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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

When I turned sixteen, my mom took me to the DMV before school to get my driver's license. Being on the younger side, I was one of the last to accomplish this rite of passage, and I was ready. I woke up early, taking extra time with my hair and make-up in anticipation of the DL picture. I couldn't wait to recap the whole experience later at lunch hour with my girlfriends; the route we took, whether or not I had to parallel park, and if I got the DMV guy with the bad breath or the young, cute one. When my number came up, I waved to my mom, hopped into our brown station wagon with Mr. Bad Breath buckled next to me, and just minutes in, proceeded to run a stop sign. I failed the test. (A tree branch was hiding the sign, just saying). I was embarrassed, disappointed, and had no desire to retake the test. Ever.

My dilemma was that if I wanted to move forward and drive, I had to go back and pass the test.

Coming fresh from my 50th birthday celebration, I was excited for the session with my therapist, Kirsten. I spent the first half-hour filling her in on the festivities, who was there, how great I looked and how I felt renewed and reconnected to my old healthy self. I was hoping she sensed how ready I was to move forward in my life outside of treatment.

"So, have you had that burger with Polly yet?" After I finished with my effervescent party recap, Kirsten asked. She had a teasing lilt to her voice, but the message was clear.

I’ not sure who was happier, me or Polly. By my side for the past 30 years, P was, as always, there for me when I was ready. It really was a delicious burger and a great evening. (October 2018).

Having a burger with Polly became a mile marker to my recovery since early in treatment. It began during a therapy session where I tearfully explained to Kirsten a dinner outing with my friend Polly. Being a beautiful fall evening, P and I skipped the pub where we met monthly to catch up and chose to sit outside on the patio of a local bistro in town. The place was pleasantly crowded, the atmosphere filled with the sounds of laughter and clinking glasses. Portlanders who were taking advantage of the last of the warm weather. But the bustle was not what caught my attention. Wafting through the air was a mouthwatering, irresistible smell of grilled burgers. And I wanted one. Badly. I anxiously waited for the server to come before I could talk myself out of ordering one. I was so twitchy and preoccupied with the food negotiation occurring in my head, and I could not focus on whatever world problem P and I were trying to solve at the moment. After what seemed like an hour, the waiter arrived with a "what can I get you, ladies, this evening?"

Polly ordered the burger. I got a salad.

For the rest of the meal, I sat, my mouthwatering at the thought of taking a huge bite of her burger, with the perfectly grilled juicy patty, topped with fresh garnishes sitting atop a perfectly toasted ciabatta bun. I wanted that burger, and I was so fucking pissed at myself that I would not, I could not, allow myself to have it.

"When you ready," Kirsten said after I had tearfully finished beating myself up over the whole burger event, "it will happen."

Over the next two years, the 'burger with Polly' question became a litmus test for progress. And there was so much progress made. Scales thrown out, running shoes donated, cake eaten, girlfriend trips taken, pounds gained, and rules lost. But I had yet to challenge a long-held food rule and have that burger with Polly. I was always ready with an excuse as to why it had yet to happen; too busy, waiting for a warm night, didn't sound good, while my dear friend patiently waited at the ready for my 'burger call.'

Each time knowing Kirsten's question was more of a statement. I had missed a step. I wasn’t ready to move forward until I was willing to take a step back.

  • sherrisacconaghi

It was inevitable. The relationship was nearing the end. I wasn't sure if I was ready. I needed reassurance I was ready to move on not giving up. I wanted a sign.

When I turned 50, I got one.

"No. Absolutely not," I said adamantly to my husband, Marc, when he proposed the idea.

"But it's your 50th," Marc said with a sheepish look on his face. I knew he had one of his 'Marc Baker' ideas up his sleeve.

"You know I don’t do parties," I whined, getting a little pissed that this man I’d been married to for twenty years didn’t even ‘know’ me.

"Well, what if this wasn't a party as much as an…... event?" He persisted, toying with me.

"Like what?" I asked cautiously, not wanting him to get his hopes up that I might agree to whatever whack-ass plan had in mind.

"Like this?" He said, turning his computer and presenting me with a mock-up invitation to what would be my 50th birthday celebration. Oh, it got my attention.

Marc had it all planned out. A night at one of my favorites, Tony Starlight's Supper Club and even better it was a Barry Manilow/Neil Diamond theme, with food, cocktails, comedy, music, family, and friends. It sounded incredible. A party I would love to attend. For anyone but me.

I hate to be the center of attention. I do not care for big gatherings in general. I prefer intimate get-togethers that allow for authentic conversations. Unless work-related, I steer clear of significant social events that require superficial small talk that leaves me depleted and unfulfilled.

At the point Marc proposed this party, I was two years into my recovery process, and I was doing well. I was contemplating broaching the subject of terminating treatment with my team. My weight was stable, my schedule was flexible, my connection to others was fulfilling, and after ten years without, my period had just returned signaling my hormones were back online. But I still had room for improvement, and I was fearful without the support of my team, I would get too comfortable. I was afraid I alone would not have the courage to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone allowing me to keep learning how beautiful life could be without anorexia.

What better way to prove to myself I had it in me to put myself out there. Something told me if I took a risk and agreed to this party, it would result in more than just a celebration of my birthday.

Okay, let's just do it," I said to Marc over dinner one night. I had spent the better part of the week talking myself into it and after a larger than normal glass of wine, I finally caved.

I had one caveat. I would not invite people just to fill a room. I would only invite those who were important to me—friends and family who have impacted my life in some way. I sat down and started a list.

As it turns out, I am one lucky woman.

Yes I admit it. I am a Fanilow! I would post pics of that incredible night but I have none due to a camera guy malfunction :) (Birthday invitation 2018).

On September 23rd, 2018, I celebrated with a packed room full of friends and family whom I love. Just like always, these people, each special to me in their way, showed up. For me.

As the night ended and the last guest left the room, I felt exhilarated. I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone to find I wasn't uncomfortable at all. I enjoyed being social, and chatty, and unwound. Most importantly, I allowed myself to be surrounded by love. I went home that night feeling more like my old heathy self than I had in over a decade. Like I had walked out of a dark closet and back into my own skin.

And I knew it was time to give up the old narrative of whom I believed I was, and it was time to move into whom I had become.

  • 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.



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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