Trigger Warning: This piece contains descriptions and true accounts of sexual assault.
"I went through a really crazy time, in my head, that I still work on," Lady Gaga divulged to Oprah Winfrey in The Me You Can't See, a new Apple TV+ series centered on mental health. "I'm trying to make sure that I give back with that experience, instead of just, I don't know, locking it away and faking it."
The pop star said that when she was 19, she was raped and impregnated by a music producer. Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, sought medical treatment years later for chronic pain and said she was initially incredulous when a psychiatrist was sent to evaluate her.
"I realized that it was the same pain that I felt when the person who raped me dropped me off pregnant on a corner by my parents' house because I was vomiting and sick 'cause I'd been being abused," Gaga said tearfully. "I was locked away in a studio for months."
She said she has no intention to name the producer who abused her. "I do not ever want to face that person again," Gaga said. But the coercion tactics he used to manipulate her are terribly familiar: when she was trying to break into the music business, a producer told her to take her clothes off, and Gaga refused. Then they threatened to derail her career. "They told me they were going to burn all my music," Gaga said.
Recognizing and confronting the source of her pain has been a difficult process for Gaga over the last few years. She called her mental health journey a "slow rise." The star said that around 2018, when she was extremely visible while promoting the film A Star Is Born, she was secretly suffering. "I couldn't feel anything, I disassociated," Gaga said. "It's like your brain goes offline, and you don't know why no one else is panicking." She told Winfrey she suffered a "total psychotic break," adding: "For a couple years, I was not the same girl."
Two and a half years into her healing journey, Gaga said she's learned helpful tactics to pull herself out of bad spells, like therapy, exercise, eating healthy and playing music. "It all started to slowly change," she said. But the star recognized that recovery isn't linear, either. "Even if I have six brilliant months, all it takes is getting triggered once to feel bad. And when I say feel bad, I mean want to cut [myself], think about dying, wonder if I'm ever going to do it," Gaga divulged.
She had words of comfort for anyone in despair and feeling the same way: "You know why it's not good to cut, you know why it's not good to throw yourself against a wall, you know why it's not good to self harm? Because it makes you feel worse. You think you're gonna feel better, because you're showing somebody, hey look I'm in pain. It doesn't help. I always tell people: tell somebody. Don't show somebody."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of support, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access 24/7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org.