We look up to stars and celebrities for all things glamourous – fashion, make-up, homes and what not; we are also very interested in their life and stories — rather gossip. Often we also assume they are different from us and are happy without much hardship or hassle. Probably this is the reason why more and more celebrities are coming out into the public with a side of their lives and personalities that make them seem more human – more relatable.
Remember when Deepika Padukone publicly spoke about fighting depression and cried on national television? Yes, when stars talk about the stigma and taboos associated with mental illness, many fellow patients find the courage to deal with it as well, encouraging others to come out of the closet, speak about what ails them and even get the necessary treatment.
Recently, American pop icon and singer Lady Gaga openly disclosed that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The singer-actor had earlier also said that she was a rape survivor, a fact that she had apparently not even disclosed to her family. In fact, fitting into the classic stereotype, it came as a shock to many that she had even blamed herself for the traumatic experience when she was just 19. Ever since the incident, the singer had apparently been dealing with PTSD.
The artist and passionate activist recently visited a shelter home for homeless LGBT youth and ensured them that she was no outsider and exactly knew what it means to suffer from stress and trauma. The 30-year-old icon also encouraged the youth to speak up and never to lose hope. “I told the kids today, ‘I suffer from PTSD.’ I’ve never told anyone that before. So here we are. But the kindness that’s shown to me by doctors as well as my family, and my friends, it’s really saved my life,” she said at the Today Show.
PTSD is an disorder that can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or a prolonged traumatic experience. The patients usually feel stressed or frightened in their day-to-day life. Often people suffering from the condition may re-experience the traumatic event in flashbacks, and may have trouble sleeping.
After Lady Gaga admitted her mental condition, she also wrote a powerful and emotional open letter, sharing her difficulties and how she tries to manage it. In a letter published on Born This Way Foundation’s website, she talks about her struggle without any inhibitions and hoped many others would be inspired.
She starts the letter with the most common dilemma on whom should people talk about the illness to. She says, “I have wrestled for some time about when, how and if I should reveal my diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” After five years of struggle, she has finally opened up about it. She agrees there is lot of “shame attached to mental illness but it’s important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery”.
She openly talks how she often felt paralysed with fear, and those suffering from the disease can very well relate to it. “When this happens I can’t talk. 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.”
While her letter is piercingly sad, it is also simultaneously inspiring. “I am a strong and powerful woman who is aware of the love I have around me,” she writes. “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, please know that you can too.”
“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”, she highlighted that in order to heal one must come to terms with reality; acceptance is not enough – one should stop hiding it as well. “I am starting today, because secrets keep you sick. And I don’t want to keep this secret anymore.”
She rightly points out that PTSD is usually associated with people serving in army or police. “While this is true, I seek to raise awareness that this mental illness affects all kinds of people, including our youth.”
She ends the powerful letter with a note from her doctor, who asks everyone suffering from PTSD to seek professional help. And along with the star her doctor too underlines, “There is so much hope for recovery,” and “finding support is the key”.