15 December 2017

Starving For Perfection!

raLORNA HAMILTON IS A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST BASED IN CO.DOWN. SHE HAS A PASSION FOR WILDLIFE AND LOVES PAINTING THE BEAUTY OF GOD’S CREATION. SHE HAS HAD A NUMBER OF VERY SUCCESSFUL EXHIBITIONS AND REGULARLY EXHIBITS IN THE USA. WE CAUGHT UP WITH LORNA FOLLOWING HER LATEST EXHIBITION WHERE SHE SHARED WITH US ABOUT HER JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE ARTIST AND HER BATTLE TO OVERCOME ANOREXIA.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHEN YOU DEVELOPED ANOREXIA AND WHEN YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS REALISED THAT SOMETHING MIGHT BE WRONG?

I was 17 years old and at college studying for my A’levels. It was quite a few months before anyone realised I had a problem as I started cutting out foods very slowly. At the beginning I believed I was just eating healthily; however as I lost a little weight people remarked on how well I looked. I had never had comments like that and it made me feel good. Following that, something changed in my relationship with food; I realised I was achieving something that most of my friends longed for. It gave me confidence and with each pound lost and each meal reduced I began to feel a sense of achievement. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my thoughts had turned into those of an anorexic. My friends began to notice something was not quite right and asked me about it; I shrugged them off with many excuses. My Mum was asking about dinners and breakfasts; I lied saying I’d had something in college. My tutors began to notice my weight loss too and they asked if all was ok. I was so embarrassed. I defensively replied that all was fine.

HOW DID IT AFFECT YOU DURING THIS PERIOD?

Every morning I arose with one aim in my day…to lose weight. I got up early in the morning and weighed myself; I dressed in my many layers to keep warm. On my way to college I would calculate my calories for that day. (Although maths was not my strong point, when the word calorie was added, I could calculate anything!) Every waking thought became about food, exercise, and how I could lose my next pound. My social life reduced, my friendships became strained and family life became more and more turbulent. I lied, manipulated and bullied my way through each day to avoid having to eat. My only peace came when I closed my eyes.

HOW MUCH WEIGHT DID YOU LOSE?

Obviously if you don’t eat, you lose weight, so safe to say, I lost weight. But details like this are not important. Often anorexics get asked ‘What was your lowest weight?’ To most that is a simple question but to someone with anorexia it can become a goal or a marker of achievement. Each sufferer wants to be the ‘best’ anorexic they can be and it is this attitude that prevents the realisation of their condition and hinders their recovery. At the time I did not think I was bad enough to be anorexic and I certainly did not think I was thin enough.

AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALISE YOU NEEDED HELP?

I didn’t! My Mum was at her wits end; she saw her little girl starving herself to death. She had tried to help me but I declined every suggestion. She approached my youth leader and pleaded with him to speak with me. At that point, I was consuming an extremely low amount of calories in a day; I was not heading in a positive direction! He spoke with me and told me that if I continued on, I would be dead within a few months. For the first time, I was faced with reality and had to admit I had a problem. However the fear of recovery equalled the fear of death.

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER YOUR DECISION TO GET BETTER?

I embarked on a plan where I slowly began introducing food back into my life again. This was not an easy road; I did not realise the damage I had done to myself mentally and physically. My mind was consumed with an overwhelming fear. Each week I sat down with my youth leader and we agreed on a menu. I find it difficult to remember a meal I did not cry over in the first year of recovery. I felt so fat and disgusting each time I ate and the guilt of eating was almost unbearable. I needed constant support and reassurance. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. Something as simple as going out for the day had to be planned with military precision and if plans changed my whole world fell apart!

HOW ARE YOU TODAY?

I can honestly say I am fully recovered. The first year was hardest; my bad days outweighed the good but slowly over time the good days increased. It probably took seven years of hard work to get to a point where food did not affect my daily life. Today I eat healthily. I am no longer imprisoned by my thoughts of food, or the terror of getting fat and the guilt of eating. I can enjoy all food; I especially like…ice-cream!!

YOU WERE A CHRISTIAN WHEN YOU DEVELOPED YOUR ILLNESS. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS HAPPENED?

Yes, I became a Christian when I was 15. I had lots of dreams and aspirations and set very high goals of what I wanted to achieve; however I never felt good enough and constantly criticised myself for my failings. I was also a people pleaser and constantly looked for approval from others (common traits of many anorexics). I began to get discouraged and it was then that I discovered the exhilaration of dieting. In hindsight I can look back and see a very clear process of destruction. I am sad that I lost the years of my youth but take joy in the promise that God ‘will restore unto me the years that the locust hath eaten’ (Joel 2 v25).

OBVIOUSLY YOUR ART MEANS A LOT TO YOU. HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT IN YOUR RECOVERY?

Very much so. I believe the Lord has given me the gift of painting. I treasure it greatly and feel a huge responsibility in using it to the best of my ability. Throughout my recovery I always believed that God had a purpose for my life and my art was part of that. It helped build my self esteem during the days when I felt that I had nothing else. I love what I do; however it too has been a journey. In 2001 I lost all confidence in my painting and ceased painting for over four years! I continued commissioned drawings as I had a crust to earn but I had lost my passion.

HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR PASSION TO PAINT AGAIN?

I was unhappy doing commissions 100% of the time so I started searching for what I would enjoy. In 2005 I had the pleasure of visiting Banff in the Canadian Rockies. While I was there I picked up a little sketch book by a world renowned wildlife artist called Robert Bateman. Immediately I said, “Wildlife is what I want to paint.” I came home with renewed vigour and passion and began painting again. For the first year my paintings were terrible. I cried tears in my studio and prayed that God would help me; I knew I had to just persevere. Eventually I got a few ‘good’ ones and submitted them into an organisation called Society of Animal Artists. I was accepted as a member and exhibited my first painting in America in 2007. In 2008 I was accepted into another organisation, Artists for Conservation and again sent work to America. This time was extra special; my image of Golden Eagles was chosen for the front cover of their show book (a coffee table book containing images of artists from all around the world). I travelled to the opening and saw that my painting was hanging two pictures away from Robert Bateman’s! The painting was also purchased by a buyer who owns one of the largest collections of Bateman paintings and to top it all off, I met Robert Bateman himself! It was a great weekend; I really felt God’s blessing so much.

HOW DID YOUR LAST EXHIBITION GO?

Really well! I sold most of the pictures, which is pretty much unheard of these days in the art world. I thank the Lord for His goodness to me. I could not do what I do without the Lord’s guidance and support. Every step is one of faith; I just paint the pictures!

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS SUFFERING FROM ANOREXIA?

Anorexia is an all consuming and jealous idol: it demands every thought, destroys your health and steals your future. God does not want this for you; He loves you and wants His best for you. I am still amazed how He took me, a tormented skinny young girl and elevated me to places I never dreamt I would be. Don’t throw away your life on an addiction that totally destroys every aspect of your life; make your life count and see what God has planned for you. It certainly isn’t anorexia! Anyone who has the strength of mind and dedication to become an anorexic has every attribute to get better and achieve something special in this world…please let that be you!

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN VIEWING MORE OF LORNA’S PAINTINGS, PLEASE VISIT HER WEBSITE: WWW.LORNAHAMILTON.COM OR COME ALONG TO ARTS SOURCE, RDS DUBLIN, 8TH- 11TH NOVEMBER WHERE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MEET LORNA AND SEE HER NEW WORKS IN PERSON. LORNA ALSO UNDERTAKES COMMISSIONED PORTRAIT WORK, A PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT!

PLEASE CONTACT INFO@LORNAHAMILTON.COM OR 0776 111 5887 FOR MORE DETAILS.