On Monday, Lady Gaga handed out gifts at a homeless shelter for LGBT youths, but the singer kept on giving a few days later, this time in the form of an open letter. The note, published by her nonprofit organization Born This Way Foundation, shares Gaga’s experience living with post-traumatic stress disorder, or 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,” Gaga writes. “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.”
In her letter, Gaga details how living with PTSD has affected her life personally and as a performer:
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 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…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.
In addition to dissociation, Gaga has also dealt with somatization – physical pain that results from being unable to express emotional pain. “I am continuing to learn how to transcend this because I know I can,” she added. “If you relate to what I am sharing, please know that you can too.”
Gaga, a rape survivor, also took the time to address some myths associated with PTSD, such as it’s a disease that primarily affects people serving in the military:
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.
Adding to Gaga’s experience, the letter also features a note from her psychologist “drnancy.” “It is my opinion that trauma occurs in an environment where your feelings and emotional experience are not valued, heard and understood,” drnancy’s note reads. “The specific event is not the cause of traumatic experience.”
You can read the complete letter on Born This Way Foundation’s website.
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
Photo credit: Philip Nelson