“People think you are crazy if you talk about things they don’t understand.”
Elvis Presley is one of the biggest icons in our history and his obvious talent in music is still alive today. He died at a very young age: 42. The cause of his death was never clearly defined: drug overdose, heart attack, seizure and more. I could spend an hour writing down all the facts on Elvis Presley but now that the world has Google (I had to go to a library and look through a card catalog to find a book for information….now I sound like my parents.) For me the first three things I think of when I hear the name Elvis are: Hound Dog, his unique dancing, and the movie Forrest Gump: just being honest. Never once have I associated the word chronic pain with Elvis Presley. Have you? Elvis Presley had multiple head injuries also known as TBI’s (Traumatic Brain Injury.) Because of those head traumas he lived a life with chronic pain. I never knew both “The King” and I shared not only a brain injury in common but chronic pain. Elvis was diagnosed with: post-concussion syndrome as a result from head injuries. Prior to being a performer he was in the Army and although he was physically in shape his diet was atrocious. Soon after leaving the Army, Elvis began his music career which led him to become one of the biggest legends to ever exist. Children today know many lyrics to his many songs.
Elvis died on August 16th, 1977. He was found by his girlfriend face down on his bathroom floor. No one knows precisely how long he had been lying there but they were unable to revive him. The controversy over his death led his doctor, Dr. Nick to trial as Elvis had multiple drugs found in his system including Valium and Pain medications such as Codeine. Back in the 70’s, chronic pain was not yet a term used in medicine. The term chronic pain is relatively new to the medical field. My head injury occurred in the early nineties and even then no doctor ever told me I had chronic pain, hence why every doctor I saw had the “cure” or medication to take the physical pain away. It was not until the year 2000 that I was actually diagnosed with chronic pain by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. I will never forget sitting in a chair after three weeks of testing and hearing the head doctor of the Brain Injury department tell me: “Jessica, you have chronic pain and unfortunately there is no magic cure to this condition. The good news is that I am able to get you into our Pain Rehabilitation Center here in Minnesota immediately. You will go through a month long course that will teach you how to manage your pain and live a good life despite chronic pain.” Yes, that was the first time I had ever heard the term: chronic pain. I do not remember the doctor’s name who gave me this diagnosis but I do remember his face, his empathy, and my anger towards him. I remember sitting in that chair alone in Minnesota balling and pleading: “Please, I can’t live in pain forever. Please. You have to fix this. I won’t go to this pain center. I came all the way here from New Jersey and will face medical bankruptcy only to hear that I have some random thing called chronic pain and I have to live with it? Please, I will do anything. Just make the pain stop.” Looking back, I can see the deep empathy and sadness this doctor had for me. I also remember his nurse holding my hand with tears in her eyes. At the time, I despised this doctor. Now, I look back and realize this man saved my life. Wow, I literally just remembered his name. This was fourteen years ago!
Unwillingly I did enter the pain rehab center and to this day use the tools I learned to manage chronic pain, now a term used much more frequently. Chronic pain does not discriminate. This is a disease that affects the rich, the poor, the famous, the mothers, fathers, doctors, and children in our world. What if Elvis Presley had been diagnosed with chronic pain then in the seventies? If he were alive today, he maybe would be managing pain the way I do, who knows? This is why I write this blog and share my story: I want the world to stop judging others as so many of us are fighting invisible battles. As my title says: We are all addicted to something that takes the pain away. I have many goals for this blog and want to reach and help/save as many people as I can while I am in this world. I also want people to spread kindness. Go on Instagram and look at a picture of me yesterday. Do I look like I have chronic pain and am fighting battles each day of my life? NO. I look healthy, athletic, happy, and “normal.” Nobody would know I live in pain twenty four/seven and nor do I want them to. I now know how to manage my pain and live a happy life despite chronic pain. The world needs more love and understanding. It still astounds me how we are able to judge others are be cruel to one another. I am not sure I will ever understand that. What I do know is that people who judge and put down others are in a lot of pain. As difficult as that is to accept, especially when someone is cruel to you, you must not take it personally. They too must be fighting a battle you know nothing about.
If you want to read more about Elvis Presley and his diagnoses/death please visit the website on which I found the above information.
“Elvis Presley: Head Trauma, Autoimmunity, Pain, and Early Death”