Lady Gaga with Oprah Winfrey; Mental Health & Fibromyalgia
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
"There's a discipline for passion. It's not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down, or you get beaten up - it's about how many times you stand up and how brave you are, and keep going."
I remember the time my husband read in the paper that lady Gaga had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia/CFS and my first instinct was 'Did she have unresolved grief? Had she suffered trauma? I knew my own unresolved grief, loss and trauma had brought fibromyalgia/CFS knocking on my door. And last night I watched online Lady Gaga & Oprah 2020 Vision Tour https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8iNYY7YV04 and yes she had definitely suffered trauma!
"My whole body hurts."
Lady Gaga spoke articulately and honestly about her life from the creation of Lady Gaga the 'persona', the sexual abuse she suffered , her chronic pain and self-harm. Lady Gaga was repeatedly raped at the age of 19 and it can be no surprise that she sufferers with PTSD as a consequence. No-one helped her at the time of the rapes; no therapist, no doctor. I find this so unbelievable and shocking!
Revisiting the past - She wouldn't let herself 'go there ' and so she didn't process the trauma.
She became a huge 'star' very quickly and didn't or couldn't deal with 'it' then either. Shockingly her persecutor has never faced the criminal justice. He should have gone to prison, but he never did.
Gaga feels this teenage trauma shaped her adulthood and eventually led to her mental health and physical wellbeing issues. "All of a sudden I started to experience incredible intense pain that mimicked the illness I felt after I was raped." Her health deteriated so much at one time she couldn't get out of bed.
Many people do not know what fibromyalgia is; It's complex yes but it is REAL. I agree with Gaga that it's due to a trauma response. She goes further to say that it affects the neuropsyche and is linked closely with the immune system, but is not one.
My fibromyalgia/CFS sat between a diagnosis 4 years earlier of 'Hashimotos' disease (autoimmune thyroid disease) and approximately 4 years later came along another autoimmune disease, this time I was diagnosed with 'Pernicious Anaemia' .
As with so many other conditions no-one apart from another fibromyalgia/CFS sufferer can know the pain or extent of the fatigue that we often endure. It is still so unbelievably misunderstood by the medical profession as well as the general public. Gaga is working tirelessly to change this ( in the USA - we SO need her over here too). As with many sufferers it took years for Gaga to be properly diagnosed. All X-rays and MRIs showed no reason for the physical pain. This was true of my journey to diagnosis too.
"Gaga gave Stefani the wings to fly."
Bullied at school, and ridiculed for wanting to be a singer and an actress Gaga (born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) couldn't wait to drop out of school. The persona 'Lady Gaga' was her superhero, she was a confident, compassionate 'being'. Over time Stefani and Lady Gaga merged in to one. They became aligned. The meat dress was meant to shock, she said, and she enjoyed bemusing people - seeing much of what she did as an art form. She also wanted people to notice her, to engage with her. She acknowledges that she is vulnerable but is Ok with that. There is strength in that alone. She wants to be honest about her struggles, which is highly admirable and by being so open she knows she can connect with others who have mental health issues too.
I think she is an incredible ambassador for mental health issues and fibromyalgia/CFS. She has her world celebrity status working for her but I still think putting herself so 'out there' is an act of incredible strength and conviction. I believe she can make massive headway in these two areas; mental health and fibromyalgia/CFS .
"I used to cut."
Gaga talked about triggers that can take her back to a traumatised state and how she used to self-harm by cutting. She preferred to say she 'used to cut' because "I am a cutter" becomes an identity and that is not healthy. Also speaking words out loud speaks to the brain and in turn you have a higher chance of believing your words. She used to cut "it brought relief from the other pain that I was feeling". When she saw blood everything became more chaotic and then she would find herself spiralling very quickly. Sometimes she used to cut to show people that she was in pain, she wanted them to notice and help her.
This may be the case for many people who self-harm. The scars being a physical sign of the mental anguish going on eternally. Gaga also used to throw herself against the wall, when her pain was intense. I have heard others talk of the same sort of 'self-harm' when their depression, anxiety or grief got too much.
" I put my shame in a box"
This comment shocked me. I kept thinking why does she carry shame? It takes two people to create shame, so why hasn't her therapist told her to bin the box instead of telling her that shame lived 'over there'?
Gaga talked of the easier option of drinking 2/3 bottles of wine a night rather than face 'digging deep'. Many of us turn to 'alcohol, drugs, retail therapy, become workaholics etc. etc.., anything to distract us from the pain inside.
She recognised that stress comes from wanting something to be different. I really like that definition. Accept it for what it is ..... and then problem solve instead.
"I've worked hard for a long time, but it's not about the wining. It's about not giving up. Fight for it."
Oprah asked Lady Gaga what did she see when she looked at the Oscar? And she replied "pain" - she saw her struggles with her mental health and chronic pain/fibromyalgia. Lady Gaga talked honestly about the enormous amount of pain, about how after years of trying to 'block out' bad memories and the trauma, her brain 'flat-lined' and she became 'disassociated' , which is very common in PTSD victims. She had a psychotic episode where her body slumped and her brain said 'that's enough', she was in a 'traumatic state.' (about 11 minutes in to the interview).
She believes from her own experience and the extensive research she has done (and continues to do) that mental health is a medical condition and should be treated as one. She is pro-medicine, which is controversial, but she stands by what has helped and worked for her.
Oprah asked her what had helped her with her fibromyalgia/CFS and she replied:
CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) ,
DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy)
and radical acceptance (Radical acceptance is about accepting life on life’s terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical acceptance is about saying yes to life, just as it is).
I work with acceptance with my clients. We need to accept what has gone before but that doesn't have to affect the present or the future. We cannot alter what has gone before - correct, but we can alter how we feel about it now and how we choose to proceed. You are also in charge of your interpretation or feelings around the events.
I know from my research and working with grief, trauma and loss that the 'emotional' affects the mind and the body, however with fibromyalgia/CFS I think the most effective way is to get to the root of the cause by talk therapy and not primarily with medicine. However in Gaga's situation and with her psychotic episode I appreciate the help from specialists and the correct medicine has brought her to the place she is today where she is 'coping'.
" I listen to my body"
But we both agree on the last point, that we need to listen to our bodies, we need to learn to be kind on ourselves, to pace ourselves too. Meditation, exercise, talk therapy and actively working on herself is her daily mantra.
Me? I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia/CFS since 2010, so this is my 10th year.
I have learnt to not push myself unreasonably and not to always chase perfection. To not beat myself up when I get it wrong. To not feel shame. To not deny my true feelings.
I have learnt that self-love comes first. That making mistakes and failing means I have taken risks and that's truly living. I have learnt to say NO. I have learnt to pace myself. I have learnt that a positive mindset is incredible. I am who I am because of everything that has gone before. My fibromyalgia/CFS is part of my life, my journey. And like Lady Gaga I am grateful for the wisdom I now have.
What helped me along the way? The Grief Recovery Method, (GRM). Pure and simple. Before I was introduced to this incredible educational wellbeing programme I was still very ill. I had pain all over my body. I frequently didn't get out of bed until midday and 'rested' back in or on the bed throughout the day too. I got overly anxious around finding benches or chairs where I could 'rest' when we ventured out to visit somewhere new. I had to let friends and family know on 'the day' if I could make the social event that night and my memory was, at its best, atrocious. Sleep. What was that? I became an insomniac overnight. I became anxious over holidays, would I have any energy? Would I be in pain? My body and mind weren't mine they felt alien.
With the GRM I had the opportunity to revisit painful events, trauma and loss in a compassionate and supportive way, and I felt safe enough to share my feelings around those experiences. I 'grieved' rather than 'shelved' everything.
I have never had so much passion for anything work related in my life, as I do now. Since I trained in this unique and empowering programme I have supported many wonderful people with their 'losses' and some of them have suffered with fibromyalgia/CFS too. How are they now I hear you ask? They are all in much better health; emotionally, mentally and physically too. And they no longer have unresolved grief, which is a huge bonus.
For resilience and empowerment after loss go to https://www.dawnford.co.uk/