SKINNY

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.

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  • sherrisacconaghi

Snow. I' m not a big fan, which made January 2017 particularly uncomfortable for me. We had a big storm. Well, big for the Pacific Northwest. It shut down our city for well over a week; the ice and snow, although beautiful, rendered the roads too dangerous to safely walk or drive on, leaving all but the most adventurous housebound.

I’m fairly certain that tree did not belong on my patio. (Snowpocolypse 2017)

I had been in outpatient treatment for anorexia less than six months when that snowstorm hit. By that time, I had limited my exercise to three things; Yoga, walking, and doubles tennis. (Although my treatment team would have preferred no tennis). Although I missed my intense exercise routine of early morning boot camp, booming cycle classes, and the exhausted high of a long singles match, I had begrudgingly settled into the discomfort of my slower-paced routine. Until that snowstorm, then I panicked. I felt trapped. I couldn't safely walk on the icy paths; the tennis center closed, and yoga alone was not going to cut it. While other people were posting pictures on social media of drinking hot cocoa by the fire and making gooey chocolate chip cookies, I was pacing the kitchen floor like a rat in a maze, desperately trying to find a way out. The need to get to the gym or go for a run intensifying so rapidly, I felt like I might explode. My exercise choices were no longer mine; nature had taken control. And there is nothing I hated more than not being in control. Fifteen months before that snowstorm, and well before treatment, I had decided to "fix" my body by a break up with running, figuring getting rid of my most intense exercise would help the weight come back on. And I always felt I had a choice. Just stop for a little bit, you can always go back. It made the thought of quitting less frightening.

Until the call.

My body was at the lacrosse tournament. My mind was on cancer. Again. (2015).

"Hi Sherri, it's Doctor Lui, is this a good time to talk?" I was in the car with my family headed to Kirkland Washington for Dylan's lacrosse tournament. "Sure. What's up?" I asked casually, trying to stay calm as if she was a friend calling to chat rather than my dermatologist with test results. This is not going to be good news. “I’m calling because one of the moles we removed last week has shown a malignancy," she explained calmly, "I would like to remove it sooner rather than later." I knew from my breast cancer days that was code for "let's not f**k around with this." Five days later, I was on the table.

"I know it looks scary," Dr. Lui said, watching the blood drain from my face as I looked the layers of stitches that extended from my upper thigh to me knee cap, "but the good news is I'm confident we got all the affected tissue." The healthy, rational part of me was relieved. Grateful, the cancer was found before it had a chance of spreading to other parts of my body, as Melanoma is prone to do. But the anxious, hungry, irrational part of my brain had more significant concerns. It was that voice in my head that was drowning out the doctor's instructions about wound care and pain management. How am I going to exercise with…. THIS?! My leg resembled more of a gory Halloween prop from an elementary school haunted house than a body part. It was currently a limb that could barely help me walk out the office door, let alone run, anywhere. So here it was, the thing I had said I wanted, something to help me stop running. To slow me down so my body could put on the weight it so desperately needed. The weight I had been saying I wanted to gain. But at that moment, I felt like a poker player who up until then, had control of the table.


And my body, had just called my bluff.

  • sherrisacconaghi

I am directionally impaired. When I pull off of my street, there is a good chance I will get lost before I reach my destination, even if I’ve been there many times before.

That is what it felt like the year before I went into treatment. I wanted to go to a place of health, with a body and mind strong and well-nourished, free from obsession, restriction, rituals, and rules. I had been there before. A place where I was flexible, spontaneous, and engaged with my family and friends. A life that was way more fun. But despite my many attempts to get back to that healthy place, I couldn’t find my way. I’d get lost.


About a week into the emotional regrets writing assignment from my therapist, I did indeed begin to feel much better. My body felt calmer and more relaxed. To my relief, the physical pressure I had lived with for months had deflated, and I again found comfort in the feel of my jutting hipbones as I ran my hand across my concave belly. But as relieved as I was, I was also in a bind. I knew too much. Unleashing my feelings in my journal, and finally talking about them honestly with Karen helped me realize that the place of guilt and shame I had been hiding in for so long did not need to be. I was not stuck; I could move.


Or not move. Literally. I had finally come face to face with what I already knew deep inside. I was anorexic. Well, to a point that is. I had been tentatively “looking into” anorexia for many months. Googling signs and symptoms, admitting some were relevant to me, but deciding most were not. Oh, and books. I read many books, mostly memoirs,(Obsessed, Love Fat,Elena Vanishing ) to see how I “compared.” I found it frightening and fascinating all at once. I was well aware that my weight fell smack dab in the underweight range, and from a purely clinical standpoint, my body was anorexic. But because I didn’t feel I had the body dysmorphia, the belief that I was fat, that went along with anorexia nervosa, I convinced myself it was mind over matter. I still saw anorexia as a simple weight thing, not yet connecting how my patterns of behaviors, rituals, and routines, were related. I believed it was something I could fix if I just tried hard enough.

I meant to shift into Reverse. The tree in from of me at the Albertsons parking lot survived. The bumper did not. (2015)


“What is one thing you could do that might help move you to your goal of a healthier body?” Karen asked during one of our sessions after I had declared, once again, I was ready to make a change.


“Hmmmmm, I’m not sure,” I said, chewing my lower lip. Crap, I know, and she knows I know.

“I’m thinking I need to give up running?” As if phrasing it as a question left it open for debate.


“I think that might be a good place to start,” Karen replied gently.


Honestly, I was ready to give it up. I had made several half-assed attempts to stop with no success, the draw of the runners high, and the relief of the ever-present anxiety that only running could alleviate was too strong. Just one more run, then I'll stop, just one more, one more, one more.


I needed a push to help me make a change, and I was about to get it.

  • sherrisacconaghi

Gut instinct. It can be strong. There is a reason that the gut is considered a second brain.

In my case, the brain in my gut has always been smarter than the one in my head. These days I rely on it for pretty much everything, especially as I am still testing the reliability of my healthy Sherri brain in decisions regarding my physical and emotional well being.

But several years back, I had no awareness of my body, gut, or otherwise. When it tried to alert me to potential danger, I tried to shut it up. When my muscles were sore from too much exercise, I took pain relievers and pushed through. When sick, instead of resting, I ran, relying on a trip to the emergency room to slow me down. And when my gut became persistently full and distended, I took pills trying to get rid of the pressure.


“You want me to do what?” I asked Karen incredulously.


“I want you to make a regrets journal, “she said, ignoring the look of disappointment on my face, “write down everything you are afraid to say out loud. For your eyes only."


When I began going to counseling years before, I promised myself I would be an active participant. I was not going to be one of those people that thought an hour a week of blaming my parents would solve my problems, so over the years, if Karen assigned homework, I did it. (EFT for anxiety a favorite). Despite my irritation, this assignment would be no exception. Um, I already journal lady but whatevs.


I settled down that night and nestled into bed with a cup of tea. I grabbed my journal and getting ready to write, I realized something was missing. Words. I flipped through the pages trying to reorient myself to my last entry. Five months ago. Had it been that long? Writing, the thing that had gotten me through the toughest of times; Cancer, my rollercoaster marriage, and my frustration with my body, had come to a halt.

The most important job I will ever have. (2015)


Of course, it did. If I wrote about stuff I didn’t want to deal with, I’d have to deal with it. Like my fear at failing at project ten pound, my shame at destroying my emaciated body with hours of exercise, and hardest of all, the overwhelming feelings of guilt and regret about my boys and my deep seeded belief that protecting my illness had taken priority over parenting them. I had F*%&ed up the most rewarding, important job I will ever have. Being a mom.


All things I didn’t want to face. I stuffed. Shoving them down, hoping if I ignored the feelings, they would go away. That was not working so well. So, I hunkered down and began to write. Like running through unfamiliar terrain, I was hesitant at first, but picking up speed as the familiar comfort of my pen flowing effortlessly over the paper took over and before long I was writing so fast that the words were almost illegible. Almost.


As I wrote, I felt like the cap was slowly twisting off my shaken and pressure-filled body. The thoughts, feelings and secrets I had kept bottled up for months, years, were bubbling up, and flowing over into my conscious mind, sending me a message.


Are you going to listen to me now?






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