Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Abi's story

Abi Reynolds was diagnosed with anorexia two years ago and shares her experiences of accessing support during the pandemic.

Staff at Connect: The West Yorkshire Adult Eating Disorder Service wanted to do more during the pandemic to make sure that no-one was left facing an eating disorder alone. So, in addition to their usual services, they started a series of Instagram Live ‘Connect Conversations’ and an online support group, the ‘Hub’, to help reach out virtually to those in need of support. Nearly a year on, and to mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’ve been speaking to some of the inspirational people who’ve engaged with the service via these platforms.

Abi Reynolds is a 37-year-old mum of two from Edinburgh, who’s kindly agreed to share her story to help others.

“Hi, my name is Abi and I was diagnosed with anorexia two years ago, when I was seven months pregnant, although it’s something I’ve been experiencing for the past five years now. I have made some progress physically over the past couple of years, but I’m still battling with the mental health aspect of it.

Since my diagnosis, I have received support and treatment both in the community and in hospital near where I live in Edinburgh. I was discharged from hospital not long before the first lockdown, when face-to-face treatment appointments and support groups everywhere were being pared down due to the pandemic. I didn’t want this to halt the momentum in my recovery or prevent me from sustaining my progress, and that’s when I came across Connect and the support they’ve been offering online.

I follow a lot of recovery-focused mental health accounts on Instagram and it must’ve been in October or November of last year that Connect popped up for me. I didn’t know who they were, what they did, or if I was even allowed to join, but I listened to a couple of the Instagram Live ‘Connect Conversations’, and then gradually started to drop in to the Lives as often as I could. Then six weeks ago, I started going to the Hub sessions, which run on Zoom.

For me, these have been brilliant services. What’s wonderful about them is it’s little and often. All the way through my treatment this has been my ideal. Fortnightly therapy appointments are great, and I’m so thankful for them, but eating disorders are isolating illnesses at the best of times, let alone in lockdown, so having a little bit of a boost day-to-day to keep on track and remind you that you’re not alone is invaluable.

So far, my experience has been that a lot of support groups are tailored to young people, who maybe don’t have work and family responsibilities. That’s why this has been great for me – I’ve been able to fit in the Connect Conversations on Instagram and the virtual Hub sessions around everything else.

I’ve really benefited from being in a safe space and meeting other people who are in recovery. I’ve really gained from listening to others at the Hub, but have also felt that my insight and experiences may have been useful to them too – and that’s been empowering.

At the same time, you know that there’s always a trained professional in the driving seat and that’s reassuring. All in all, it’s been a really innovative way for me to make progress and sustain my recovery whilst being able to carry on with a busy life, and I hope others can benefit from this too.”

How can I access this online support?

The online support being offered by Connect is currently available to anyone affected by an eating disorder.

Regular live chats are taking place on Instagram @connectlypft at around 10am and 4pm each weekday. Those unable to attend live, can watch these back via the service’s IGTV channel.

The Hub support group is currently running on Zoom. You can email for the joining details.

Anyone taking part in these opportunities for online support is asked to read and adhere to our patient agreement for social media use. This is to ensure that these remain safe spaces for everyone.