The Healing Tree – Why Shame?

What a surreal existence to have so many show you love and support and you end up feeling the exact opposite of how they wanted you to feel and you can’t even begin to control it.

(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.)

So, let’s talk about shame. Why? Because that is a surprising little nugget that popped up for me during my recovery. It sometimes would slink in as a companion to my depression or come on like being hit by a 2×4 when someone said just the right thing meant to make me feel better. You know what pairs super well with shame? Rage. Oh yeah. That one never slunk in… nope. It travelled right alongside shame like nails on that 2×4. Along with dealing with physical injury repair to my face, teeth, neck, internal soft tissues, etc.… my brain had its own journey as well. This post will cover all the wonderful mixed up, messed up, jacked up things losing your career, passion, and brainpower can do to you, but more specifically, did to me. Concussions for women are a bitch. Pun definitely intended. And brain injury lingers on like a bad chain letter that keeps making its rounds. You forget about it and forget they exist until you get one and are once again reminded what a nuisance it all is. 

So where did my shame come from? The accident was my fault. Do I KNOW this? Not really since I can’t remember anything. But that is what I was told and that is the only information I have. Do I believe it? I actually don’t know and at some point, realized it doesn’t fucking matter. You know what else triggered my shame? The rage I would feel every time someone was kind to me. People I loved and even just acquaintances were trying to everything they could to support me. You know the feeling you get when someone you know has something really terrible happen to them, you see it posted on Facebook, or see them and know you should say something supportive and amazing to make them feel better but have no clue what that is because deep down you know they’re in hell and nothing can really make it better? I’m pretty sure a whole truck load of people in my life felt that way. And so, they would say amazing things like, “Well, you look amazing”, or “You are sooooo lucky”, or “At least you still can play piano and sing”, and my favorite “If anyone can get through this and come back you can”. 

Honestly, even writing these again make me want to punch a wall. WTF?! WHY DO THESE THINGS TRIGGER ME SO MUCH! Now I’m having rage at myself for allowing myself to be triggered by these kind and supportive phrases. What a surreal existence to have so many show you love and support and you end up feeling the exact opposite of how they wanted you to feel and you can’t even begin to control it. Enter shame. Dirty, sexy shame come right on in. And now let’s compound this with fear you can’t live up to everyone’s expectation of your strength, that no amount of support may get your career and livelihood back, that what made you special was possibly gone forever, that this was all your fault, etc.… blah blah blah blah blah BRAIN. My trauma therapist Angie and I had a good time with this cyclical thought process. 

On a side note, I started out with a speech therapist to help my lingering memory issues after the accident. We established where I was on what is called their “Bell Curve” to establish a bit of a baseline and then work at improving from there. Ultimately, there was a point I reached the max of my improvement and discovered my emotional and chemical trauma were the squeakier wheel.

While Angie was helping me adapt my hyper productive oriented approach to living to a new normal that was supportive in my healing process, we also had to get to the root of each of these phrases. 

“Well, you look amazing” 

Thank you? I mean yeah, normally that would make me feel great. Accept, not only was I feeling like physical shit almost all the time, I really didn’t have the ability to show emotion or experience a wide range of emotions other than fear, shame, and rage. It’s so complicated. And I’m pretty sure the rest of what I’m going to write about won’t make much sense but here it is…. Ultimately, I kind of wanted to just be left alone. But I also wanted to be working. Doing anything that felt like me. Or who I used to be. But I really couldn’t do that in the way I wanted and that pissed me off. I also really felt like a ghost and couldn’t feel emotions the way I did before, nor did I have the energy or the ability to match others energy with a similar reaction to our interaction. Follow?  Did I want to look amazing? Sure. Did I want people to know how badly I was struggling? No. But I also, didn’t want people to have unrealistic expectations of me either. And I felt how I looked on the outside may have sent a false message I couldn’t begin to really get into in a casual conversation. #COMPLICATED

“You are sooooo lucky”

This was a little more clear to me as to why I wanted to punch walls… or people… when this phrase passed my ears. OF COURSE I KNOW I’M FUCKING LUCKY! Christ almighty! Like, what the actual fuck am I supposed to say to that? Ummm yeah, I know? Thanks for reminding me of something I live with every day? What am I really supposed to do with that comment. I respect that sometimes is the only thing someone can think of because they are grateful I’m still here and intact, but to my over achieving up tight, control freak classical music trained self, that said to me, “You’re not acting grateful enough so I thought I should let you know”. So initially I would feel the thud of the shame 2×4 in the gut and in true form, those sharp nails of rage would rip right into me just a teeny tiny moment later. Is this rational? Not even remotely. But I have never asserted any of these posts about my experience would make sense, be moral, or even inspirational. It’s just honest, unfiltered, and vulnerable. Just in case I might not be the only one, I’m putting it all out there. Because these feelings were isolating and made me feel terminally ALONE.

 “At least you still can play piano and sing” 

This. Was. A. Doozie. I know full well people were trying to help me stay positive. But this also links up to the “lucky” shame cycle. If I’m not okay with that outcome, does that make me ungrateful? I am a punishingly honest person so for me to try and smile and say, “Yes, I know. It’s such a blessing” just couldn’t come out of my mouth. My main reaction was to kind of nod my head, look away and try to change the subject. Just that little bit of deflection or redirect was exhausting and made it hard for me to want to be around people in broad social situations. I did not want and could not even begin to explain to every single person that uttered those words, what it would cost my soul to lose the job I had recently won and gotten tenure in after 15 years of auditioning in one of the hardest career markets. The shame of wishing I had lost one of my feet instead of one of my teeth. Yeah, I actually had those thoughts…. Which also caused massive amounts of self-loathing and shame. Because that is a fucked-up way of thinking. But, again, that is the truth of what passed through my brain. I remember trying to find some peace one summer evening, somewhere between recovering from my lip surgery and waiting for my implant surgery, by sitting outside and trying to enjoy a beautiful sunset and crisp G and T. I had yet to find any sign the 25 years of technique/lip I had cultivated would either still be there once the implant was done, or would come back even remotely to the level it had been. I also wondered how far back to square 1 would I have to go? In my mind, it felt like watching a Druid be so close to getting that last stone in place before they slipped and stone rolled all the way back down the hill…. And the rest of “Henge” went with it. Would I have to just move one more stone back into position? All of them? Or had the stones broken completely and now I must find all new stones… The resounding thought in my brain was. “Girl, if you can’t play horn anymore, there may not be enough medication to save you”. 

So, when I got the “At least” comment, it instantly brought all the fear, shame, and isolation front and center. No Bueno. 

“If anyone can get through this and come back you can”.

And this brings us to this little gem. Look, I pride myself on being strong. I am a believer you can actually choose to be as strong as you need and/or want to be. However, in this situation, though these loved ones, friends, and supporters were trying to build me up, instead triggered the implication in my mind that if I somehow didn’t come back, I wasn’t strong enough? Or the frustration that deep down I knew there was a distinct possibility I had nerve damage in my lip. There was a distinct possibility the implant would fail. These are things beyond my control. What if there was a physiological reason that all the strength in the world couldn’t overcome? Plain and simple, this statement made me feel vulnerable. Or I allowed this overwhelmingly supportive statement to trigger my vulnerability. 

Honestly, most of the time I wanted to be left alone. Yes, there were times getting out of the house was good, felt good, felt necessary. But in those times, I dreaded the simple question “How are you?”. You know, the one where they give you that certain pointed look with wide eyes and a tone of voice resembling something between awe and terror? I mean, how exactly was I supposed to really honestly answer that question. Enter my amazing therapist Angie. Together we came up with a great answer to both be honest, simple, and redirect the conversation to what I really wanted. A distraction from my reality. I wanted desperately to know how everyone ELSE was. So here was my answer “Oh, it’s too complicated, but I’m really interested in how you are? What’s new?” 

Even though having that phrase ready helped, I still preferred being alone. It was comfortable because I could be a mess, a complete mess and not have to try to navigate social interaction. This, also made it easy to go deep into my doom spiral which, also wasn’t good. What is comfortable isn’t always what is good. Which brings me to a last surprise little nugget….

“You are such an inspiration” 

Oh, this phrase pretty much just killed my soul. What a ridiculous thing to live up to! My first thought would be…. “Do you have any idea what kind of stupid, impulsive, and compulsive things I am doing right now? The destructive cyclical thoughts constantly spinning my brain until I’m just paralyzed”? I strongly felt that if the world could see what was really happening behind the scenes, they might think differently. It’s hard for me to accept a compliment I don’t feel I’ve earned. I’ve been called strong, but I prefer the more truthful word to be compulsive. As in, everything I do, I’m compelled to do because I can’t live with the alternative outcome. My drive and my compulsions were my strength and also my vice. I did some stupid shit when trying to bring my playing back. I doom spiraled my brain out of having any creative energy to write songs or arrangements, or do all the painting I always said I would do if I had the time… 

I guess I’ve had to do some thinking on my definition of inspirational. As previously mentioned, I was “lucky” surviving this car crash. I guess I can take credit for being smart enough to wear my seat belt, sit far away from the steering wheel, and purchase a super safe car (Love Ya Honda). But I didn’t have one ounce of control over how fast I healed, or coming out of the coma…. It is true everyone around me said I was fighting all over the place, i.e. Constantly removing my cervical collar and restraints (yep I had to be put in restraints), moving too much to let them give me an MRI, etc…. But that wasn’t conscious. That wasn’t a conscious decision I made to do. BECAUSE I WAS UNCONSCIOUS. So, I couldn’t, right? When I woke up I was told to rest. Rest was what my body needed. I did not do that. I wanted out of that bed and walk around. So, I did. Against orders. My actions and decisions came from my compulsion to get my horn career back. Entirely. Rest was not an option because of the urgency of those compulsions. So, during my recovery and rehabilitation back to playing, I had a constant tug of war with those compulsions. Sometimes my healing won, and sometimes my compulsions did. Being inspirational and strong to me, is being more and better than your compulsions to do what is smart, and uncomfortable because it is patient, and requires grace and diligence. 

There were times I had those things. And times I didn’t. The times I gave in to the negative, panicked, or impatient choices, made me feel shame. At times like I was betraying everyone that thought I was an inspiration. Those lingering thoughts became the motivation for this blog, really. I felt that I could handle the “inspirational” moniker if I shared everything and THEN, people decided it still fit their ideal. If you or they saw all the dirty corners of my journey, and still wanted to say I was inspirational, I could live with that. Because at least it’s based on truth and it isn’t my place to tell someone how to feel or think, just give them the information to make an informed decision. 

As you might notice, I haven’t provided a shrewd and uplifting analysis of my thoughts from that period. I am not placing judgment on any of it. Because the truth that runs through all of it is that it flows like a tide… This experience goes so much farther beyond good or bad or right or wrong; would, should, or could. It just was, and is an experience. My experience. I want to empower you to have your own without judgement. I want you to feel less alone when those surprise “Oh shit” nuggets hit you that you have no clue how to sit with, or react to. Your Healing gets to be YOURS. You don’t have to rationalize your thoughts, choices, or feelings to anyone. 

Until next time reader, be well. 

The Healing Tree-Healing is a Bitch

Ah yes, healing…. not peaceful at all, is it? In actuality, it is the literal growing pains of our youth. Bone stretching and aching to catch up with our chemicals, and our chemicals pulsing and surging to force those bones into submission through compulsion.

(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.)

Well, I have a dentist. I have a treatment plan. I’m home and starting this elusive process called “rest”. My day to day is sleep, try to eat, try not to crawl out of my skin with fear, dread, and panic about what may or may not happen to my career. That is what “rest” meant to me. It was pretty much just panic management. I mean, doesn’t that just sound like heaven????? Is that actually what healing is? Panic and dread management? It struck me and still strikes me how really miserable healing actually is. The word has such a positive and almost comforting connotation or association. But, the reality is, you pretty much feel like shit, both physically and emotionally until… well, until you don’t. I guess the assumption is that you are supposed to always be feeling a little bit better each moment of the healing process but I can tell you that ain’t even close to the reality. 

2 months into recovery. Courtesy of Karin Willman A La Carte Photography

Healing is constant, slow, torturous change. We sometimes talk about it in hindsight as if this transformative experience was such blessing and a spiritual awakening. If that is you, cool. You. Do. You. But that shit ain’t me. It sucks. In college musicians are eye ball deep in all our shortcomings in technique, artistry, professionalism, and overall just “suckiness”. It’s the point of getting an education. Get up close and personal with your weaknesses and make them stronger. So, you are absolutely and unavoidably uncomfortable and unsure of yourself the entire time. Yeah, there are some victories that make you feel like a badass, you drink some of your Kool Aid and then, BAM; 45 seconds later you’re slammed back down to reality of how far you have left to go. So, it sounds like I would be perfectly prepared for this awesome sauce overly romanticized “healing journey” of lifetime movie status. Right? WRONG. 

You have control when it’s your education. Just practice more. Read an inspiring autobiography that helps you focus, or start taking beta blockers to help with performance anxiety, or literally anything positive and proactive to make you stronger. You’re always in the driver seat as a musician, even when you’re frustrated. We know how to practice more. We know how to dive deeper. We know how to refine our process. We don’t know and are painfully unprepared for the moment when all our control is taken away. INJURY. We are not prepared or counseled on navigating the discomfort, fear, and mistrust that accompanies healing an injury. And what happens when the injury is compounded all over your body and your brain. And your soul. This uncomfortable place where there is nothing you can do to control the outcome, when you must trust so many others around you because you have no idea how to fix what needs to be fixed, and then learning to trust your decisions when you’re spiraling and holding off the insanity that comes from your inability to control anything anymore. Ah yes, healing…. not peaceful at all, is it? In actuality, it is the literal growing pains of our youth. Bone stretching and aching to catch up with our chemicals, and our chemicals pulsing and surging to force those bones into submission through compulsion. That is healing. Growing and healing are UNPLEASANT. 

As much of a blessing it was to heal physically extremely fast, it was very disconcerting to look normal, for everyone to compliment you on how well you look, and some ways physically feel, but yet not be…right. The idea of being blessed was a challenge too, and also the challenge to be overtly grateful. That sounds crazy, but it was very real for me to be very intellectually grateful, intellectually aware of how lucky I was to be alive, loved by so many, and cared for in so many ways. But, I couldn’t FEEL it. In actuality, I couldn’t really feel much of anything. This was part of the concussion and subsequent brain trauma. 

My chemicals were wrecked. For much of the summer while I was waiting for the verdict on my career and thus the future of my soul, (no exaggeration) I had severe trouble sleeping more than a few hours at a time, having visceral feelings of any kind, and connecting with others. My sleep was plagued with violent nightmares. Nothing was regarding the accident and still have no memory of anything past going to sleep the night before. I can recount a dream in particular that still haunts me. I had to watch one of my beloved pups being hit by a car. And trigger warning – it wasn’t just being hit. I saw them viscerally torn apart in slow motion and it kept replaying over and over. It was one of those dreams that you feel stays on repeat the whole night. Every time you close your eyes, it is the same. It would happen sometimes when I was awake as well. It was possible the violence in the nightmares was my subconscious working out what it won’t allow me to remember, what my body was still holding on to, and an alarm to the erratic chemistry going on in my brain. 

In terms of sleep, I consulted with my doctor and developed a sleep protocol. This was a very specific diagnosis and treatment plan for me so any medications I share are not meant to be applied arbitrarily. (Please always communicate with your doctor or therapist). Taking 10-20 milligrams of propranolol (my beta blocker) and magnesium, was something she recommended with lavender and chamomile tea daily before sleeping. Reading something completely different than my reality was also helpful in putting myself in a different mental state before nodding off to dream land.  I took advantage of naps and sleep whenever I could without judgment until my night time sleep stabilized. Part of it was just accepting what my brain was doing and why it needed to manifest those nightmares. So, with each nightmare I again felt like I was moving forward. Each nightmare was an active step further along the process to recovery and one less nightmare for the future. The less I dreaded them and the more I found acceptance, my consciousness shifted and they began to dwindle.

Me an Bobo Easter 2018 before the accident. It would be almost a year before my sleep would look this peaceful again.

But the daytime? A whole other set of deep challenges in the shit show I like to call healing. In fact, I really feel it more accurately describes what that process feels like for me. And yes, that is present tense. Because 4 years later, the healing is still ongoing. My inability to feel was surreal. It is an odd thing to feel as if you’re watching yourself in your own life as if you were a ghost. I could recognize I was doing things I enjoyed but couldn’t actually take that feeling into my body and feel as if it was real. To exist without emotional connection and sensation is incredibly hard to describe and incredibly lonely to experience. I found myself not wanting to socialize or be around even my closest friends because I couldn’t match their energy, reactions, or emotional engagement in any way. I couldn’t help but feel pressured to and felt guilty and even more uncomfortable that I couldn’t. 

Part of the solution, was accepting there wasn’t one. I know that sounds like bullshit. But to be more specific, I had to accept I wasn’t the one with the solution; that I wasn’t SUPPOSED to be feeling or experiencing anything other than what I was. I had to tell the people I loved what my limitations were, and why I felt like I needed to pull away. I put myself in situations where I wasn’t the focus so I could absorb the experience rather than engaging in it, i.e.…. local concerts, movies, group dinners, shopping trips, outdoor activities, etc.…. I could do intimate exchanges with close friends because they accepted where I was. When I was presented with a situation that shifted focus toward me, I found ways to shift it back. “Oh my gosh, how are you? How are you feeling? Is everything healed? What’s happening with everything?” response….

“Much better but complicated. What’s going on with you? It’s been forever!” 

It gave me the strength to handle the exchanges that made me uncomfortable so much more. And again…. it’s a wonderful thing for people to ask how you are. Showing me they cared and were happy for my recovery was always so supportive and beautiful. 

But, if I’m honest, I frequently hated it. It made me angry. My limitations made me furious. Talking about it made me want to punch things. And then I felt incredibly guilty for having that very visceral flush of feeling. Especially because it was the only emotion my body would actually let me experience. This made me want to retreat. I just didn’t have the skills and resources within myself to outwardly reciprocate or engage. I had to let go of the guilt and be open with those closest to me. It set me free in a lot of ways. 

As I promised, this blog, this place we come to for connection and affirmation in all our shit, will be an invitation through my experience. The challenge of that experience was and continues to be about trusting myself, owning my own experience, and not apologizing for it. I’m hoping that by sharing my “shit show” with all of you, by validating my own you may feel more able to validate your own. What is holding you back? Is there space you can give yourself to help set you free, to let your healing be truly yours? Excuse me…. let your shit show be yours. 

So much more to talk about. Until next time friends, be well. 

The Healing Tree – First Steps to Recovery

They waited. They waited for me to open my eyes, to try and talk, to want to eat, to remember, to feel; to be the me they needed and remembered. What kind of special circle of hell that must have been for them.

(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.)

So, what are the nuts and bolts to what I was dealing with? If I’m honest…. The hospital recovery was… meh. Well, maybe not “meh” because if any of you have experienced “resting” in a hospital, you know it’s impossible. The sheets are uncomfortable, the bed and pillows are awful, and they wake you up every 2-4 hours to check your vitals. You also can’t really roll on your side if you’re a side sleeper with the ungodly number of needles and tubes coming out of you. But let’s just say it was passive. I wasn’t actively doing anything. To be frank, no one really was, outside of praying like crazy which is totally LEGIT and meant the world to me. There was nothing to actually do, really, but wait. They waited. They waited for me to open my eyes, to try and talk, to want to eat, to remember, to feel; to be the me they needed and remembered. What kind of special circle of hell that must have been for them.

Medically, I was in the process of healing a lacerated liver and kidney. Ok, I was told that but have no recollection of “feeling” anything regarding that. I had a collapsed lung. Well, by the time I woke up I couldn’t tell that had even happened. Then there was the bleeding spleen. Also, couldn’t really tell. As you’re beginning to pick up a pattern… I am not going to exaggerate any part of this to make it seem more dramatic or traumatic than it was. This whole project is to help others connect to their own journey to healing and me overblowing anything for attention is not the way. My promise to all reading and following this blog will be pure and unfiltered honesty. I truly believe my story isn’t special. It’s just mine.

The day after I got home from the hospital and got my retainer with a fake tooth. You can see the seat belt scar along my chest and the tens machine wire to help manage the pain. I really needed to show everyone that cared about me, that I was okay. Looks are deceiving sometimes…..

Now, what was a definite unpleasant reality…. The broken C6 and C7 vertebrae didn’t feel great. It mostly hurt in my right shoulder. A nagging, pointy pain that radiated across my collar bone, making sitting up straight uncomfortable. Then there was my lip. I bit completely through my bottom lip just right of center, only slightly past where my mouthpiece loves to rest. My tissue was healing so fast it was creating what they call a “mucus plug” around the sutures (lovely term huh) causing me to look like a tobacco chewing rodeo star. My tooth was missing. MOTHER FUCKER that is the absolute worst part. I know what this means. I can’t “plant medicine” my way out of this. I’m going to need a dental super hero. I didn’t have molds of my teeth…. so, this was going to be an adventure. My brain swelling. That is legit terrifying. I had no idea how permanent damage was going to be discovered. I improved quickly once I woke up but my memory was complete and total shit. No. Bueno. So, to summarize what we’re dealing with after leaving the hospital….

  1. Broken neck (Bummer)
  2. Brain Injury (Big Bummer) – see trauma section
  3. Severe lip trauma (Bigger Bummer)
  4. Missing front tooth aka, the “money maker” (BIGGEST BUMMER)

For the remainder of this post I will focus on the first steps toward healing in my cervical spine. I use the term cervical spine because I quickly learned (though I have been a frequent patient of chiropractic care) how even a small seemingly insignificant closed transverse fracture can radiate instability and pain all over your body. As I said before, I really felt it most in my collar bone and shoulder. I was extremely frustrated at having to wait for another MRI to receive chiropractic care. I get it, it makes sense, but I also knew my chiropractor was incredibly careful and diligent about knowing exactly what to do and when. (Love you Dr. Whitford). But, I was a good girl and waited, which was one of the few and only times I was patient throughout this journey back to ME. 

The breaking point was an agonizing 2 hr. drive to Grand Blanc to purchase another Honda to replace the one I’d destroyed. The level of aching pain see-sawing back and forth with sharp twinges prevented me from being able to sit up straight. The pervasiveness of nagging pain will make you absolutely crazy. Certifiable in fact. So as much as everyone said just to “wait” …. I said fuck it. I’m not feeling like this if I don’t have to. This is a recurring theme for me. I can only wait so long to move forward. I am TERMINALLY dissatisfied and impatient with unhappiness, obstacles, and immobility. 

IMMOBILITY. What a profound word for all of this. Immobility makes so much sense for what compelled me to push forward against the advice of the people and professionals that loved me the most. You see, no matter how much I loved, respected, and admired those that were supporting me, both personal and professional, I couldn’t stay immobile for them. A severe claustrophobia took over my physical and emotional place. So, if I have to move forward, if I have to push at my boundaries and circumstances, I at least tried to do it as smartly as I knew how. 

Step 1: Get that damn MRI to confirm I was in the clear. I did this about 10 days after leaving the hospital. Even being an “open” MRI was miserable. I thought I was going to jump out of my skin from not being able to move and keeping the claustrophobic panic at bay. I won’t sugar coat it… MRI’s suck. But, I was cleared! They couldn’t see the fracture anymore! So, Dr. Whitford here I come. 

Step 2: Chiropractic care from a qualified and conscientious professional was one of the best decisions I made. He requested the police report of the accident, Medical records from the accident, and took fresh x-rays. He took time to evaluate all of it and me before ANY TREATMENT. Once he decided how best to proceed, we did passive treatments with the activator method. It is a small hand held spring loaded instrument to provide accurate, quick, low force adjustments at very specific points. He also used red light therapy, or sometimes known as cold laser therapy. I will tell you…… I had ZERO pain after the first treatment. It was AMAZING. I believe we stayed with that type of gentle work 2 times per week for about 6 weeks before he moved to manual adjustments. Massage was also a huge factor in remaining pain free. I do not like pain medication and avoid it as much as possible. I needed none of the refills on the pain prescriptions from my primary. …. I advocate individuals evaluating everything for themselves. You are empowered to find the healthiest path for YOU. For me, staying with regular chiropractic and massage care kept my circulation moving and I believe helped my body do what it needed to. I describe it as giving my body an express lane without stop lights, traffic, or construction….for those living in MI … you know how we feel about shitty roads and construction.

Step 3: YOGA. This will come back in future posts but throwing it in the mix now. I actually ended up pursuing a 2ndyoga certification during this healing time. Through it, I re-harnessed my knowledge of anatomy, and how mindfulness of my movement can help the body heal from deep trauma. THE FASCIA NEVER FORGET! So, I dove into this with wild abandon! OK that was super dramatic…. but kind of true. I let my body and it’s needs guide me through the training in terms of inspiration, motivation, and focus.

A final adorable pic of my yoga mentor and fellow classmates at the end of my 2nd 200 hr yoga certification during the height of my healing process. Epic humans. I love my Redbloom family.

I have had different people scattered throughout my life and time since the accident make comments such as “How great you prioritize that luxury for yourself” …. Say WHA’???!!!!” UMMM NO. It is not a luxury to NEED to function in your life with a body that feels ready and eager to meet joy, adventure, AND challenges head on. It is the GOAL. Meeting your life as your best self is not a luxury. It is NECESSITY. 

Did I have to give up other things to sometimes afford it? Yep. Is it a privilege I could give up non-necessities to do so? Double yep. Because insurance views certain treatments as experimental (i.e.… big pharma can’t capitalize on it yet) we often find ourselves having to dig deep to fund more holistic and multi layered treatments. Some avenues around that, are finding a massage school near you. They always need volunteers for the student practicums. Chiropractic is a little bit more tricky but is now recognized by insurance as a legitimate treatment. Some chiropractors will also work with you based on your income. 

There will NEVER be a time in my life, I won’t need chiropractic care to function optimally. I have just accepted that. Same thing with massage, yoga too for that matter. I look forward to them in my schedule because it is tangible self-care that helps me now lead a vibrant life.  I have found, if you search hard enough…. And keep telling your story, the universe will bring your helpers. So, readers, in closing, prioritize YOUR physical and mental needs during recovery, and give space to possibility. YOUR healing is possible and waiting. Even if it is unconventional. Even if no one else in your life understands why you must do it the way your intuition is guiding you. 

See you next time for a riveting discussion on lip trauma! That……. may be a two part-err.

Until then, please be well. 

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. 

The Healing Tree

“I have struggled over the last few years to write about and share my experience because it is legitimately hard as hell. But I felt so alone during the process and felt hungry for truly functional information about what was happening to me. And the fear about what might happen or not happen was at times, paralyzing and alienating. So take this as an open invitation to go on a healing journey with me. I want to explore what healing means to all of us.”

A blog and community dedicated to healing in all its forms

INTRO – Post # 1

Courtesy of Karin Willman and A La Carte Photography

(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.)


Whelp….. I’m healing again. AGAIN. Not just figuratively, but literally. A broken wrist. It’s annoying, frustrating, irritating, inconvenient, sometimes depressing…. And real. And triggering. 

The word healing may trigger different responses in different people. This broken wrist is a nuisance at most but right now, for me, it brings me right back to the place and time that forever changed my life, and almost took it. 

This Blog will detail the traumarecovery, and rehabilitation involved as a result of a debilitating car crash. I’ve separated my story into sections in the attempt of making access to specific information easier for those searching for it. If you are in the midst of trauma, just recovering, or processing trauma maybe reading about my experience and what I share about mine, might make you feel less alone, less strange, or helps you embrace and accept your own journey. I also have a section dedicated to recovery and what I like to think of as the “nitty gritty” of what I did medically and physiologically to heal and move forward through the most volatile and insecure time of my professional life. My rehabilitation section is dedicated to my journey back to playing my horn professionally and the very messy “workout montage” that it wasn’t. Please use this as a resource in any way you need.

On May 5 2018 I was T-boned on the driver side going through a stop sign on a rural road. I broke my C6 and C7 vertebrae, collapsed my lung, ruptured my spleen, lacerated my liver and kidney, sustained a head trauma resulting in a 3 day coma of which no one knew if I would wake up, and the worst of all….. bit entirely through my lower lip and lost my left front tooth. While this might seem the least of my injuries, being a professional French Hornist with a major orchestra, made this almost the worst possible injury I could have. 

“Betty White” My trusted Honda Accord saved my life.
This was the beginning of Day 2 – My husband took this. I have no memory of those 3 days.

For my family, they just wanted me to wake up, which wasn’t clear was going to happen. They were in absolute hell for 3 days not knowing if I would become conscious again, and if I did, who would I be? Would I still be me? But for me, waking up was awakening to the reality, that though they might still see me, and recognize “me” in all my personality traits and appearance, what would I see? If I couldn’t play the horn again, would I truly be “me”? Would I feel like myself? Would I have to re-evaluate what that meant? Am I going to have to become a different person just to survive and convince myself I don’t hate every living moment of not being able to do what I love? BE what I love. Because that is what music is for me. It IS me. It is how experience love, and joy, and pain, and excitement; life in general. It isn’t what I do, it is literally who and what I am. Is that unhealthy? I don’t actually care. I didn’t then and I still don’t. It is just a reality I accepted a long time ago, and when I did, it allowed me to let go into my joy so completely I never looked back. 

I have struggled over the last few years to write about and share my experience because it is legitimately hard as hell. But I felt so alone during the process and felt hungry for truly functional information about what was happening to me. And the fear about what might happen or not happen was at times, paralyzing and alienating. A friend was just brutally injured in an automobile accident that may still take his life. He may very well be faced with an even greater level of lengthy healing, and need to dig profoundly deep into his soul for the strength to fight as hard as he possibly can to get back to his fullest expression of being. I want to share my process, my journey, my fight so that when the time comes for him, he might feel less alone. I want him to be able to feel fully and completely validated in his feelings, his choices, and HIS process. 

So take this as an open invitation to go on a healing journey with me. I want to explore what healing means to all of us. I’ve found that my healing particularly fell into these categories:

  1. Trauma – that is a loaded word isn’t it? There are so many levels to trauma it could rival the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback. How do we walk through that trauma and find OUR OWN road/path to healing? It doesn’t have to look like someone else’s, so let’s explore holding space for that. 
  2. Recovery – Also a word that could mean so many different things to different people. But for me, I want to provide specific details on how I approached my physical recovery. How did I care for my neck fracture? My lip? My tooth? My mind? I had so much trouble finding resources that gave me confidence in my treatments and felt I was flying blind in terms of what would apply to my goals, ie get back to playing my professional orchestra job. The nuts and bolts of healing our amazing bodies is vast and helpful. The body has an amazing ability to adapt and heal itself. I want us to talk about what that has looked like for all of us. My healing story is only one of so many. What if we share what worked for each of us?
  3. Rehabilitation – So we may be simultaneously walking with trauma, actively recovering, but when is it time to rehabilitate? Do we have to wait until the physical healing and emotional healing is complete before we begin? I can say most of the resources I found regarding rehabilitation (getting back to playing) say pretty much exactly that. I can also safely say, it was NOT going to work for me. It was scary to deviate from the “methods” I found, but I did it for my own sanity. I had to find my own way that felt right and allowed me to calm my monkey mind while letting my body adapt. How great would it be if we all were able to give ourselves the space and support to also find what works for each of us? Without the fear that one wrong decision, choice, or step would ruin everything?
2 Months after the accident. Photo Courtesy of Karin Willman and A La Carte Photography

So, here we go. In the coming weeks I will dive more in to my story under each of these topics and welcome your contributions and insights from your own experiences. We don’t have to fit into one method, mold, or process. Maybe together we find a new, better, and more authentic way to heal together. 

Be well.