CHLOE Smith was like any other 13-year-old who loved nothing more than spending time with her friends and playing in the school band.

But just two years later her life had become a living nightmare as she battled a devastating and potentially fatal eating disorder in her quest to be “perfect”.

The seeds of anorexia were first sown when Chloe was in her first year of Smithills Schools and she was bullied by other girls who called her fat and ugly.

Chloe’s mother, Pam Parish, says the girls even set up a fake page on the social networking website, Facebook, with a doctored photograph of the schoolgirl looking fat, accompanied by cruel comments.

It became so serious the police got involved — and Ms Parish believes this is when Chloe’s anorexia first started.

Chloe, who was a healthy size 10 before she became ill, dropped to just five stone when she was in the worst grip of the illness.

But now the brave 17-year-old, who is overcoming her problems, is determined to train to be a paediatric nurse and help others overcome anorexia.

She said: “I want to get better and go to college but I am scared of letting go of anorexia because it has become such a big part of my life. I cannot remember what life before, it is a blur.”

At first, Chloe, who is a talented saxophone player, simply cut out chocolate and sweets from her diet — but as she lost weight her methods became more extreme and she started cutting out meals.

She said: “I was happy that I was losing weight and I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to be perfect.

“I feared being fat and I was striving to be like others who are perfect.

“There were girls in school who I wanted to be like, and celebrities, such as Cheryl Cole.”

Every day her mum was sending Chloe off to school with a healthy packed lunch — but all she was eating was grapes.

Chloe, of Merlin Grove, said: “My thoughts told me I did not need food and I would get fat. I also developed a fear of drinking water as I did not want to gain weight.”

Ms Parish became concerned about her daughter’s weight around Easter 2011, and insisted she go to see a doctor.

Her heart rate was so low that she could have had a heart attack any time and she was admitted to the Royal Bolton Hospital.

Chloe spent four weeks in hospital, and when she came home she was so weak that she had to rest in bed and use a wheelchair.

By October, 2011, she had to be re-admitted to hospital and then transferred for a four month stay at the McGuinness Unit at Prestwich Hospital.

Chloe said: “The hospital force fed me through a tube, but I don’t think they have helped with what is going on in my head.

“I still feel uncomfortable about the way I look.”

Because of her illness — and subsequent treatment — Chloe could no longer attend school in year 11 or sit her exams.

She had been predicted straight-As at GCSE but has gained some GCSE qualifications from exams she sat when she was in year 10.

Chloe has not yet been able to return to school and Ms Parish had to give up her job as a teaching assistant to become her daughter’s full-time carer.

Ms Parish has now set up an online support group on Facebook for other sufferers and their parents.

The 43-year-old mum said: “I did a lot of research myself because I was told nothing. I thought it was silly girls who dieted. I did not understand what was going on in her head.

“It is like she has a voice in her head and thoughts telling her not to eat.

“People trivialise it as an illness, but it is a serious mental condition. We have had comments about “just eat a McDonald’s”, but it is like her thoughts are ruled by a gremlin, which stops all rational thinking.”

Chloe added: “People on the group are my closest friends now. They have been where I am and we can understand each other.”

The mother and daughter are now campaigning for more education about anorexia and for a dedicated unit.

Ms Parish discharged Chloe from the McGuinness Unit, where there were people with a spectrum of mental health issues.

She said: “There is no dedicated NHS eating disorder unit in this area, which is why sufferers are placed in mental health units with patients with a variety of problems.

“But eating disorders should be treated specifically by dedicated units.”

She added that Chloe, who is a talented musician, was not able to pick up an instrument when she was poorly.

But recently she has played the saxophone in two concerts on her road to recovery.

She said: “That is an absolutely huge thing for her.”