From the Daily Mail...
'Anorexia turned me into an old lady': Six-stone woman, 30, who dieted from the age of 10 to stay young is left with crumbling bones and varicose veins
- Helen Gillespie has spent most of the past 20 years in hospital
- At her lightest she weighed 4-and-a-half-stone and was hours from death
- She has never grown breasts so must wear a prosthesis usually used by women who have undergone a mastectomy
- Her low weight delayed puberty so she didn't have her first period until 26
- Ironically her body now resembles that of an elderly woman - her face is gaunt and her bones are in a similar condition to that of a 70-year-old
Helen Gillespie, 30, has never developed breasts, had a boyfriend or moved out of her parents’ home.
As a child she was so frightened of becoming an adult that she dramatically restricted her calorie intake to delay puberty.
But ironically, far from maintaining a childlike appearance, her eating disorder has turned her body into that of into a frail old woman's - her bones are crumbling and she suffers from varicose veins.
'For a long time I’ve looked like a child - but now I feel like an old lady,' she added.
Helen, who weighs six stone, started dieting when she was ten. By the time she was 15 she weighed four-and-a-half stone and was just 24 hours from death.
She spent four months in hospital, but as soon as she went home she starved herself until she had lost as much weight as she needed to be readmitted.
This cycle continued for the next two decades.
Part of the problem was that Helen felt her parents had very high expectations of her. She strived to meet impossibly high ideals in her music, dance and academic work.
'My weight was something I could control, and losing weight seemed to be a talent which other people, particularly other girls, admired,' she said.
As Helen grew up, her need for praise didn’t diminish and gaining responsibilities terrified her.
She said: 'My friends were starting to have boyfriends and I felt like a young child inside. That was very scary and alien to me and I didn’t feel I could connect with that.
Helen surrounded herself in a child-like world.
She said: 'I lived very much in an imaginary world with my soft toys which I used to take everywhere until I was 11.
And tragically, Helen has never developed breasts and has to wear a prosthesis made for patients who have had mastectomies.
'But I wear the inserts every day and that’s quite important because it makes me feel like a woman.'
Helen has spent virtually all of the past 20 years in hospital, meaning she has missed out on an education - she has no GCSEs or A-levels.
It is only in the past four months that she has been able to live at home with her parents Rachel Gillespie, 62, who is a retired social worker and Bob Gillespie, a retired teacher, 63.
However she is still unable to bring herself to eat a healthy adult diet and still eats just half the amount of calories a toddler would eat each day.
She said: 'I’m starting to realise that I have a very childlike view of the world. When you’re a small child you think that everything will just come - you’ll be married, have children, a job, a house and a garden.
But I’m starting to realise that actually life is very complicated - and it terrifies me.
'I think on a subconscious level by keeping my body young, I was stopping people having expectations of me.'
Over time Helen has come to realise that she cannot live in the body of a child if she wants to achieve her dreams.
Over the past 20 years she has battled with anorexia, with her weight increasing to a high of nine stone when she was 20, only to fall to the six stone she weighs now.
She said: 'I would love to get married and have children. I go past a bridal shop about three times a week and I look in the window and look at the dresses and think "if only".
'I’ve missed out on my education and my rights of passage like relationships, socialising, friends, work.
I’m sharing my story because I want to warn others that anorexia can take your childhood away.
Sometimes I feel like I’m living in Never-Never Land, and I’m never going to find my way home.
'I do want to get better, but I do wish that I could be a child again and not have all the responsibilities that come with being an adult.
'I don’t believe that I’m beyond help - but I’ll never, ever be normal.'
- If you suffer with anorexia or are concerned that someone you know might, visit anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk for help and more information