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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

My oldest son is graduating from high school today and I sit here, my body achy from the mix of emotions that have been tumbling around inside of me the past few months. Emotions that in the past I would have run from, literally, running miles until my joints hurt and my mind went numb.

But today, as hard as it is, I am sitting and feeling it all. I feel so proud of him for accomplishing this milestone, it hasn’t been an easy journey for him. I feel excited to see what he does in the next chapter of his life, but I also feel a desperate desire to turn back time for a great big F*&%ing do over. Although I have come to accept that anorexia served a purpose for me for many years ( many blogs to come about that) It also took things from me, it kept my brain so occupied with maintaining my addiction preoccupation with foodand I can’t help asking myself, “was I there for Dylan?” I don’t mean physically present, I mean emotionally. Was I his safe place as he learned to navigate his world or was I too pre-occupied with food, and exercise and my rigid schedule to really be there? Was I a good mom?”

“You did the best you could at the time Sherri, that’s all any of us can do,” my therapist Kirsten, a mom of a teenaged boy herself, said over and over again during our sessions, “and you have so many years ahead to be his mom, a healthy mom. You aren’t done yet.”

But still.

When I made the decision to quit my job and stay home with Dylan, I was all in. Just making the decision calmed my brain and my nervous system. I loved being home with him. Not only was he an easy, happy kid, he also had three sets of grandparents and one great grandma who were waiting at the ready to spend time with him. Seven adults and one toddler. Yep, his life was pretty good. And so was mine.

The biggest adjustment was the pace of my day. Being at home with one kid who was napping twice a day was quite different than my job, where crisis management was the daily motto. Between reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, watching The Wiggles (toot toot chug chug), and outings to the park, the hours went by S-L-O-W. And of course, me being me, I passed the down time with two things. Food, and exercise. Oh and Dr. Phil, ok three things.

I used to politely nod to women who would stop me as Dylan and I were in the grocery store, me sweating and cursing while trying to grab bananas as Dylan wailed loudly while trying to climb out of the cart. “Enjoy this time dear, long days and short years.” Um thanks lady, can you toss me that bag of grapes.

But I loved it. Then life got messy and complicated and as a result,Dylan has grown up with a mom whom, for a majority of his childhood, had anorexia. It has had an impact on him and our relationship. But today, his graduation day, instead of wallowing in the “I wish I would have’s” and the, “was I enough’s, “I will celebrate the amazing kid he is and man he is becoming, and consider the possibility that the best I could was good enough. And I’m not done yet.

It's been a road for Dylan and I, but I'm happy to say we have come out the other side closer than ever.

Did he know something we didn't? Dylan is headed to the U of O in the fall. Go Ducks!

  • sherrisacconaghi

I don’t like to sit still. At all. I have gotten better over the past couple of years and I can now comfortably sit through a long meal with friends, a Blazers game and even an evening binge watching the Game of Thrones. But man, the past ten years my body has seen a lot of standing, pacing, running, jumping, anything but sitting.

“Why do you think have a hard time sitting and resting?" My therapist, Kirsten asked during one of our first sessions, as I sat, legs crossed, my foot kicking in a nervous, rhythmic fashion.

“It makes me feel uncomfortable,” I answered without hesitation. Movement had long become more than a calorie burning thing.

“Physically?” Kirsten inquired, giving me a knowing look, “or emotionally?” Yes and YES!discomfort with inactivity.

Sitting still wasn’t a problem for me seventeen years ago, not that I had much time for it. I had returned to work, about twenty pounds away from my precious Gianni’s (fifteen if you count the giant safety pin I eventually used as a fastener), and I was trying to figure out life as a working mom. Marc was traveling more as his insurance book was growing which left me feeling frazzled and overwhelmed most of the time. Although I had little time for exercise, I managed to do something every day, mostly walking. I quickly got back into the routine of daily hill hikes with my coworkers at lunch hour, and then again in the evening, taking Dylan out for a walk in the jogger to the Jamba Juice by our house. It was not exactly strenuous exercise, in fact in later years I would not consider walking "real" exercise at all, but at that time, as long as I was doing some sort of purposeful movement, I counted it towards calories out and I needed to burn those calories. Something had been weighing on me for the past eight months since returning to work, and when something was bothering me, it was food I turned to to deal with it, or more accurately, NOT deal with it. Most evenings I found myself eating past the point of being comfortably full. One too many slices of Hawaiian pizza or helpings of pesto pasta, just enough to numb the guilt, and assuage the sadness.

A month after the career decision was made. No doubt I made the right choice. (July 2002)

You see, I liked my job as the Human Resources Director at The Christie School, I had worked hard, and I felt like I was making a difference for the employees, and ultimately the kids we served, ( and I loved the paycheck). But, I adored Dylan and dropping him off at childcare for eight hours a day was taking a toll and I was pretty sure crying every morning at drop off was not exactly a sign of emotional stability. I wanted so badly to be with him but being a stay at home mom wasn’t high on my bucket list. So instead of making a decision either way, I talked incessantly about the pros and cons of each, to my mom, to Marc, to my friends, and to the checker at Thriftway. And I ate, sometimes mindlessly, sometimes purposefully, waiting for an epiphany, a sign, anything that would give me the right answer. I was years away from realizing, if I would listen to my gut rather than trying to silence it, the answers were usually staring me right in the face.

  • sherrisacconaghi

“Oh, we call that your fighting weight,” my dietician Gretchen said to me during a session about six months into treatment when I was trying to explain to her “that feeling.”

“My body just feels right”, I told her, “I feel strong, fit and tight and I know exactly what the scale will read.” What Gretchen was helping me to understand was not only was I starving my body, I was starving my brain, and my fighting weight was nowhere near my healthy weight.

I don't know who loved this kid more, me or my grandma (aka GG). She was the only one who could get him to burp. (7/2001)

But even years before anorexia, Gretchen, or, the term “fighting weight” were a thing in my life, it was exactly the feeling I was striving for, especially after having the baby, (anyone who has given birth knows ” fit” and “tight” are not exactly the words that describe a post-partum body). I felt fat and I had no intention of staying that way. I had read some random statistic, probably in People magazine, which reported that any weight a woman still carried six months after giving birth would most likely stick with her for life. Oh hell no .I gave myself twelve weeks of maternity leave to get back to my pre-Dylan weight. My goal was to sail back into the office sporting my favorite pair of black Gianni flat front pants (I believed pleats accentuated my stomach) looking and feeling like I hadn’t just birthed an adorable little human.

I’ve been wracking my brain on this and I cannot remember my eating habits during this time. Weird. By and large, I can recall my eating habits and behaviors in specific detail at any point in my life. My guess is that I still had a healthy, nourished brain that realized food restriction while nursing was not good for me or the baby. Exercise though, THAT I remember. After the initial “WTF have I done” new parent panic wore off, I bought a baby jogger and Dylan and I went on long walks every day up the steep hills in the neighborhood, our dog Zoey trotting happily along. In addition, a few years earlier, I had purchased an at home exercise program called THE FIRM which I dusted off and diligently worked to step, strengthen and tone the weight away with Dylan watching from his swing, legs kicking in encouragement. Then there was my mom. The woman was chomping at the bit to spend any time she could with Dylan. She would pop in daily, casually plop herself

Five months out and really appreciating SPANX. (With my father in law, Neil).

on my couch saying,” I was in the neighborhood and thought you might want some time to yourself, so go on.” Time to myself mostly entailed hitting the recreation center for some treadmill time. I had no excuse. Okay, I had just had a baby which of course I realize now was the best excuse but back then I didn’t see it that way. I wasn’t working (outside the home anyway), I had willing/persistent child care and I had a lot of weight to lose. Not to take advantage of that made me feel lazy. There's that word again "feel". Was I fat or did I just feel fat? Was I lazy or did I just feel lazy? Those feelings, I'd come to find out were a force to be reckoned with.



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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