CW: Eating-disorders, interalized ableism.
I need to talk about my experience from being in treatment for an eating disorder. I don’t feel at all comfortable about talking about it, as a matter of fact I try to not think about it. The reason for why I want to write about it is that it’s one of the experiences that points me towards the belief that I’m autistic. And because it shows how much damage ableism does.
The treatment was four hours/day Monday to Friday in a group consisting of me and six other women. We had lunch together with a therapist, followed by different kinds of therapy sessions and ended the day with a coffee and some afternoon snack.
I interpreted what the therapists said very literally. When they said that it’s important that you all are committed and actively participate I thought it meant that it’s important for me to comment on what everybody else says, all the time. Even when I didn’t have anything of interest to say. I overshared and made pointless comments just to make sure I was committed.
At the end of each day I was so exhausted that I couldn’t process anymore. Every day ended with the group having an afternoon snack and when other people started talking more casually, more in an everyday manner I had nothing to say since I had spent all my energy on trying to be committed during sessions. However, if the other participants found me annoying for talking too much during sessions, now I was perceived as uninterested because I didn’t smalltalk. First I talked too much and then I talked too little. I didn’t comment on the right things, I was told, because I wasn’t commenting on clothes and appearance.
To be honest, going through this treatment was four months of pain. Four months of starting to hate myself even more. Four months of learning how everything about my way of being was wrong. I also picked up a few things about how I should behave to not be so disliked. I shouldn’t talk too much and I had to start compliment people for their clothes.
However, I didn’t learn what I needed to learn about myself. I didn’t learn that my way of being could even exist. The most important knowledge about my eating disorder I learned ten years later when I was talking to my partner about different ways of realeasing the intense pressure that builds up during the day. That all the noise and all the visual stimulation builds up and results in a desperate need to do something drastic to let go of the tension. My partner looked at me and told me that he had no such need, that he didn’t feel like that. Later on I read about meltdowns and sensory issues and then I understood that the binge-eating and throwing up, the extreme exercise and the days of starving – it was all about dealing with being overstimulated.
Now I’ve written it. This treatment is such a painful memory but I’m starting to see it differently. It was an eating disorder treatment without knowledge of autism. And that was not my fault.