With yesterday’s guilty verdict against Michael Jackson’s physician, we’re hearing once more about the entertainer’s battle with insomnia and chronic pain and the catalog of pharmacological solutions that were thrown at the problem. It makes me wonder: What about therapy? Did anyone attempt to address his physical symptoms as signs of emotional pain? Amid all the shots and pills, did he have a mental health professional to actually, simply, talk to?
Emotional distress can and often does cause physical problems. Insomnia, for example, is a common symptom of both anxiety and depression. Physical pain can begin from illness or injury, of course, but it can also originate in emotional pain. Either way, each amplifies the other: The more your body hurts, the more upset you get, which makes your body hurt even more, and on and on.
Having someone to talk to can make all the difference. Sometimes a friend or family member can fill the role, but if not, it’s not their fault or yours. A large part of a counselor’s training is in the basics of how to listen, how to avoid unhelpful responses, and how to create a safe space for you to speak your truths, your worries, and your pain. Medication can be an essential part of treatment for both physical and emotional ailments, but it’s often not the sole solution.