rationalizing and justifying my actions, "you are getting in your own way."

I was afraid I was going to lose this. ( Family portrait by artist Diane Russell, 2017).

I spent my time tiptoeing around D, never knowing if he would be explosive, sneaky, or sweet. I was fighting with my husband over the best way to set boundaries in our house while trying to keep my youngest son, B, from slipping between the cracks of our fractured home. I could have easily derailed and backslid into anorexia. I was on my way. Days spent keeping my body distracted with cycling and tennis only to find myself hungry mid-afternoon, yet refusing too eat and forcing myself to wait until dinner. Nights nervously waiting up to hear D creeping in the back door, craving a big bowl of my beloved Ben and Jerry's to soothe my nerves yet only allowing myself a carefully measured half a cup. I could hear the old narrative creeping in. Being indulgent means, I am out of control. I desperately felt the need to control something to fill the void of being unable to fix what I felt was so broken—my family.

My year in the treatment had given me more than a few added pounds. It brought me an awareness of my anorexia. It helped me decipher when my Anorexic Brain was taking over and taught my Sherri Brain how to talk back. In a year, I gained new coping tools, developed a stronger self-esteem, and a healthier outlook on life. I didn't need my anorexia, but I couldn't seem to find the courage to toss it out. Like my favorite ragged grey sweatshirt, I felt the need to hang onto it.

Just in case.


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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