Got some news this week that was hard to swallow. I got denied for my disability again. Only this time the judge was nice enough to add, “Applicant alleges to have an eating disorder (yet she is obese).” I’m sorry that I don’t fit society’s vision of anorexia. And quite frankly, f*** that judge.
My first reaction to that was shock. I truly believed I would get approved. But the judge decided that I wasn’t credible and denied my claim. I have a strong feeling that it was me being an obese anorexic that led to her not finding me credible. My second reaction was anger. How dare she?! I hate to sound like a spoiled child, but it’s not fair.
When I first got diagnosed with atypical anorexia, I too found it ridiculous that I could be overweight and still have an eating disorder. But it’s a behavior, not an image. At the time, I was eating less than five hundred calories a day and had lost forty pounds in a matter of months. Here’s the definition of Anorexia according to the National Eating Disorders Association:
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat. Some people with the disorder also exercise compulsively, purge via vomiting and laxatives, and/or binge eat.
Anorexia can affect people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities. Historians and psychologists have found evidence of people displaying symptoms of anorexia for hundreds or thousands of years.
Although the disorder most frequently begins during adolescence, an increasing number of children and older adults are also being diagnosed with anorexia. You cannot tell if a person is struggling with anorexia by looking at them. A person does not need to be emaciated or underweight to be struggling. Studies have found that larger-bodied individuals can also have anorexia, although they may be less likely to be diagnosed due to cultural prejudice against fat and obesity.
To be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa according to the DSM-5, the following criteria must be met:
- Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
- Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
Even if all the DSM-5 criteria for anorexia are not met, a serious eating disorder can still be present. Atypical anorexia includes those individuals who meet the criteria for anorexia but who are not underweight despite significant weight loss. Research studies have not found a difference in the medical and psychological impacts of anorexia and atypical anorexia.
I have atypical anorexia because I am overweight and binge eat. I go days without eating, get depressed, then binge eat. For awhile I was “doing good” and eating everyday. I still greatly restricted my diet though. Even though it was not healthy to eat that low of a calorie diet, I was at least eating everyday.
Today I am struggling very hard with my weight. I’ve had a lot of stressors the last week and got weighed yesterday. That’s a volatile mix. I’m eating, but the nagging voices inside my head are particularly vicious today. It hurts to eat, not physically but mentally. All I want to do while I eat is curl up into a ball and cry. But I don’t, because I have three little girls watching my every move. So I eat, and try to ignore all the thoughts and images being flashed through my mind. And I smile, because I love my daughters and don’t want this life for them.
To have a disability judge body shame me and deny me based on her warped sense of my credibility hurt. I was angry, and then defeated. I had lost again, yet this time it felt personal. I felt dirty, fat, and disgusted. My husband and I have had talks about my applying for disability, and the impact it’s had on my mental health. If I’m honest, it’s hurting my mental health. Every time I get denied I feel like they view me as one of those lazy individuals who are trying to take advantage of the system.
So we talked about whether to continue to fight for my disability. It’s taken a huge toll on my moods and self-image. We were doing it more for the healthcare than the money. I want to have that security of knowing I will be able to see all of my doctors and get all of my prescriptions, some of them are a matter of life and death.
It was a crushing blow, and I still have what-ifs about pursuing my disability. I need to focus on my health, not on what others think of me. I need to focus my attention on homeschooling my daughters and making the most out of everyday. Filing for disability has made me doubt myself and fall into the trap of, “Well, I guess I am my diagnosis.” That’s not a healthy mindset. So instead I’ve started to expect more of myself, and push myself to meet those expectations. I’m still furious at that particular judge, but I’m trying to move past that. I’m expecting myself to move past that and will push myself to do so.