When Lady Gaga first published pictures alluding to her chronic pain on her Instagram, I felt a warm feeling inside. I recognized myself in her tired face. When a few months later, the trailer for her documentary came out, and the first images depicting her raw pain were shown, I found myself in a state of anxiety – afraid of what seeing the entire scenes would do to me, and excited to finally find a real depiction of chronic pain.
When she announce on Twitter a few days later few days later that her illness was fibromyalgia, I screamed of joy. I texted all my friends “Oh my God, can’t believe it! Lady Gaga has fibromyalgia! Lady Gaga has fibromyalgia!”
I made a post on Facebook and Twitter, I interrupted every conversation with, “Did you know that Lady Gaga has fibromyalgia? That’s my illness!” with more joy than I had when I graduated from university. Lady Gaga having fibromyalgia made it real. She was a strong woman, advocate and performer walking on immense heels, dancing night after night, beloved by the entire world: If Lady Gaga had fibromyalgia, it had to be true – everyone had to believe it. Lady Gaga became the symbol of the fight I had been fighting for nine years.
As she came out as chronically ill, I saw the world did to her what my social life had done to me. Doubts, accusation of lying, the theory that fibromyalgia does not exist sprawling across social media. Being a public character, she must be used to it, but as I read comments over comments, I felt my heart shrink and a panic attack overcome my body. Why wasn’t everyone showering her with support and love? Why was there so much hate towards a woman who had just admitted to the world she struggles with severe, chronic pain?
I breathed out. I kept going through my days with her songs playing over and over in my earphones. She had become my mantra.
I have always loved “Joanne,” but on the day first heard the piano version of “Joanne (Where do you think you’re goin’?),” I cried in my bathroom. I was stalling the moment I had to enter the shower, because showering is one of the aspects of life I dread the most. The delicate hot water falling on my back would not be relaxing, but stabbing. My muscles would soon retreat, starting to aggravate the already severe pain I was feeling. The little fatigue I had left would leave me, draining me completely and rendering me bedbound for the rest of the day, so I stalled, until I found the new version of my favorite song and started crying.
I could hear the love she was feeling, the passion in her breath-taking voice and the pain due to the loss of her aunt. As I let her voice fill the room, I felt my body sinking and letting all my pain crashing through me. As if I had pressed a release button in my mind, it came all crashing through for the three minutes of that song. The tears I had not shed in months started flowing, me unable to stop them, half moved from the music, half destroyed by the weight of my pain.
If she could write “Joanne” in the midst of her pain, I could shine through. I just had to hold onto my life’s handrail, leaning and fighting alongside Stefani, and every other sister and brother with which I share this dreadful illness.