Despite Medical Problems, Phil Collins Not Quitting After All?


Dr. Robert Jamison, associate professor of anesthesiology and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said pain and depression often become a vicious cycle.

"Many people dealing with chronic pain admit to depression, but depression can make pain worse by wearing a person down, so people are less active and can't do things they enjoy," said Jamison. "They can never really recharge."

Feelings of depression and guilt can even heighten the sensitivity and awareness of the pain, Jamison said.

Dr. Lloyd B. Saberski, medical director of the Advanced Diagnostic Pain Treatment Centers, agrees with the association.

"Chronic pain influences neurotransmitters inside your nervous system, and can lead to changes [in the brain]," said Saberski.

Saberski said Collins' injury from the drums is likely a repetitive strain injury, a potentially debilitating injury to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems caused by repetitive tasks, vibrations and forceful application.

From the Neck to Nerves

"[It's] not much different from what typists get, although the pounding on the drum is likely more destructive than typing," Saberski said.

Suicidal thoughts, such as those Collins mentioned in past interviews, are not uncommon to chronic pain patients either.

"People find themselves wondering if life is worth living," Jamison said. "Vague thoughts like that are common. Acting on those thoughts is less common, but a person should always be assessed if those thoughts are discussed."

But, Penney Cowan said she knows all too well how Collins might be feeling right now. As someone who has suffered from chronic pain for more than three decades, Cowan can understand depression and pain could go hand in hand for Collins.

"Music was his identity," said Cowan, who first experienced chronic pain at 25 years old. "It's tough for someone to say, 'I can't be who you think I am.' It's as if someone just erases your face and you have to figure out who you are again and what you can do to contribute. "

Cowan, who is 62, said Collins' bigger fears of not being able to safely slice bread or build something for his children makes sense.

"Walking away from your music is one thing, but losing those little everyday things that really make your life worthwhile is where the depression comes in," said Cowan.

At 25, Cowan gave birth to her second child, and the next day, experienced debilitating pain that "smacked her in the face." That pain has lasted for 37 years.

"I had fibromyalgia long before that, and I probably just ignored it," said Cowan, who is now the executive director of the American Chronic Pain Association. "I couldn't take care of my husband and children. It's the really tiny things that really get to you."

Cowan said that the pain became so excruciating that she wasn't able to clean her home, play with her children or iron her clothes. Even holding a cup of coffee was difficult for the mother of three.

"I felt like I was a problem more than anything else," said Cowan. "I felt nothing but guilt because I thought I was ruining my husband and children's lives. I couldn't fulfill the role that I wanted to with them."

Living, Not Existing

Six years after she delivered her second child, Cowan found a pain treatment and management regimen that has allowed her to live with the pain. She founded the American Chronic Pain Foundation offer her peers the support and education in management skills for others just like her with pain.

Pain management can include exercise, medication and relaxation techniques that can distract a person from the pain.

"The keyword is living and not existing," Cowan said.

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