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What Selena Gomez Sharing Her Struggle Means to Fellow Autoimmune Warriors

When newsfeeds everywhere started promoting Selena Gomez’s new documentary “My Mind and Me” as a look inside her diagnosis and struggle with bipolar disorder, I immediately planned to settle in for watching what I anticipated would be a view into a world not many see unless they too are diagnosed or love someone with bipolar. I was drawn in, however, on so many other levels, as every chronically ill patient would also be.

Selena Gomez has been in the public eye since she started acting on Barney at the age of 7; and in this documentary, home videos show her dark brown curls, big brown eyes, and the fact that the camera has loved her since long before those of Hollywood found her. What we learn from watching this wonderfully crafted piece is the price Selena has paid, and continues to pay, for being in the public eye.

Selena has lupus, an autoimmune disease that can attack any part of her body. In Selena it attack her kidneys and she ended up undergoing a kidney transplant in 2017, which cannot be performed until the lupus is in remission (so it will not attack the new donated kidney). This means lots of meds and infusions prior to the transplant to get the lupus into remission, and then lots of anti-rejection meds after the transplant that are not without their own life-changing side effects. Patients watching this documentary who are also autoimmune patients, like me, are keenly aware of how difficult some of these med protocols can be.

It was immediately after Selena’s kidney transplant surgery, a severe trauma to her body, that she went into a psychosis and pulled the IVs from her arms. In the words of her loved ones through the documentary, she became someone her loved ones didn’t recognize. The documentary gave a gallant effort to describe this scary time, but only those who have been there themselves will truly understand. I’ve been there. After experiencing a severe concussion in 2020, my autoimmune disease-ridden body had all the stress it could handle, and I too went into a psychosis, and was diagnosed with bipolar. Coming out of psychosis, meeting with psychiatrists and doctors, coming to terms with my new diagnosis and making amends to those I hurt during the time in my life that my brain was not acting as myself is probably the most difficult time I have ever gone through. My heart ached listening as Selena describes that period in her life, because I understood as I too had been there.

Having lupus, a kidney transplant and a life of anti-rejection meds, a bipolar diagnosis as well as antipsychotic meds to keep that at bay has not slowed Selena down. The documentary shows her going home to her roots in Texas, visiting her old middle school and neighbors, and truly never forgetting where she came from. She also gives of herself on a trip to Kenya; but her fight with
lupus and bipolar showed back up as her stress levels increased upon her return.

What also showed was how hard it was for some of her closest friends and
confidants to truly understand her need for rest and to recalibrate after such
a trip. The same ones that reminded her to take her meds, who saw her cuddled up in blankets every chance she had, and who saw her at her worst, still needed to be reminded themselves that Selena is a chronically ill person with a very serious mental health diagnosis. I wanted to jump from my own bed and pile of blankets to remind them myself as I was watching one particularly insensitive scene! You can paint a picture, even be a part of a documentary, but unless they live in a chronically ill body and have mental illness, there are people who will not understand your needs for absolute rest and recovery.

I’ve watched “My Mind and Me” twice now and would love to have a watch party where my chronically ill friends and I can pause it and talk about what able bodied folks won’t realize is happening, all because Selena is simply doing all she can to function and be as productive as she can in the body she was given. As for our shared mental health diagnosis, our minds can only hang on for so long through all the battles our bodies endure day in and day out. I’m proud to be sharing the same mental health diagnosis with an autoimmune warrior as amazing, compassionate, and talented as Selena Gomez.

Image by Apple TV’s YouTube

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