Lady Gaga is a superstar, and she’s a superstar when it comes to opening up about important issues as well. The singer and actress, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, has spoken out in the past about LGBT equality, bullying, environmental problems and more. And the star’s also very vocal when it comes to raising awareness about the life-altering illness she suffers from. Just recently, in fact, she talked about it publicly again.
Lady Gaga is one of the biggest pop stars of her era. Her 2008 debut album and breakthrough was appropriately titled The Fame, and she’s gained more and more of it in the ten years since. Currently, the singer is one of the top-selling musicians of all time. And she’s also accrued several accolades, including: six Grammys, three Brit Awards and 12 Guinness World Records.
Recently, Gaga’s been making big waves in the world of acting, too. After a run on American Horror Story, for which she picked up a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film, she made a big splash in Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star Is Born. And critics have raved about her performance.
So it would seem that, on the surface, Gaga has it all. But she’s always been open about the struggles in her life. In 2014, for instance, she even came out about having been raped at the age of 19. “I didn’t tell anyone for I think seven years. I didn’t know how to accept it,” she said the following year at a New York Times event. She went on to add, “It changed who I was completely. It changed my body. It changed thoughts.”
And in 2017 it transpired that Gaga was suffering from an illness, one so serious, in fact, that she had to cancel part of a world tour. This was fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes chronic pain, fatigue, and in some cases mental distress. In the documentary she released that year, Gaga: Five Foot Two, she was even filmed crying at the pain of the disease.
It clearly seems horrible for Gaga whenever the condition flares up, then. But there is a silver lining – she is credited with bringing attention to the plight of fibromyalgia sufferers, an illness that was almost unheard of until she started speaking about it. And in September 2017 the singer tweeted about the syndrome, saying, “I wish to help raise awareness and connect people who have it.”
What’s more, that tweet has appeared to be helpful right from the get-go, as fans have shared their own experiences in replies to the star. “I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia two years ago, it is a struggle everyday to just get the basics accomplished! Thank you for raising awareness,” one person wrote to Gaga. Others spoke of the difficulties in fibromyalgia being an “invisible illness.”
Fibromyalgia is still a very misunderstood condition, unfortunately. Not least because it’s difficult to diagnose and also hard to treat. However, it seems to occur first and foremost in people who have suffered trauma in early life, like Gaga did when she was reportedly sexually attacked as a teen. And when speaking to Vogue in September 2018, she herself said that she believed that was one of the triggers.
The attack apparently gave Gaga PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – as well. And the singer explained to Vogue the physical PTSD symptoms that she suffers from. “My diaphragm seizes up. Then I have a hard time breathing, and my whole body goes into a spasm. And I begin to cry,” she said. “I always say that trauma has a brain. And it works its way into everything that you do.”
Then Gaga spoke about the frustrations, as well as the pains, of living with fibromyalgia. “I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real,” she said. “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.”
“People need to be more compassionate,” Gaga went on. “Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.” Indeed, those who watched her suffering in her documentary are likely to know what she’s talking about. And at one point, while the cameras were on, she tearfully said, “I’m so embarrassed.” Even for a famous pop star, then, there appears to be a stigma around disability.
But Gaga had some good news to share in the Vogue interview, too. “It’s getting better every day,” she told the interviewer, “because now I have fantastic doctors who take care of me and are getting me show-ready.” The show in question is a new residency at Las Vegas, Lady Gaga Enigma, starting in late December.
Over the past few years, then, Gaga has quietly been trying to help others with their own chronic pain. In November 2016, for example, before she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the singer offered advice on Instagram on how to lessen the agony. “When my body goes into a spasm one thing I find really helps is infrared sauna. I’ve invested in one,” she wrote at the beginning of the long post.
“They come in a large box form as well as a low coffin-like form and even some like electric blankets!” Gaga went on. “I combine this treatment with marley silver emergency blankets (seen in the photo) that trap in the heat and are very cheap, reusable and effective for detox as well as weight loss!”
“In order to not overheat my system and cause more inflammation, I follow this with either a VERY cold bath, ice bath… or the most environmentally savvy way is to keep many reusable cold packs in the freezer (or frozen peas ’n carrots!), and pack them around the body in all areas of pain,” Gaga continued.
“Hope this helps some of you, it helps me to keep doing my passion, job and the things I love even on days when I feel like I can’t get out of bed,” Gaga finished, poignantly. “Love you and thank you for all your positive messages.” What’s more, the post garnered more than 464,770 likes, and in the comments people thanked Gaga for being so compassionate.
The superstar has also spoken before about the stigma surrounding “invisible” conditions and the difficulty in even convincing people the pain is real. “I have always been honest about my physical and mental health struggles. Searching for years to get to the bottom of them. It is complicated and difficult to explain, and we are trying to figure it out,” she wrote on Instagram in September 2017.
“I… have been disappointed to see people online suggest that I’m being dramatic, making this up, or playing the victim to get out of touring,” Gaga carried on. “If you knew me, you would know this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a fighter.” The post was accompanied with a picture of Gaga holding rosary beads in her hands.
Like she told Vogue, though, Gaga has been feeling better recently. In August 2018 EW asked her if fibromyalgia had been a problem while filming A Star Is Born. “It was up and down, but you know what? I have an incredible director and friend and lead actor, and I had him by my side the whole time, and we did it,” she answered
And this is a sentiment Gaga has touched upon before in her documentary. During a particularly low moment, the singer revealed, “I don’t know what I’d f***ing do if I didn’t have everybody here to help me.” So now, it seems, that she’s determined to be that helper to people not as fortunate as she is. Her tweets and Instagram posts seem to have helped shine a spotlight on a misunderstood, extremely difficult illness. And the star appears to have done an excellent job of using her fame for good, too.