Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Clare's story

Clare has battled anorexia and is now encouraging others who are struggling to reach out and seek help.

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.

Clare Demain, 37, said:

“I’ve struggled with anorexia for 11 years and in that time I’ve received treatment both as an inpatient and outpatient.

At times I’ve felt really alone with my eating disorder. I have a friend who’s struggled with an eating disorder too, and they get it, but otherwise it’s really hard for people to understand.

I’m a single mum to a 13-year-old and I’m currently on furlough. I think one of the things that makes it especially difficult is that I don’t have another adult living with me. There’s no-one for me to bounce stuff off at home or to help with the cooking.

I was told about a weekly meeting on a Wednesday around this time last year. I was debating whether or not to go when we went into lockdown, so I didn’t get a chance to attend. Shortly afterwards I found out that a friend I’d made during one of my inpatient stays was doing a talk for Connect as part of their Instagram Live series. She introduced me to these live conversations last April and also mentioned about the online weekly Hub group. I joined most Wednesdays until just before Christmas and also regularly watched the Instagram Lives, joining in and asking questions.

I would really recommend these support systems. Everyone was so welcoming and completely non-judgemental. I met similar and like-minded people and as they were my peers I felt able to be completely open and honest with them. It was so nice not to feel stupid or different. I’ve felt so much support and love at the group and have been able to open up and cry. It’s been a really big lifeline for me and I’ve made definite in-roads into recovery.

A lot of this has come from within and I’m getting some extra help and support privately with a coach as well, but it’s made a big difference to me.

If anyone reading this is struggling with an eating disorder, I’d really encourage you to reach out and seek support. It’s scary and it’s hard, but no-one deserves to live with an eating disorder and it’s okay to ask for help.”

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.