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Selma Blair Talks About Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis for the First Time With Robin Roberts

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Actress Selma Blair opened up about her multiple sclerosis for the first time since her diagnosis in Oct. 2018. She spoke one-on-one with Robin Roberts, host of “Good Morning America” and #ThriverThursday on The Mighty, about her life with MS and why she’s speaking out.

Though she was in the middle of a flare-up, Blair said she was doing well and was happy to be able to raise awareness of what being in the middle of an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis can look like.

Multiple sclerosis is a condition in which the immune system causes inflammation that damages the myelin and nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves (which make up the central nervous system). Damage to areas of the CNS can cause various symptoms such as numbness, fatigue, weakness or pain.

One of the most noticeable symptoms throughout the interview is the effect of MS on her speech. Blair explained that she has spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological condition involving involuntary spasms in the muscles of the voice box or larynx.

Want to connect with others who have multiple sclerosis? Follow The Mighty’s Multiple Sclerosis page, where you can share your Thoughts and Questions with the MS community.

“I was a little scared of talking,” Blair told Roberts, “and even my neurologist said, ‘No. This will bring a lot of awareness, ’cause no one has the energy to talk when they’re in a flare-up.’ But I do. ‘Cause I love a camera.”

Blair explained that she first started experiencing symptoms after she gave birth to her son, Arthur – even though she didn’t realize it was an MS flare until many years later.

“I was giving it everything to seem normal,” she said, explaining how she would self-medicate to cope with the pain or take a nap in her car a mile from her son’s school because she was too exhausted to make it all the way home.

“I was ashamed,” she said. “I was doing the best I could – and I was a great mother – but it was killing me.”

Blair sought help from medical professionals but struggled to get an answer because she was not taken seriously by doctors. She said many brushed off her symptoms as the result of her being an “exhausted single mother.”

When she was finally diagnosed with MS in October, Blair said she cried. “I had tears. They weren’t tears of panic,” she explained, “they were tears of knowing I now had to give in to a body that had loss of control. And there was some relief in that.”

On difficult days, Blair said she copes by staying in bed and not moving. “You just have to. You can’t do it all. It’s fine to feel really crappy. My son gets it, and now I’ve learned not to feel guilty.”

She also sought support from fellow actor and chronic illness warrior Michael J. Fox, who has lived with Parkinson’s disease for nearly 30 years. “I don’t know who to tell,” Blair explained, “but I am dropping things, I am doing strange things…” Fox got in touch with her and the two began having conversations about life with illness. “He gives me hope,” Blair said.

Blair now strives to be open about her experiences with her family and fans alike.

It wasn’t hard to tell her son about her diagnosis, she explained, as he had already seen her exhibiting symptoms for many years.

The actress also made her first public appearance since her MS diagnosis on Sunday at Vanity Fair’s Oscar party, posing with her customized cane for photographers. As Mighty contributor Mariana Solarte Caicedo wrote:

This sends an important message to anyone who uses mobility aids — that we are entitled to live our lives in the most magnificent way we can. We are worth it, even if at times it doesn’t feel like it… I know I can be a beautiful, empowered woman thanks to this representation.

Blair said her doctor believes she could potentially have up to 90 percent of her abilities back within a year. “So this is to say,” she told Roberts, “let’s meet again next year and see if I’m better. If I’m not, and I can still have a conversation, that’s good enough. I want to see for other people, and I want to see for me, where I am.”

Screenshot via Good Morning America Twitter

Originally published: February 26, 2019
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