The Healing Tree-Waking Up Pt. 2

“Don’t feel guilty…. don’t feel guilty. So many flowers, don’t cry. Don’t dwell on how much I feel like I don’t deserve this. Gratitude isn’t greed…. or narcissism, or maybe I should make a t-shirt out of that….”

A Blog and Community dedicated to healing in all its forms

(My name is Mary Beth Orr. I am a professional horn player and currently 3rd Horn in the Grand Rapids Symphony. The following is my story in hopes it may be a helpful resource.)

Trauma post #2


Home is nice. Home is good. I love my bed. It feels like HEAVEN. Especially after the hospital bed. Why is it you can’t ever get warm in a hospital bed? The sheets are so rough, the blankets are the most NON-cozy things ever and the pillows…. I’m going to sleep like the…. oh wait…. I’m not gonna go there. 

I’m not allowed to walk down the stairs by myself….my husband is being so sweet and protective. I dig it. Which helps me not be pissed about not being able to walk down the stairs by myself. But…. it’s been a few days, and he’s at the store and I’m bored out of my skull. It won’t be dangerous for me to vacuum…. If I hurry, he won’t even know…. Dear God, I just need to DO something….and the floor is legitimately gross….

I got myself “ready” today. I showered, braided my hair, put on a little makeup. Time for the selfie. I feel a sense of urgency I need to show everyone that I’m ok. The amount of love and support I’ve gotten is so overwhelming and honestly, makes me feel so so so guilty. Another WTF from this whole thing. Why can’t I just accept and enjoy peoples support and love and help? They put together a meal train for Kerry and me. He has been out of work since April 11. Luckily, I have enough sick days to cover things for a while. My symphony family donated a ton of sick days to me too…. Don’t feel guilty…. don’t feel guilty. So many flowers, don’t cry. Don’t dwell on how much I feel like I don’t deserve this. Gratitude isn’t greed…. or narcissism, or maybe I should make a t-shirt out of that…. It’s ok. Today is a good day. I feel the love, I feel more like myself, I’m wearing actual clothes and not pajamas. I want to go through my things from the hospital. I know my clothing was cut off me. And thrown away. I apparently “messed myself” on impact. That’s a fun little tidbit. But that’s ok. It’s past now. You’re not supposed to care about that when you almost die and scare the shit out of everyone that loves you. Putting on my wedding rings again and sorting through what was at the hospital will get me even more back to normal. 

My rings are cut in half. All of them. My grandma and Poppi’s rings are broken. The date inscribed of their wedding is gone. Fucking Gone. I ruined everything. I ruined everything. I RUINED EVERYTHING. Ok. Bat shit crazy losing it. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK ETC. ETC. ETC. ETC. ETC. Oh God…. Vic can hear me but I can’t stop. I can’t stop. 

Not. Okay. Nothing is ok. 

(End of Exercise)

For reference, it took me over a year to do this exercise. And 4 to share it. It was not easy to do. I wanted to be better so incredibly fast, going back to those feelings and acknowledging them, felt like a useless pointless barrier holding me back. I have struggled to accept each emotion during the entire journey back. I consistently wondered “Is this what I should be feeling?”, “Is this what will help me get better faster?” 

Acceptance of every moment was the only option, whatever that meant, and was a constant challenge to keep my self-judgement at bay. It was so easy to question my reactions to the compassion and generosity of those around me, milestones in my physiological recovery, and expectations…truly, simply all expectations in general. 

Here are a few examples of things that triggered feelings of guilt.

-Any time I allowed myself to feel grief, a sense of loss, “feeling sorry for myself”

(i.e. Discovering my rings had been cut, realizing clumps of my hair had been cut to remove my hair tie, my tooth, a photograph in my car that went missing.) 

-Donations, cards, flowers.

-acts of service…. cleaning for me, making me food.

-not being able to rest, not wanting to rest, being ungrateful for the ability to rest.

-Not being able to match anyone’s emotional levels. (more on that later)

-not being “grateful” enough.

Things that triggered anger (To be CLEAR- I was not angry at those that said these. The emotion it would trigger was very surprising and unwanted)

            -When people would say things like….” At least you play piano and you can still do that”

            “You are soooo lucky to be alive”, “You’re such an inspiration”, “You’re so strong”

  • And this one needs some further explanation “If anyone can come back from this, it’s you” 

So…. none of these things are negative and all of them are supportive. WHY WOULD THIS TRIGGER THESE FEELINGS!? One of the most frustrating parts of recovering from trauma is simply accepting your feelings as you have them. My feelings after and during this trauma were not going to be like anyone else’s and that is ok. My therapist worked very hard at keeping me aware of my own judgement against MYSELF. My feelings, all of them, weren’t what was keeping me from recovering; my judgement was. My fear over the unknown, my career, my mind, my life as I had planned, kept me from resting. Running from the fear by trying to DO as much as possible as soon as I could, only temporarily gave me peace. At the same time, denying my innate desire and instinct to be active and proactive in my recovery wasn’t helping either. I had to figure out some sense of balance. I had to honor who I was (an Alpha “doer” and over achiever), to manage and facilitate my healing, rather than constantly try to fight and act the way I thought others expected I should. 

With my therapist, I worked out a new way to assess a “successful day”. What was my new definition of a good day? I made meditation and quiet time an achievement. It was a goal to get as much of it as possible. My brain health required it so …. doing an active form of nothing, became a proactive something contributing to my recovery. I combined it with another activity that had a productive element to it. In the mornings, I would let my dogs out, start the sprinkler and sit and watch my dogs play, drink coffee, meditate, and water my lawn all at the same time. Something so incredibly simple had a profound ability to bring me peace just by shifting the perspective it held in my mind. Was I happy? Hell no. I still had the same fears and anxieties and anger…. It just didn’t rule my day anymore and didn’t give me a sense of shame anymore. What the shift did for me was help me to wait. That’s what recovering from trauma is; waiting. Every time someone said, “you just need time to heal”, I wanted to vomit, or slap them, or blow something up…. you know, normal healthy responses…. But when I shifted my definition of healing to something I could make active, I felt a sense of momentum in the waiting. What gives you momentum in the waiting? It occurred to me we all seem to be waiting for something. 

Next time…. let’s talk about feelings…or in my case, wondering where they went. 

Until then, Be Well. 

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