Lorna’s story – creativity and recovery

Lorna Collins, Oxford Health ambassador and former peer support worker at the trust, tells others how creativity saved her life.

Lorna’s story – creativity and recovery

To help raise for Eating Disorder Awareness Week (March 1 -7), we take a look at Lorna Collins’ inspiring story that has led her to encourage others to reach out for help and look to creativity as a form of self-care.

After a long and enduring battle with anorexia that nearly killed her, Lorna is certain it was creativity that helped save her.

Lorna has since created a new life for herself, completely outside of the eating disorders world. Now working as a Research Fellow at University College London, Lorna still uses her creativity to furnish and nourish her life – running art workshops and uses her art practice as part of her daily routine of self care, and as a hobby. Her research at UCL investigates how art practice can help people (in a number of different contexts). Lorna’s passion for art helped her build such a strong recovery; it now sustains her career.

A skilled artist, Lorna is very often described an inspiration by the clinicians who helped her and has given a TEDx Talk – an event designed to unleash new ideas, inspire and inform. Hers is called ‘How Creativity Revived Me’.

Lorna explained: “I had an ambition to do the talk at TEDx Coventry and it took a year to prepare for the film. I want to show more people the merits of the Oxford Health team.”

In the talk, Lorna shares with others how the care she received enabled her to survive and thrive, after being desperately unwell with anorexia for nearly 20 years. Lorna also speaks about the turning point when a doctor saw her drawings and prescribed art as part of her medication and treatment.

She had unsuccessful admissions to facilities in the UK and overseas, but it wasn’t until she became an inpatient at Cotswold House at the Warneford Hospital, Oxford, that she found hope, a holistic care plan and a path to recovery that embraced her artistic flair.

Lorna explained: “Paintings enabled me to survive despite all the trauma I was experiencing during my treatment. Painting and writing grounded me. The team at Cotswold House and at the Whiteleaf Centre in Aylesbury were instrumental to my recovery.”

David Viljoen, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Cotswold House said: “It is a privilege for us as a multi-disciplinary team to see how Lorna has developed and recovered from a severe and long-standing eating disorder. We are constantly learning from our patients and Lorna’s recovery highlights that art can be used to compliment CBT for eating disorders.”

During lockdown, Lorna has been leading online art workshops on Zoom. As well as local groups for children and adults, she is involved in ‘#BeCreative’ art workshops, supported by East Midlands based First Steps Eating Disorder Charity.

Now, grant application pending, she is embarking on a huge research project: ‘The Butterfly Effect: Art, Creativity and Eating Disorders’.

If you would like to watch Lorna’s TEDx Talk – you can see it here: https://youtu.be/smKOkjUfzHw

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Published: 5 March 2021