We’ve made a ton of progress when it comes to openly discussing mental health but the stigma is still 100 percent there, especially when it comes to taking medication to treat mental disorders. Lady Gaga has been pretty transparent about her own mental struggles. In fact, in a recent interview with Oprah, she shared how she takes meds to treat her PTSD and how it’s helped her tremendously.
Gaga sat with Oprah as part of Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour and was very honest about her experience being sexually assaulted, developing PTSD, and suffering from fibromyalgia. It’s not the first time she has shared about these things but it’s the first time she broke down how all these things may in fact be connected.
“I was raped repeatedly when I was 19-years-old, and I also developed PTSD as a result of being raped and also not processing that trauma. I did not have anyone help me. I did not have a therapist, I did not have a psychiatrist, I did not have a doctor help me through it,” she said. “I all of a sudden became a star and was traveling the world going from hotel room to garage to limo to stage, and I never deal with it, and then all of a sudden I started to experience this incredible intense pain throughout my entire body that mimicked the illness I felt after I was raped.”
So in other words, the chronic musculoskeletal pain she suffers from — also known as fibromyalgia — is actually a “trauma response” to being sexually assaulted. According to Mayo Clinic, “fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.” While there is no concrete research on what actually causes fibromyalgia, but research shows this physical and emotional trauma or psychological stress can be a culprit.
Gaga used the interview as an opportunity to talk about how medication can be a healthy and helpful option for people struggling with mental illness despite the controversy associated with it. She even brought up how it’s still unfortunately considered a controversial topic.
“I know this is controversial in a lot of ways. But medicine really helped me. And I think a lot of people are afraid of medicine for their brains — to help them — and I really just want to erase the stigma around this because I am sick and saying it over and over again, and also by the way, if your primary care doctor is prescribing you an antidepressant this should not be happening. Your primary care doctor should be introducing you to a psychiatrist who is an expert in brain medication and what moves me so much in this space and why I want to work so heavily and much more thoroughly through it in the future is because not everybody has access to these things and not everybody has money for these things. And I want the money for it, I want the best doctors in the world, and I want us to understand the brain and all get on the same page about it so Gen Z doesn’t have to deal with it the way that we are right now. Mental health is a crisis.”
When Oprah asked her if she was able to remain creative even when dealing with chronic pain, Gaga responded yes and claimed that the meds as part of the reason why.
“Yes, yes and that has come from both medicine, therapy, dialectal behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy and also it has come through something that I learned through CBT which is called radical acceptance,” she says.
I’m so proud of Gaga for openly speaking up about this because the stigma behind taking medication is still so real and does us way more harm than good. There’s a very harmful misconception that taking meds to treat mental illness makes a person “crazy” or “weak.”
“The stigmatization of mental illness and medication is mostly due to inaccurate information, lack of education about mental illness, and a great sense of prejudice among society about taking medications and mental illness,” Dr. Veronica M. Rojas told HipLatina. “There are constant derogatory comments [made] when someone is on medication or a psychiatric disorder is confirmed.”
This is precisely why people are hesitant and afraid to ask for medication even when they really need it and could benefit from it.
“People are afraid of being called ‘weak’ thinking that anxiety or mental illness is a matter of ‘being tough.’ Moreover, people are also terrified of being seen or called crazy,” Rojas added. “There is a lot of shame and fear about what people might think of them and as a consequence, people tend to keep this a secret from others.”
I deeply appreciate Gaga going out of her way to make space to have these kinds of necessary dialogues openly and honestly. The reality is that therapy is a good step but it isn’t enough for everyone. Some people need more than therapy and need more than holistic treatments to get the results they need and that’s okay. We need to start treating mental disorders like any other health disorder so that people can get the help they really need.