Lady Gaga wants to remove the stigma from PTSD.
After revealing her diagnosis in a Today segment that aired Monday on NBC, the "Perfect Illusion" singer published an open letter via her Born This Way Foundation's website Tuesday.
For five years, the 30-year-old pop music superstars said she "wrestled" with whether she should share her story publicly. "There is a lot of shame attached to mental illness," Gaga explained, "but it's important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery."
From the outside looking in, few would guess Gaga has PTSD. "It is a daily effort for me, even during this album cycle, to regulate my nervous system so that I don't panic over circumstances that to many would seem like normal life situations," she wrote. "Examples are leaving the house or being touched by strangers who simply want to share their enthusiasm for my music."
"I also struggle with triggers from the memories I carry from my feelings of past years on tour when my needs and requests for balance were being ignored," she said. "I was overworked and not taken seriously when I shared my pain and concern that something was wrong. I ultimately ended up injured on the Born This Way Ball. That moment and the memory of it has changed my life forever. The experience of performing night after night in mental and physical pain ingrained in me a trauma that I relive when I see or hear things that remind me of those days."
PTSD has affected the musician's life in other ways, too.
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Gaga explained that she often experiences dissociation, "which means that my mind doesn't want to relive the pain so 'I look off and I stare' in a glazed over state. As my doctors have taught me, 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. My body is in one place and my mind in another. It's like the panic accelerator in my mind gets stuck and I am paralyzed with fear."
It's a debilitating feeling, as the "Million Reasons" singer "can't talk" when she's in a dissociative state. "When this happens repeatedly, it makes me have a common PTSD reaction, which is that I feel depressed and unable to function like I used to. It's harder to do my job," she explained. "It's harder to do simple things like take a shower. Everything has become harder."
"Additionally, when I am unable to regulate my anxiety, it can result in somatization," Gaga said, "which is pain in the body caused by an inability to express my emotional pain in words."
But as her Little Monsters well know, Gaga isn't one to give up.
In fact, she refuses to be defined by her diagnosis. "I am a strong and powerful woman who is aware of the love I have around me from my team, my family and friends, my doctors and from my incredible fans who I know will never give up on me," she wrote. "I will never give up on my dreams of art and music. I am continuing to learn how to transcend this because I know I can."
"If you relate to what I am sharing," Gaga added, "please know that you can too."
Gaga decided to share her story so that others in similar situations feel less alone and seek proper treatment. "Traditionally, many associate PTSD as a condition faced by brave men and women that serve countries all over the world. While this is true, I seek to raise awareness that this mental illness affects all kinds of people, including our youth. I pledge not only to help our youth not feel ashamed of their own conditions, but also to lend support to those servicemen and women who suffer from PTSD," she wrote. "No one's invisible pain should go unnoticed."
Gaga first revealed she has a mental illness while volunteering on behalf of the #ShareKindness campaign, Today and NBCUniversal's celebration of kind acts both big and small. She serenaded LGTBQ youth at the Ali Forney Center in Harlem, and she also donated clothing.
For Gaga, it's important for people to see that recovery is possible. "I am doing various modalities of psychotherapy and am on medicine prescribed by my psychiatrist. However, I believe that the most inexpensive and perhaps the best medicine in the world is words," she wrote. "Kind words...positive words...words that help people who feel ashamed of an invisible illness to overcome their shame and feel free. This is how I and we can begin to heal. I am starting today, because secrets keep you sick. And I don't want to keep this secret anymore."