“I’m done with the defeat, the depression and the bad behavior. I don’t choose that anymore. I took a leap of faith and now I feel like everything is possible again.” – Lorna Whittemore
Lorna’s deep soul shines with music. At age seven she began to fall in love with dance, song and theatre. She attended a performing arts boarding school in New York, and played the lead in every musical, choir, rock ensemble, and a cappella group. Her beloved operas, musicals and songs taught her that life’s painful issues could be perceived as blessings when transmuted through the art of music. “Instead of something being a problem, it was celebrated. It was acknowledged and loved. If I was emoting or dramatic or problematic, ok well: ‘Watch out! You can all shut up and listen to me! Because you have to be in the dark in the audience. Onstage i will be heard, I will be seen, I will be felt, and I will connect with that black orifice of the audience and it will be one spirit where I will tell the truth about something!’ And I would be confirmed. People would say, ‘I felt you.’ That is very powerful.”
In her twenties, Lorna moved to New York City to pursue a career in the performing arts, and became part of another large loving community of fellow creatives. It was a thrilling experience, but as she neared thirty she began to doubt her path. “Everybody was waiting tables in Manhattan at the time, and everybody was a writer or a singer or an actor or a playwright or a director. But I noticed that nobody was really ever breaking into making a living doing it. At age 28 I got worried because I had other friends that were not artists that were getting married and doing well at their money job and I didn’t understand what I should be doing— should I be focusing on a relationship? Should I be focusing on money? Should I be focusing on my art? How can I do it all so that by the time I was 35 I’d be set and I could just live life?”
Insecurity crept in, and the young artist left Manhattan for Northern Westchester County, New York. She took telemarketing jobs until she found a position as an advertising representative at a local newspaper. “I thought ‘Oh this is great, I’m gonna make 40 thousand a year with health benefits plus i can make commission’. But when I hit the 4 year mark that’s when i started having real mental problems. Enter then 8 years of complete mental breakdown. I should have just always been listening to myself. I wanted to be an artist. But I didn’t know how to do it.”
Lorna’s courage was tested for nearly a decade as she spiraled into a darkness of depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, endless psychiatric treatments, pharmaceutical medications, and government disability support. The intensity of her condition was exacerbated by a feeling of being stuck in a system which labeled her as “broken,” and which stunted her integration process. She discovered that the institutions for mental health in this country often do not encourage true recovery, but instead stigmatize and even minimize the intrinsic human value of struggling patients. “Being somebody that had to seek out a doctor and seek out a therapist and give over my power, and give over my trusting of trusting myself, I really lost myself even more. It was a disservice to label me and to diagnose me and overmedicate me. I needed someone to say to me, ‘You’re totally okay and smart, and do you see that theres a silver lining to whatever illness this is there’s also a brilliance.’ Whether people come to this earth totally well adjusted to be an average human being or not, we need to find a way for them to exist joyfully. Not to make them feel less than. And I think that’s where the support breaks down in America.”
Lorna endured years of agony before she made her first major move toward recovery. “I wanted out from hanging around other considered-mentally ill people on tons of medication. I wanted a way to go make some money and to become independent and feel creative in any way. Just somehow. I needed to jump out from the system.” One day she boldly followed her intuition and introduced herself to a pair of businessmen she’d seen walking in her neighborhood. They told her that they ran a marketing company called Insperia Media, and she asked if they needed help with phone calls. They did, and she was hired. “I told them my whole life story. They knew everything about me, they supported me, they really loved me, they were really good guys. And that validated the truth of me again. I started to come back.”
Lorna was well supported at work, but the intense psychological struggles continued during her time with the company. Her neighborhood was full of “mentally ill people and drug dealers and sadness and homelessness,” and after four years she was ready to escape. Her intuition guided her back up to Bedford, where she was quickly hired as a substitute teacher at the School of Rock. Finally, Lorna felt liberated as she re-engaged with the passion of her life — music. She found her truth again as she poured a dedicated heart into therapeutic instruction. It’s been a year and a half and she is still with the school, and has also established a private practice. She guides teenagers preparing for film, Disney, and Broadway auditions. She helps older women find their soul through music, and helps couples find love again through dance. She assists conflicted teenagers and autistic children in finding a way to express and make sense of their troubles through the empowering modality of music.
“Because of my heartache and because of that journey, it has made me flex these muscles in a way to give back. I didn’t realize the power of teaching, and that’s whats actually been my cure. Thats my connection. Every day i teach four to ten people, and that replaces the need for defeat. And now I’m creating as an artist again. I sang with a band recently, I did a performance, somebody just asked me to do a play reading, I might do a little jazz concert. Things are finally happening it’s only because I showed up again.”
Along her troubled path Lorna found that validation was paramount to her confidence, self-esteem and security. After suffering mistreatment and loss of self-worth, it was the love and appreciation of her co-workers that brought gave her hope again. She found realignment through the encouragement of a unique social worker named Nelson, who showed her productive ways to channel anxious energy instead of targeting a diagnosis. Those who love her offered a pure reflection of understanding and compassion. These lessons bore fruits which she now uses when working with students. She understands that the best way to help someone who feels lost, discouraged, or defeated is by engaging in what is powerful and beautiful about them. Rather than targeting weaknesses, she validates their unique gifts. Feeling supported, they bloom.
Lorna is currently assisting a large spectrum of people to hone the power of their artistic human sensitivity — to own it, trust it, love it and nurture it. The pressures of societal expectations once caused Lorna to abandon her artistic path, but the consequential pain she endured drove her to find a way back. She is now finally reconnected with the feeling of life and liberty that music gave her as a child and young adult. She beams as an example of courage and triumph through disaster. She inspires us to believe in what we love with a passion rooted strong by the struggle of becoming lost and found. Her quest for security took a path through hell, straight to the security she sought — inside her own love, where it was waiting all along.