How did you deal with trying to advocate for your daughter when some of the challenges or difficulties she was facing, especially when she became famous, were foreign to you?
It definitely was challenging, and there were times in the beginning that I felt helpless. I grew up in a very different environment where we didn’t really talk that openly about emotions. You were just supposed to be tough and strong and get on with it. So I didn’t really know how to have a conversation, a healthy and open conversation, or to look for the warning signs.
My daughter’s issues started in middle school. She was uniquely very different and that was not appreciated. Neither of us understood it or knew what to do. Even though we were an extremely close family, we talked but I still didn’t know… “Is this just normal teenage behavior or is there really a problem?”
There was a problem, I missed it, I made some mistakes and I felt horrible about it. It’s not uncommon for these things to go undiagnosed, but it did go undiagnosed for several years. I went through a period of blaming myself for that, for just not really knowing what to look for. The positive is we learned together. I learned from both of my girls who are now much more open about it. It’s made me a better mother. It’s made me better equipped to talk to young people and it’s made me be more vulnerable and open with other parents. I’m still learning every single day, but that is a privilege.
What do you think was the reason for that disconnect between you two when she was younger?
Some of the reasons people don’t approach their parents is they’re afraid of being judged. And also their parents don’t share their own struggles with them, which I didn’t do. I didn’t open up. I felt like as a parent, I had to be tough and strong and keep it all together, but I wasn’t actually always all together.
What do you think ended up helping her?
Sharing her story. I didn’t understand, and was like, “Why are you telling these like really horrible things that happened to you to people?” But it was resonating with young people. They were like, “Oh Gaga, if you overcame that, maybe we can to do it, let us get involved.” So this was wholly her vision… because of what she went through, she envisioned a world where young people are better equipped than she was to deal with their struggles. I’m really proud of her for channeling all that pain and trauma into helping others.
Looking back, what else do you think you could have done differently?
One thing that was really important in our family was family dinners and nothing was really off limits, but I have to say, looking back, I don’t think we ever talked about mental health. We talked about politics, entertainment, stuff at school and some of the challenges, but I don’t think we…