Selma Blair discusses living with undiagnosed MS for 40 years
Selma Blair discusses living with undiagnosed MS for 40 years: ‘If you’re a girl, you’re called crazy’
The Legally Blonde and Hellboy actress was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2018.
Actress Selma Blair experienced symptoms of multiple sclerosis for 40 years before receiving a diagnosis in 2018, and she’s now using her platform to empower others with disabilities.
In a new interview with British Vogue, Blair, 50, said she wasn’t aware that when she lost the use of her right eye, left leg, and bladder by the time she was 7, she was experiencing symptoms of the autoimmune disease. And when she attempted to bring it up with adults, she was accused of seeking attention and dismissed by her doctors.
“If you’re a boy with those symptoms, you get an MRI,” she said. “If you’re a girl, you’re called ‘crazy.'”
Blair’s childhood was also marked by nighttime fits of hysterical laughter, which became uncontrollable bouts of crying when she reached adulthood. “I just thought I was a hugely emotional person,” the Legally Blonde star said. But in fact the frontal lobe of her brain had been damaged by undiagnosed MS.
“I looked like a ‘normal’ girl to them,” Blair told the magazine, “but I was Disabled this whole time.”
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Following her diagnosis, Blair received a hematopoietic stem cell transplant in 2019, and the MS has been in remission since 2021. But living with the disease is still overwhelming.
“Sometimes I can’t eat for days, and then when I can relax, I overdo it and all the hunger rushes in,” she said. “I require more sleep than a bear in winter.”
Blair also discussed her years in Hollywood, filming movies such as Cruel Intentions and Hellboy, when she worked through the pain and self-medicated with alcohol. “I was lost and sad and could hardly ever smile. Hence my roles, I imagine,” she said.
She lived in fear that someone on set would find out about her symptoms, and she reduced her presence in the industry around 2009. But she’s since been inspired by other people with disabilities and returned to return to the public eye.
“I couldn’t have made a move — sometimes literally — without my allies in the Disabled community,” Blair said. “They blow my mind.”
In recent years, she has released the documentary Introducing, Selma Blair; penned a New York Times best-selling memoir, Mean Baby; and appeared on Dancing With the Stars. Although she withdrew midway through the competition in 2022, she returned to perform in the finale.
Blair also makes a point of using her cane at high-profile events where she’ll be photographed. “I didn’t imagine I could ever make a difference by showing up as myself and being open about my experiences. But when others with mobility aids rallied around my presence on the red carpet with a cane and in the midst of an MS flare, I noticed. I felt empowered to share,” she said. “Now it’s a conscious choice to.”
Blair is also optimistic about the possibility of returning to acting someday.
“Doors are closed until they are held open,” she said. “Disabled people behind and in front of the camera or stage that will set this tone. I have hope for the industry. Times are changing. I want to encourage this by just being a loud squeaky wheel. And listening. And getting loud.”
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.