Former anorexic woman says Maida Vale community house helped her overcome eating disorder

Claire Lowry had struggled with anorexia since childhood.

She spent years in and out of hospital. “It was just a cycle of going in and coming out,” explains the 45-year-old.

Now a married mother-of-two, she credits a seven-year stay during the 1990s at the Philadelphia Association’s community household in Shirland Road, Maida Vale, with helping to turn her life around.

“I had anorexia for many years and had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals,” she said. “I had been through the system and not got that much better.”

Her therapist recommended Claire move into the house, where seven people with mental health problems lived together.

Set up by the Hampstead based Philadelphia Association (PA), the household was intended as a safe space for people who felt they had nowhere else to turn.

Several times a week, PA psychiatrists host a group meeting where everyone can share their thoughts and feelings.

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Recalling her first day at the house, Claire said: “I remember going into a meeting and there was an argument and it was a bit scary. But people were friendly.

“I found it comfortable. I didn’t feel like I had something to hide or be ashamed of.”

She added: “It is not treatment as such, we just live there, it is a part of learning how to be yourself around other people.

“Part of it is down to the fact that people are there for such a long time. You feel you are building a foundation you can eventually move away from.”

Looking back on those years, the mother who now lives with her husband in Somerset, said it was a “very different chapter” of her life.

“I don’t think I would be where I am today without the house. It is scary to think that because so few people get the chance to stay there.”