This seems to be a season when many of our favorite celebrities are getting real with the effects that trauma has on our minds and emotions. Unfortunately, many stressful and and disturbing experiences can result in mental illnesses and disorders that several people are afraid and ashamed to discuss. Lady Gaga has broken yet another barrier by speaking about her experiences while living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
After being sexually assaulted at the age of 19, Gaga was diagnosed with PTSD. She revealed this secret to young people at the Harlem’s Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth. That conversation led to an open letter being posted on her Born This Way Foundation website.
In an interview on the Today Show, she expressed that ”My own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others… I told the kids today that I suffer from a mental illness. I suffer from PTSD. I’ve never told that to anyone before, so here we are.”
Her bravery has opened up a lot of discussions on the disorder, as well as other mental illnesses, and she is one of multiple entertainers that are shedding light on mental illness. Rapper Kid Cudi made the brave decision to seek therapy for his battle with depression, and Kanye West had to recently be hospitalized due to having a mental breakdown close to the anniversary of his mother’s death.
When it is all said and done, we all have our inner battles to fight. No matter how much success we obtain, these stars are living proof that money and fame can buy a lot of things, but happiness or contentment are not one of them. We wish all of them the best in their efforts to heal and live a healthy, fulfilling life!
Here are some things you should know about PTSD:
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within 3 months of the traumatic experience, but sometimes they begin years after the event.
Re-experiencing symptoms can include, but are not limited to:
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts
Mood Symptoms can include:
- Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
- Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Read Lady Gaga’s complete letter below.
“I have wrestled for some time about when, how and if I should reveal my diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After five years of searching for the answers to my chronic pain and the change I have felt in my brain, I am finally well enough to tell you. There is a lot of shame attached to mental illness, but it’s important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery.
It is a daily effort for me, even during this album cycle, to regulate my nervous system so that I don’t panic over circumstances that to many would seem like normal life situations. Examples are leaving the house or being touched by strangers who simply want to share their enthusiasm for my music.
I also struggle with triggers from the memories I carry from my feelings of past years on tour when my needs and requests for balance were being ignored. I was overworked and not taken seriously when I shared my pain and concern that something was wrong. I ultimately ended up injured on the Born This Way Ball. That moment and the memory of it has changed my life forever. The experience of performing night after night in mental and physical pain ingrained in me a trauma that I relive when I see or hear things that remind me of those days.
I also experience something called dissociation which means that my mind doesn’t want to relive the pain so ‘I look off and I stare’ in a glazed over state. As my doctors have taught me, I cannot express my feelings because my pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain that controls logical, orderly thought) is overridden by the amygdala (which stores emotional memory) and sends me into a fight or flight response. My body is in one place and my mind in another. It’s like the panic accelerator in my mind gets stuck and I am paralyzed with fear.
When this happens I can’t talk. When this happens repeatedly, it makes me have a common PTSD reaction which is that I feel depressed and unable to function like I used to. It’s harder to do my job. It’s harder to do simple things like take a shower. Everything has become harder. Additionally, when I am unable to regulate my anxiety, it can result in somatization, which is pain in the body caused by an inability to express my emotional pain in words.
But I am a strong and powerful woman who is aware of the love I have around me from my team, my family and friends, my doctors and from my incredible fans who I know will never give up on me. I will never give up on my dreams of art and music. I am continuing to learn how to transcend this because I know I can. If you relate to what I am sharing, please know that you can too.
Traditionally, many associate PTSD as a condition faced by brave men and women that serve countries all over the world. While this is true, I seek to raise awareness that this mental illness affects all kinds of people, including our youth. I pledge not only to help our youth not feel ashamed of their own conditions, but also to lend support to those servicemen and women who suffer from PTSD. No one’s invisible pain should go unnoticed.
I am doing various modalities of psychotherapy and am on medicine prescribed by my psychiatrist. However, I believe that the most inexpensive and perhaps the best medicine in the world is words. Kind words… positive words… words that help people who feel ashamed of an invisible illness to overcome their shame and feel free. This is how I and we can begin to heal. I am starting today, because secrets keep you sick. And I don’t want to keep this secret anymore.
A note from my psychologist, drnancy;
If you think you might have PTSD, please seek professional help. There is so much hope for recovery. Many people think that the event that stimulated PTSD needs to be the focus. Yet often, people will experience the same event and have completely different reactions to it. It is my opinion that trauma occurs in an environment where your feelings and emotional experience are not valued, heard and understood. The specific event is not the cause of traumatic experience. This lack of a ‘relational home’ for feelings is the true cause of traumatic experience. Finding support is key.”