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

This is ridiculous and completely irrelevant, I thought to myself as Kirsten explained the assignment for the upcoming week. I had quickly learned that my Tuesday night RO-DBT group, the one I agreed to as part of my treatment plan, was less a therapy group and more of a class. Each week we would learn a new skill, practice in class (usually in some sort of dreaded role play), and then have the assignment to work on through the week. And although several in the group were grappling with an eating disorder, some were not. We were, however, all proud, right-fighting owners of overcontrolled personalities. For all of us, our lives had become stunted by rigid, black, and white, rule-bound thinking. The women in the class understood the loneliness I suffered by isolating myself from others. They shared my need for structure and routine, and they all craved re-connection to others. Being with these women was like finding other humans on Mars. They were my people. So when Kirsten introduced our assignment for the week, all of us looked at each with an,“OMG she has lost her marbles," eye roll.

The skill was called VARIES. I understood the concept. For years, staying in my zone of safety was a non-negotiable must. Eating at pre determined times, only going to places I felt comfortable such as my gym, and tennis center, and hanging with people who did not question my thin body or isolating lifestyle choices were as important to my survival as breathing. Simultaneously so was ensuring I avoided situations such as travel with others, unexpected dinner plans, or wearing sleeveless shirts. Things that would make me feel nervous, watched, and uncomfortable. I spent over a decade planning my day to the minute, my food to the calorie, and social interactions to the word. I had a litany of planned excuses at the ready for comments that might come my way that made me feel uncomfortable and exposed.

But with this assignment, Kirsten was asking us to shake that up. Our task was to put down the planning and rehearsing and so something “silly.”

Her suggestions included;

  • Wearing rings on different fingers.

  • Use different bedding.

  • Write with a purple pen.

  • Ask to be called another name for a day.

  • Watch TV and repeat every other line in an Italian accent.

  • Communicate in mime.

  • Wear our underwear backward.

  • Talk to everyone wearing pink at a party.

  • Wear mismatched socks.

WTF, Really? I was irritated. I didn’t feel I needed more shaking. In finally committing to recovery, I had already spent months doing hard stuff. I had been forcing myself to eat more food, sometimes to the point of tears. I had painstaking suffered through anxious moments when I had to force my body to sit still, I had traveled…...with people! But I trusted Kirsten, more than I trusted myself. I had gotten myself into my anorexic situation and I needed her expertise to dig me out.

So, aside from miming (because thats a hard NO) , if picking ill-fitting Calvin’s out of my ass while people called me Brenda was something she thought could help to get my life back on track, then D’accordo, E cosi sia.

The VARIES skill was a game changer. It surprised me how making little silly changes started to" bring Sherri back” as Gretchen and Kirsten would say.

R: Participating in Tony Starlight's Christmas show fun, 12/2016.

L: Channeling my Little Bit Country on the Vegas strip,1/2017 .

  • sherrisacconaghi

I am thankful to have this outlet to share my experience with anorexia, shame, loneliness, and recovery. I started writing this blog in 2018, one month after I completed treatment. I promised myself if I outed myself into the virtual world, I would do so with honesty and authenticity. I vowed I would talk openly with people about my past struggles with the disease and the challenges I've faced in recovery and I would listen, dialogue, and support those who reached out to me. It was a risk. Although I wanted to share my story in hopes of helping other people who may be living with the shame of a fiercely held secret, I was very well aware that if I relapsed, I would have to be honest about that too. To be frank, the fear of relapsing in front of all of you who have supported me the past two years has kept me on the rails at times, especially the past nine months as we all try and navigate this strange, anxiety-ridden, pandemic laced world.

Thank you for accepting my invitation to join me on my journey of recovery. Your support has made a difference and for that I am very thankful. ( Mt. Hood, 2020)

My intention in writing sharing my story was, and continues to be, an intentional invitation for others to join me on my journey.

When I decided to go into treatment, I was not exactly anxious to shout it from the rooftop. In fact, I wasn’t anxious to whisper it from the basement either. I didn’t know how to tell my tennis teammates I could no longer play tennis because I was grappling with anorexia. Just the thought of uttering those words made me want to crawl back under my blanket of shame. So I kept playing, secretly wishing I would twist my ankle or break my arm. Something tangible that would allow me to step aside with some dignity. When my workout buddies at the gym asked me why I was no longer in boot camp, I lied and said I was bored with the class. And when my absence was noted at my son’s Tuesday night lacrosse games, I claimed I had Board of Directors meetings rather than admitting I was in my RO-DBT group. I realize now I owed an explanation to no one, nor would one be requested in many cases. But back then I still put too much weight on what people thought of me, and at the time, I saw my reach out for help to be an admission of failure. I made “excuses” in an attempt to thwart being “found out.”

However, I didn’t go into treatment wholly shrouded in secrecy. I shared my plan with my immediate family and a few close, long-time friends. Part of me felt like I owed them some relief from the years of worry I knew I had caused them. I figured if I told them, they could step back and stop worrying about me. It was my way of saying I got this so you don’t have to. But it didn’t turn out that way. By sharing my plan, I realized that, in some ways, I was inviting them on my journey, and that caught me off guard.

Because that was not yet my intention.

  • sherrisacconaghi

I walked out onto the court for the first match of the season. It was my first since starting treatment six weeks earlier, and I was distracted. My favorite tennis skirt was fitting a bit too snugly around my waist, and I couldn't stop touching the little roll of fat I imagined it created above the band. My opponent was strong but beatable. Always a slow starter, I figured I would find my rhythm, but I couldn't get moving. My body felt foreign. And more distracting than the extra jiggling around my thighs was the guilt that consumed me with every groundstroke.

Walking and yoga. After much negotiation, those were forms of exercise Gretchen, and I agreed would be acceptable throughout my treatment, although Gretchen strongly advised no exercise. Arguing my body needed to rest so it could heal from the years of abuse I had put it through. But I was adamant I needed some movement. I honestly thought I would go insane if I could not move my body, and Gretchen willing to meet me halfway, as long as the walking was slow and the yoga was gentle. Tennis was nowhere in the agreement.

Anorexia was my illness. The exercise was my addiction. I spent over a decade making sure I could exercise every day. Like a drug, I used it more than I should, sometimes until I made myself feel sick. I often skipped attending my kids sporting events and family get-togethers because they interfered with my workout, feeling guilty if I missed even one sweat session. And I lied. I lied about when, if, where, and how I exercised.

I knew I shouldn’t be playing but I hadn’t yet shared that with Heather. My favorite partner on the court who has become my treasured friend off court. (Winning second place at a local tournament, 2017).

In treatment, I agreed to walking and yoga because I was grateful to be getting approval from my treatment team to do some movement. I was willing to give up some forms of exercise like the elliptical and stepmill. I even agreed to give up my six am boot camp. Those activities were like a wine cooler to an alcoholic. They did the trick to quell my anxiety about life, but I didn't enjoy them. Tennis, however, was like perfectly aged wine or a craft beer. It was my top shelf.

The high I got from the exertion of a long singles match was second only to the high of WINNING a long singles match. On the court was the only place, for years, I felt strong and confident. Where I could prove to myself and others, despite my skeletal frame, I was not sick. I loved everything about playing.

But treatment changed that. It dimmed the rosy glow I got from hitting that yellow ball. Because in treatment, I learned what exercise, in any form, was doing to my body, testing my fragile bones, putting stress on my weak heart. With every groundstroke I sliced, with every lob I chased, with every serve I hit, I knew I was taking a risk with my life.

I was well aware that I should heed my treatment team's advice and stay off the court. But something was stopping me, and it had less to do with exercise, calories burned, or stress relief, and more about something else.

I was facing an opponent I had met many times before. And this time it was trying to stop me from winning the biggest match of my life.


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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