Fame hurts – 5 reasons why


In the last couple of years, I’ve asked myself frequently the question if it’s possible that fame hurts. Usually when I’ve heard of another musician who died on an overdose of painkillers, like Tom Petty, Prince and Michael Jackson. This week I read that Lady Gaga is cancelling at least 10 dates if her worldwide tour because of severe pain, just like she did last year September.

Many famous musicians use heavy doses of painkillers on a regular basis, often prescribed by their doctor. The problem with painkillers is, that they take away the pain, but not the cause of the pain. Painkillers are not a cure. They can support the cure, like they did some years ago after I had a surgery. Painkillers only help, if you address what causes the pain, and if you take them temporarily.

For chronic pain, when the cause is obscure or can’t be treated, you might want to make an exception. Like with the arthritis of my mom. But since she’s gone to pain-treatment, including acupuncture and mindfulness, she can sleep again and can suffice with much lighter painkillers. The aim of a scan mindfulness is not to relieve the pain completely, but to get to know it and learn from it so you can manage it.

Tom Petty, Prince and Michael Jackson all seemed to suffer from chronic pain. They used heavy painkillers for a long period of time. Did they suffer in a different way than other people do?

There is a proven link between your mind and the experience of pain. Abandonment for example stimulates the physical pain centers in the brain.

Here are 5 reasons why fame hurts:

  1. Changing environment:
    As an artist, you have to travel a lot. That’s obvious when you are on tour, but recording and mastering your album, doing interviews and other PR activities count as well. It can contribute to a feeling of being alienated from the people around you.
  2. Loneliness and isolation:
    Working as a musician, your working hours are when other people go out for entertainment. That makes it difficult to maintain relationships with friends. When we feel cut off from the people around us, our health suffers.
  3. Depression:
    According to UK research, musicians are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression. Depression often is accompanied by physic pain, like headache, joint or muscle ache.
  4. Uncertainty:
    The same UK research showed, that the uncertainty of being a musician is bad for your health too. While you shouldn’t have the financial uncertainty anymore once you are famous, you can’t plan ahead. You know that it could all be over within one year time!
  5. Pressure:
    On stage you can’t afford to give less than 100%. You can’t disappoint your audience, or your career is finished. This puts a lot pressure on musicians.

Famous artists find it impossible to complain when feeling uncomfortable and when suffering from pain. They feel blessed with their success. The audience expects them to enjoy their life. And if in pain, the artist has to come with a great new song about it.

Famous artists can’t share their pain, they can’t complain, they can’t disappoint their fans. Lady Gaga knows this. It must have been a very hard decision for her, to cancel the shows because of pain, without being able to make it more concrete. For most artists it’s much easier to ignore the pain by taking painkillers or other drugs. Not being able to show the pain is adding to the perception of pain. Painkillers take away the symptoms, but they don’t cure.

“I’d recommend success to anybody and fame to no-one.”
(Ed Bicknell, manager of a.o. Mark Knopfler, Bryan Ferry)

Fortunately mental training, coaching and mindfulness can offer a solution to artists. They can support the treatment of a physical cause of pain. They help to cure the mental reasons for pain, like the five points above.

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