Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Daniel's story

Daniel never thought he'd have an eating disorder, but was diagnosed with anorexia. Here's his story of recovery.

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.

Daniel Pickles, 27, is from Brighouse.

It was in November 2019 that I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, although my family and close friends had been expressing their concerns for at least six months before that. I’d become super obsessed with fitness and did a lot of running, and at the same time I decided I wanted to eat really well. I took that to the extreme at a time in my life when there were a lot of pressures, and I felt that the only thing I could control was my diet, shape and fitness.

If you’d spoken to me five or six years ago, I would never have believed that I would have an eating disorder. I was a self-confessed foodie and loved going out with friends. I remember learning about eating disorders in school and thinking that would never happen to me. I think that’s what a lot of people don’t realise, just how easy it is to come into contact with an eating disorder, particularly when we’re surrounded by such a massive diet culture. When you’ve got other things going on in your life or you’re going through a particularly stressful time, it can be very easy to fall on the wrong side of the line. For me, the most severe part of my eating disorder happened over an 18 month period, but it had been getting progressively worse for some time before that.

When I was first diagnosed, I was quite severely underweight. I referred myself to my doctor but I knew I didn’t want to go down the road of inpatient treatment. I’d originally planned to receive treatment from Connect in the community, but unfortunately my weight continued to decline and I had a voluntary admission to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for two weeks just before Christmas in 2019. I was discharged in time for Christmas and went back into receiving treatment in the community. It was all managed exceptionally well with the community team coming to visit me in hospital and regular meetings on the ward with the Connect staff. Throughout my treatment, they really managed to help me completely turn my life around and I was discharged from the service in October 2020. I still refer back to the materials and workbooks I had while I was receiving treatment, as I believe they are skills for life. Anybody can have a bad day or a bad week, and I think the skills and understanding that it’s given me are invaluable.

I’ve learnt to appreciate that the most important thing in life is not how far I can run, or how much weight I can lose, but instead it’s about being happy and honest with yourself about if you are content.

When Connect launched their Instagram account, I was going through my treatment and it was at the beginning of one of my sessions that it was shared with us. At the time I dismissed it as I don’t use Instagram, however my mum does use Instagram and was able to refer me to useful content.

One of the biggest benefits of having the Instagram page is that it can reach people who may think there’s a problem, but who might not realise they are experiencing an eating disorder.

Eating disorders can affect anyone at any time. I hope that having the ‘Connect Conversations’ will help others to clarify what they’re going through and help them to access the right help, at an early stage.

For me, one of the biggest things was not knowing about the problems I was facing, which meant that getting my diagnosis was really important.

If you’re experiencing something similar, Connect offer services that are accessible, free and can be lifesaving. It’s really important for us all to know that they exist.

How can I access the online support currently being offered by Connect?

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.