One of my favorite celebrity evolutions I've watched over the years has been Lady Gaga's shift from pop icon to stripped-down artist. While I am here for the musician at any and every point in her career, there's something really beautiful about the utter realness this star has been serving us over the last year or so. So when Lady Gaga opened up about living with fibromyalgia in a new interview for her cover of Vogue's October 2018 issue, I loved her even more for continuing this extremely important conversation about what it's like to live with chronic pain.
As you might know, Gaga's made it her mission in the last several months to be nothing but candid about her experiences with chronic pain. In the 2017 documentary about her journey to becoming world-famous, Gaga: Five Foot Two, viewers saw the 32-year-old musician writhe in pain in many scenes, unable to find relief for the devastating symptoms that a number of doctors hadn't been able to diagnose. In the documentary, Gaga can also be seen trying a number of different treatments and remedies for her pain, including deep-tissue massages, medications, and even ice packs in an attempt to soothe the discomfort.
But after the release of the Netflix documentary, Gaga turned to her Twitter audience of Little Monsters to explain what she'd been dealing with during filming — fibromyalgia — and to express her hope that others who may be dealing with similar issues will one day find the support they not only need, but deserve.
Now, in her new interview with Vogue, Gaga discussed how her past trauma has affected her chronic pain. "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 told the magazine. "That’s what it feels like for trauma victims every day, and it’s . . . miserable. I always say that trauma has a brain. And it works its way into everything that you do."
Gaga's not wrong; in fact, according to Dr. Megan Williams Khmelev, a board-certified doctor in obesity and family medicine, these connections between mental and physical health are quite common. She tells Elite Daily over email that mental health issues and chronic pain symptoms occur together so frequently that a depression screening is often completed in any patient who comes to their doctor with chronic pain.
As for Gaga, her chronic pain is known as fibromyalgia. According to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA), about 10 million Americans have fibromyalgia, and the condition affects women much more than men, "with a ratio of about 8 to 2, women over men," the organization states. Along with common symptoms like fatigue, sleep problems, and stiffness, fibromyalgia also has connections to mental health issues as well as physical ones. Not only can fibromyalgia cause depression or anxiety in some people, the NFMCPA explains, but stress can also make these symptoms feel even worse.
What can potentially lead to more stress is how difficult it is to get a diagnosis for fibromyalgia. “I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real," Gaga told Vogue. "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."
Since there are no specific tests to confirm that someone has fibromyalgia, it can often take quite a long time for a physician to recognize and diagnose the condition in a patient, Todd Sitzman, MD, MPH, former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, told Health. "By definition it's a diagnosis of exclusion," he told the outlet. "The physician looks for other sources for their chronic fatigue, for their chronic muscle pain, sleep disturbance, and mood disorder before they assign a diagnosis of fibromyalgia."
If you struggle with fibromyalgia or another form of chronic pain, make sure to give yourself the care you need. "Chronic pain is no joke," Gaga told Vogue. "And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”