I’m not a Lady Gaga fan, I’m not not a fan either, she’s just not really my thing, so it has been through the chronic pain/ hidden disability community that I learnt of her documentary Five Feet Two.
Lady Gaga has fibromyalgia (FM), a hidden disability and chronic pain condition that the NHS estimates affects as many as 1 in 20 people in the UK, an estimated seven times more women than men are affected. As well as widespread pain, those with FM can have more sensitivity to pain, fatigue, stiff muscles, difficulty sleeping, problems with mental processes like memory or concentration known as “fibro or brain-fog”, headaches and IBS. There is no known cure.
FM has recently caused Lady Gaga to cancel gigs, and her documentary raises awareness for those in chronic pain. We witness the challenges of balancing career and condition; not all of us can count getting hoisted above the Superbowl among our responsibilities, but Gaga can be a role model for achievement in the face of adversity.
As one of the most powerful women on the planet Gaga has quite an entourage of support staff and people to help her manage her symptoms, her long list of medication, alongside running her career and her brand, so I was glad when she offered a thought to the millions of people in pain without this care. “I just think about other people who have maybe something like this… who don’t have the money to have somebody to help them. I don’t know what I’d fucking do if I didn’t have everybody here to help me…”
But pain and the effects of chronic illness do not discriminate and she has the same concerns and worries as the rest of us: “do I look pathetic? I’m so embarrassed.” She also has concerns about having children, and an awareness of the controversial relationship between her psychological and physical health.
The hidden disability and chronic pain community do not have many role models or spokespeople and I’m grateful that Gaga who is a global megastar is speaking out. Hopefully Little Monsters (Gaga’s fans) and beyond will gain insight and awareness of FM and chronic pain given this window into her inner life.
Lady Gaga’s documentary Five Feet Two is on available on Netflix.
If you have a hidden disability or chronic pain condition and would like to share your story with Katherine please email her at Katherine@enhancetheUK.org