We Were Born This Way
Lady Gaga is the most recent celebrity naming her mental illness and helping to end the stigma in the one the hardest, yet most effective, ways: while visiting a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in Harlem, Gaga revealed she suffers from PTSD. Gaga spent time at the shelter getting to know the youth there, and felt that connecting with them on a real and personal level was what any other person would do. We often are so quick to put celebrities on pedestals where we expect them to be superhumans, living flawless lives. The reality is, everyone has experiences that are real, human, and valid. By sharing her secret with a group of youth she just met, Gaga proved to us all that there is no shame is being open, and often, being open is the easiest way to form connections with others. Talking about the experience after on the Today Show, she explained, “I am no better than any of those kids. And I'm no worse than any of them. We are equal. We both walk our two feet on the same earth. And we're in this together.”
In a letter Gaga penned for Born This Way’s website, an organization founded by Gaga and her mother to support young people through research and promotion of wellness, Gaga talked about a rigorous tour schedule lead to traumatic memories of physical and emotional injuries. Gaga even went into the science behind why her brain works the way it does, explaining, “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.” When the stigma of mental health often quiets those who know what it is, the science behind it is discussed even less. Mental illness is pop culture is depicted as dramatic breakdowns, stark hospitals, or shrinking into silence. Gaga’s letter also mentions the misconception that PTSD is an illness only affecting those in the military, so she encourages people to speak out about an illness that, for Gaga, debilitates even the action of talking or showering.
This was not the first time Gaga spoke out about how her experiences have affected her mental health. In 2014, Lady Gaga spoke out about her experience being raped at 19. Gaga described herself at the time as “a shell of my former self.” Without a proper support system, she was tricked into asking herself, “is this just the way adults are?”. She cited mental, physical, and emotional therapy as helping her learn to live with her experience and cope with it in healthy ways.
On Twitter, Lady Gaga has consistently shown inspiration and support for fans- a demonstration that her mental illness does not define or inhibit her life.
In an interview with Vanity Fair Italy, Gaga talked about how her role in the music industry is “more like a missionary, rather than a popstar.” This outlook, coming from someone with over 64 million Twitter followers, is inspiring to see in a world where it is often so hard to talk about one’s mental health.