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.)

3/11/2022

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.