Lady Gaga recently went public with her struggle with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and explained the process of how she acquired it and her decision to be open regarding her “mental illness”.
My comments here and review of her testimony and written letter are strictly observational from my experiences as an occupational therapist, life coach and mind performance coach.
A couple of years ago, Gaga shared how she had been sexually assaulted at age 19. Adding to that traumatic experience she reveals her current PTSD that occurred during her “Born This Way Tour”. She was overworked and was trying to get those around her to understand that something was not right. In addition to her mental stress she was experiencing somatization, physical body pain, which led to her being injured on her tour set and having to continue to perform in excruciating physical and mental duress.
CTSD, cumulative traumatic stress disorder, is another similarly used diagnosis where multiple or a series of traumatic experiences add up over time. Then one day it’s the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”. The mind just checks out and the body says enough. It’s a coping skill to protect from emotional pain.
Many people can experience the same event, yet they respond in a different way. For example, 3 siblings growing up in same household witness an event, yet years later, ask each one about what happened, you will get 3 different stories, feelings, emotions, and experiences.
Same thing with a traumatic event, for example in war, a regiment witnessing an attack, some may freeze, some may run, some may seize the situation and take charge and lead everyone out of danger to safety.
All have same experience, but it’s what they hold inside them, the references, internal unconscious programs from their genetics, physiological, upbringing, and life experiences that they apply to the immediate situation as to how they react and process the event.
One thing Gaga says about her particular case is that she disassociates. She separates mentally from the experience the body is having at the moment. She expresses there is nothing she can do about it. But from my experience, I say there is.
If you run from what you hold inside about an experience it will only become stronger and then it controls you. Many times when I am talking with a potential client they will say they have dealt with something in their past. They have pushed it away, ignored it, talked about it with a therapist and understand it now, or simply, don’t think about it anymore. But if you go explore the emotions around it, it’s still there.
Memories buried alive never die.
So in working with someone who is disassociating, there needs to be an access to that experience of the feeling, the emotional pain and letting it go, and replacing with a new feeling. A New feeling of empowerment, relaxation, happiness, and peace.
Gaga relates that when she disassociates she can’t function, work or even shower. When her mind gets stuck in fight or flight, she can’t talk, feels depressed and anxious as she describes it as an accelerator pedal put to the floor.
The unconscious mind is shutting down as a coping mechanism to protect the individual because the unconscious determines it’s not “safe”. In Gaga’s case she was increasingly overwhelmed, felt ignored, and she was exhausted. The conscious mind then takes the emotions and sends it to body part/s where she experiences body pain.
Gaga says her recovery has included various modalities and taking meds as prescribed by her psyche doctor. She says that kind words from others soothe the shame and stigma she may feel and asks others to give those going through such, kind words.
The statement ends with a note from her doctor saying specific events are not the cause of traumatic episodes. I would agree as I think it’s based on the references, memories, downloaded programs and beliefs held inside the individual with the event being the trigger.
But the doctor says that having a lack of a “relational home” for feelings is the true cause of traumatic experience.
I disagree, as it’s not about finding a place or home for those feelings and emotions to reside or exist, but rather, it’s the inability to let those feelings pass. The past is not real.
Those memories and feelings are not the experience but rather “tags” to remind the individual something happened. Those coping skills are holding onto emotional pain and replaying and activating on cue/trigger.
All that’s real is right now, this moment, this moment, this moment. We are not our experiences. We are not our coping skills. We are not our emotional trauma.
From my successful experience with hundreds of clients, I advocate a facilitation and releasing of the feelings and emotions. Keep the wisdom from the experience, and transmute the emotional pain and trauma into what client desires and wants to feel. That is the true power and then can the mind heal itself as it finds peace and moves forward.
Note: I am not a doctor and my comments regarding Gaga are strictly from my perspective of how I view mental illness and instability as an occupational therapist, life coach and mind performance coach. Anyone reading this who is under doctor’s care should continue their care and therapy that they are engaged in. My comments are an adjunct, an overlay over Gaga’s story based on my experiences in successfully working with and helping those who have experienced PTSD and CTSD, cumulative trauma stress disorder.