Although I am a year, ok, maybe two or so behind, I just finished up the Season 1 of The Crown. I became fascinated with the late Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s use of “popping pills” and injecting himself with something, which led me to google, “why is Prime Minister Eden taking medicine in season 1 of the crown?” (I love Google). This led me to a thorough academic article on Anthony Eden’s medical history, a possibly botched gallbladder removal, several subsequent surgeries, and what could be called a decades-long addiction to amphetamines, and possibly morphine. Apparently, there is much academic debate as to whether Prime Minister Eden’s physical health status influenced his behavior and political maneuvering during the 1956 Suez Canal crisis, a time period that obviously, had much effect on the existing and future security situation of Israel.
Given that I spend a great deal of time with clients helping them manage their significant, chronic pain, whether from surgeries, back issues, degenerative disease or as yet undiagnosed source, it made me think, how much of our everyday actions are governed by our physical state at the time?
My day is often peppered with conversations of people who can frame their lives around the ebb and flow of pain. A young woman who told me she has basically had a constant headache for the past 14 years; a man in his 50’s who sometimes misses a night of sleep for the pain; a young mother of little children who delegates a great deal of the family budget to therapeutic massage to relieve the pain. I am constantly inspired by these clients because they are still living their lives, moving forward, trying to find different management regimens, providers who will listen, even sometimes, a name to their condition, just to feel some legitimacy that their plight is recognizable.
Are any of them prime ministers? No, but they are teachers, lawyers, physicians, artists, computer programmers, and, usually, parents. Some of them can remember a time without pain, others cannot. Sometimes they are despondent, other times, cautiously optimistic that something is working. They wonder who they are sometimes, pain with a face, or a person who happens to have a great deal of physical pain. I don’t think there is an answer, just as I don’t think anyone can say whether Eden made political decisions due to his chronic condition. I don’t think you can separate out the experience from the individual because I think that our personality effects, greatly, how we experience our illness. Someone who has lived with chronic pain for 15 years is not the same person he was before the pain, just as someone who loses a loved one is not the same person she was before. Inherently changed? Yes. but, less? No. And that is the key, I think.
Not that I have any vested interest or knowledge of PM Eden, but perhaps his management of his own pain made him more equipped to deal with crisis, not less. Physical pain, mental illness, chronic disease, they all change us, but it is a mistake to think that they make us less equipped to deal with life.