October 27th, 2016

Love of art saves Leamington anorexia sufferer

Updated: 9:21 am, Jul 17, 2015

AN ANOREXIA sufferer who survived on just 100 calories a day has overcome her eating disorder through her love of art.

Anneka Reay, who lives in Leamington, was studying for a fine art degree when she had to be hospitalised after her weight plummeted to five-and-a-half stone.

The budding artist was struggling to eat even one cup-a-soup a day and had to drop out of university when she became too poorly, with a BMI nearly half that of a healthy adult.

She had started to draw a skeletal figure in her artwork, but says at the time did not realise she was actually drawing herself.

The 28-year-old, who is now a volunteer for mental health charity Together, told the Observer: “I look back now and it was such a scary time in my life.

“I couldn’t believe when I finally realised the emaciated woman I had been drawing was actually my true reflection.

“My friends and family could all see how thin I was, but no matter how many times they told me, I just couldn’t see that that is what I looked like.

“Even after I knew I would sometimes I would draw the same woman hundreds of times in just one day, but my artwork helped me understand what I was going through at the time.”

In 2007 the budding artist’s condition was so severe she was at risk of a heart attack due to her low weight.

The following five years were full of clinic visits, therapy groups and long stays at Warwick Hospital while she recovered.

The whole time she continued to draw, filling around 50 scrapbooks in her preferred style of using a ballpoint pen.

And now, Anneka is celebrating after finally graduating from Staffordshire University with a 2:1 degree in fine arts.

She said: “I knew I had to overcome anorexia for my artwork. I wanted to be known as Anneka the artist rather than Anneka the anorexic.

“I am so happy to have graduated. I have really worked hard and turned my life around, my artwork really did save my life.

“I find it really odd looking back through my old sketchbooks now as it transports me to that darker time – but I’ve came a long way since those days and I couldn’t be happier.”

Visit www.annekareay.co.uk to see more of Anneka’s drawings or to contact her about art therapy.