Almost exactly one year ago, Lady Gaga took to Twitter to share that she had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which caused chronic pain and eventually led to her postponing several of her fall 2017 European tour dates. In her cover interview for the October 2018 issue of Vogue, the pop star opened up further about her health and about the misconceptions that inevitably follow diagnoses of fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses.
“I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real. For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result,” she said. “People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”
Gaga, who believes her fibromyalgia was sparked by being sexually assaulted when she was 19 and worsened by the physical and emotional pressures of fame and touring, said that her health is currently on an upswing. “It’s getting better every day, because now I have fantastic doctors who take care of me and are getting me show-ready,” she said.
Vernon Williams, a sports neurologist and director of the Kerlan-Jobe Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, previously told Self that although the exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown, it can indeed be triggered by psychological or physical trauma. And while doctors have yet to discover a definitive cure for the illness, Williams said the accompanying chronic pain can often be significantly lessened with the help of treatments like oral medication (including antidepressants, pain relievers, or anti-seizure drugs), cognitive behavioral therapy, physical therapy, exercise, and an anti-inflammatory diet.
While she’s found success in getting her chronic pain under control, Gaga told Vogue that the post-traumatic stress disorder she’s experienced since the sexual assault is ongoing. The A Star Is Born actor said “it took years” for her to talk about first the assault, and then the PTSD. “It was almost like I tried to erase it from my brain. And when it finally came out, it was like a big, ugly monster. And you have to face the monster to heal,” she said.
She continued, saying, “For me, with my mental health issues, half of the battle in the beginning was, I felt like I was lying to the world because I was feeling so much pain but nobody knew. So that’s why I came out and said that I have PTSD, because I don’t want to hide — any more than I already have to.”
The 32-year-old went on to describe how her PTSD symptoms manifest themselves. “I feel stunned. Or stunted. You know that feeling when you’re on a roller coaster and you’re just about to go down the really steep slope? That fear and the drop in your stomach? My diaphragm seizes up. Then I have a hard time breathing, and my whole body goes into a spasm. And I begin to cry. That’s what it feels like for trauma victims every day, and it’s…miserable,” she said. “I always say that trauma has a brain. And it works its way into everything that you do.”