There's a lot of new and exciting things developing for me right now, a lot of which will involve some big changes happening on the site, so please bear with me! More on that soon, but today I'm giving you my third installment of the 12 Stages of Healing. This chapter in my journey involved a subtle shift in my perspective that completely changed the way I pursued healing from that point on.
Stage 2 involved a lot of self-blame. I believed that I had broken myself, and that the oboe had hurt me. In Stage 3, I got underneath those ideas and was able to see the real lies that I was believing, the emotional and behavioral patterns that lead to a physical injury. Those stuck perspectives were: I have to do everything, I have to be good, I have to do my job no matter what else is going on. Playing through some pain is just a part of being a musician. And these are things that we all, as musicians and people in general, struggle with. It is so common for us musicians to have aches and pains, that it sometimes seems like a sign of weakness to say that we need to take a break. For some, I've even seen playing-related pain portrayed as some kind of trophy, like they're so great because they practiced so hard and they have the battle-wounds to show it. It's these kinds of conservatory-culture ideas that create musicians who have a really unhealthy relationship with their instrument.
My oboe injury was a manifestation of the way that I was approaching life. I charged at life head-on, with a determination and intensity that didn't take into consideration my needs on a physical or emotional level. I got a lot of stuff done, was really busy, and for the most part did well at everything I took on, but my body and my mind are not meant to function like that all the time. The burn-out was inevitable. It literally took my hand ceasing to work for me to realize that the way I was doing life was not harmonious. I continued to play past pain and anxiety, sure that it was just temporary and if I just 'took it easy' and basically ignored it, it would go away. As a result, I did too much, culminating in a week of dress rehearsals and a concert that ended up being more than my body could handle. But I did it for all of the 'right' reasons: I have this huge love and passion for music and playing, I loved the rep and I wanted to get to play English horn, and I had been assigned to that orchestra and it was my duty to show up and do my best in support of the other hard-working musicians playing with me!
It turns out that one concert was insignificant compared with four months of not touching my instrument at all. Maybe it would have been less if I hadn't pushed it, maybe not, but regardless it was my body sending me a message. These ideas that I had that I needed to do well, not just at the oboe but at everything, school, religion, and relationships, had me putting so much pressure on myself and driving myself so hard that my body had to let me injure myself before I would listen.
The idea given to me by the medical treatments I was pursuing was its own stuck perspective; they were addressing my problem as though it were a suddenly permanent state of being. Helping the symptoms was the focus, not finding the root cause and healing it. It was entirely focused on relieving symptoms, with a huge question mark hovering over the long-term healing solution. I plan on playing the oboe for a lifetime, so long-term healing was what I was most interested in! It would do nothing for me to lessen the pain if it meant masking underlying causes and re-injuring myself in the future. My Orthopedist blatantly told me that he didn't know what caused my injury, that it was likely pure chance or genetics. That just wasn't a good enough answer for me.
In yet another stuck perspective, I so badly needed my condition to have a name. And I got lots of names from all sorts of professionals, however never once did a new revelation of what my condition was called help ease my pain! Once I realized it was about the root cause, the actual name of my injury didn't matter at all.
In the culmination of these epiphanies, it was suddenly clear: I had gotten my injury by playing the oboe with a combination of excessive tension and poor posture, which created an inflammatory response that built up over time and resulted in extreme nerve compression. Yes, all of the professionals I saw helped lead me to this, but in the end, it was my intuition and self-awareness that came to this conclusion, which would later be confirmed by my fantastic team of health professionals and healers.
I felt the swelling, stiffness, and weakness in my arm. It was inflexible and really becoming more and more useless. Every time I moved too fast, was stressed, or trying to force something, my arm would immediately tell me. I was being stubborn and allowing my stress and fear of failure to guide me. Once I let go of these stuck perspectives I was free to listen to my body and allow my intuition lead me. This shift in focus, as hard as it was, helped me to learn to take responsibility for my own wellness. It was a complete lack of self-awareness and to a certain extent, self-worth, that lead me to this place. But having that realization was a huge relief, because it meant that I could stop pushing, forcing, and stressing and let go. This was one of the biggest, most important lessons my injury has taught me.