Twin sisters torn apart by anorexia that left one of them fighting for her life

Identical twins Leah and Anna Senior were inseparable for years, barely spending a minute apart.

As little girls they spent all their spare time ballet dancing.

But the passion that once united them has now ripped them apart. For Leah became anorexic in her quest to become a professional ballerina.

Now 20, she weighs just over five stone and her life is in danger.

And Anna is making a final ­heart-rending plea to her twin to start eating before it is too late.

“I want my old sister back,” she said. “We used to have so much fun.

“Leah and I were so close when we were little. Our love of dancing ­cemented that relationship but now I’m frightened the one thing we both loved will kill her.

“I’m sure it was her determination to be the best ballerina possible that actually caused her to end up with an eating disorder. It has taken my once happy and bubbly sister away.

“I imagined we would always be together. It breaks my heart there is a very real chance that won’t happen.

“I’m frightened that if Leah doesn’t get better she won’t be here for much longer.”

The twins, from Barnsley, South Yorks, began dancing when they were aged three, progressing through the ranks until they were both accepted to train at the prestigious Royal School of Ballet in London.

Until she was 15, Leah – who by her sister’s own ­admission was a more ­naturally talented dancer than her – was perfectly healthy.

Anna said: “Looking back I can see now how it started. Leah strived to be the best dancer she possibly could.

“There is a huge amount of pressure on dancers to be thin. Competition to be the best is fierce.

“I think Leah saw losing weight as a way of making it to the top.

“It started with us both going for a gentle jog but ended in Leah physically not being able to keep still. Even if we were at home, she would constantly do burpees or handstands.

“At first I couldn’t understand why Leah just wouldn’t eat. I would get angry with her as I could see how much she was upsetting Mum and Dad. They were out of their minds with worry.

“For the first time in our lives we would shout at one another. As Leah’s illness took hold she would physically attack me if I criticised her.

“It was just awful. She was no longer the sister I loved with all my heart.”

Their mother booked Leah a GP appointment and the doctor weighed her at less than five stone.

With a seriously underweight BMI of 13.4 – anything under 18.5 is classed as underweight – Leah was referred to the community mental health team and started on a meal plan, ­supplemented with calorie shakes.

But she refused to accept that ­anything was wrong with her and started ­exercising even more.

Unable to gain weight, she was admitted to the Becton Centre in Sheffield, a unit for adolescents with mental health issues, including eating disorders, and was fed with a nasal tube – which she hated.

Anna, who is now at university studying dance, added: “It was the first day we had ever spent time apart and I felt like I’d lost my right arm. I just wanted her to get better.

“I was studying a lot so couldn’t see Leah every day but would always FaceTime her from her phone and plead with her to get better.”

Leah spent the next four years in and out of different clinics, ­sometimes making progress.

But as soon as she gained weight, her obsession with ­losing it began again.

When she was 18, Leah split up with her boyfriend.

The upset became the catalyst that sent her into a downward spiral of cutting out meals.

She finally stopped eating in February 2017 and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

At the same time Leah developed an obsession with cleaning.

During her spells with her family she would spend hours scrubbing the ­already immaculate family home.

Anna said: “Just trying to have a family dinner became horrifically stressful. Leah wouldn’t sit down until she had washed the kitchen worktops over and over again.

“She actually rubbed the sheen off the granite and wiped the microwave so much that the numbers wore off.”

Leah said: “I feel so sad that I can’t follow my dreams. I watch Anna and see how well she is doing and just wish I could take control of my life.

“My biggest dream is to get better so I can be happy like my sister.”

During our interview Leah was ­unable to keep still.

“I just can’t help it,” she said while continually rising up and down on to the tips of her toes, her years of ballet dance training still evident.

“I really want to get better. I want to go to college and train to be a lawyer and have a normal life but I don’t know how to take control of my illness.”

The girls’ mother Lisa Gray, 48, said: “She is like this constantly. I need to go back to work next week as I’ve had far too much time off but I’m frightened of leaving her alone.”

Leah, who is still being monitored by her local mental health team, has been referred to three different eating disorder clinics but is waiting to see if she will be accepted as an in-patient.

Her illness has been a massive strain for her distraught parents Lisa and Michael Senior, 53, a joiner.

They raise money for Beat, the charity for those with eating disorders.

Lisa said: “To have identical twin girls who I could dress the same, who loved pretty things and dancing was just perfect for me.

“I envisaged watching them grow up, ­becoming beautiful young women, getting married and having children of their own.

“Now I have no idea what tomorrow holds let alone whether Leah will ever be well enough to have ­children one day.

“I literally have to take one day at a time. The ­future is so uncertain.

“All I know is there is a very real chance that I could lose Leah and all my hopes and dreams as a parent will be utterly broken.

“One daughter is pursuing her dreams and another may lose everything she ever dreamed of.

“Overnight Leah went from eating normally, ­enjoying a McDonald’s once a week, to becoming obsessive about exercise and cutting out carbohydrates and anything with an ounce of fat.

“Both girls always had quite slight frames but suddenly Leah was painfully thin. Her periods had stopped and her tiny size 0 clothes were hanging off her.

“Lisa added that the health ­service’s support for adults who suffer from eating disorders was minimal.

“The emphasis is on us as a family to help her but we aren’t the experts. I can’t make my little girl better,” Lisa said.

“Without out the specialised help she desperately needs, the very realistic ­consequence is she will die.”

“All the help she has been offered is one hour a week at a clinic 20 miles away in Sheffield and weekly contact with an ­occupational therapist and dietician.”

Read More

Top news stories from Mirror Online

  • Mum victim of horrific domestic abuse
  • Bradley Welsh 'shot over missing drugs'
  • Britain to be 'hottest in Europe'
  • Diane Abbott 'sorry' for TfL drinking

Source: Read Full Article