Selma Blair is opening up about her multiple sclerosis diagnosis on camera for the first time.
On Tuesday, the 46-year-old actress spoke to Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts and revealed how she reacted to her August 2018 diagnosis, how her son responded, her prognosis, and what celebrity has been there for her through it all.
Blair’s interview — which was filmed before her first public appearance at the Vanity Fair Oscars party on Sunday — came during a flare-up for the actress, something that made her nervous to talk on camera.
For Blair, MS — which is “a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord,” according to Mayo Clinic — includes a symptom called spasmodic dysphonia. Due to that symptom — which causes voice breaks and gives the voice a tight, strained quality — Blair’s speech was slowed, but she wanted to go through with the interview to show “what being in the middle of an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis is like.”
“I was a little scared of talking, and even my neurologist said, ‘No. This will bring a lot of awareness because no one has the energy to talk when they’re in a flare-up.’ But I do ’cause I love a camera,” she quipped. “… It is interesting to put it out there, to be here to say, ‘This is what my particular case looks like right now.'”
Prior to her diagnosis, unbeknownst to her, Blair had been in the midst of an MS flare-up since the birth of her 7-year-old son, Arthur.
“I was self-medicating when [Arthur] wasn’t with me. I was drinking. I was in pain. I wasn’t always drinking, but there were times when I couldn’t take it, and I was really struggling with, ‘How am I going get by in life?’” she recalled. “… I even got to the point where I said, ‘I need to go to work and I have to stay awake.’ I dropped my son off at school a mile away and before I got home I’d have to pull over and take a nap. And I was ashamed. And I was doing the best I could, and I was a great mother, but it was killing me.”
Additionally, Blair wasn’t “taken seriously by doctors,” and was told that her symptoms were due to her being “a single mother,” “exhausted” or dealing with finances. While struggling to explain her symptoms, Blair reached out to Michael J. Fox, who’s been struggling with Parkinson’s disease for decades.
“I said, ‘I don’t know who to tell, but I am dropping things. I’m doing strange things,’” she recalled of an email she sent the Back to the Future actor. “He got in touch with me and we began a conversation. So he really helped me… He gives me hope.”
“Plus I was like, ‘I have Michael J. Fox’s email now. Like, I’m pretty cool. I’m cooler than I thought,’” she quipped.
Once that diagnosis did come, though, Blair “cried with some relief” after years of “giving it everything to seem normal.”
“I cried. I had tears. They weren’t tears of panic. They were tears of knowing I now had to give in to a body that had loss of control,” she said. “… I cried with some relief. Like, ‘Oh, good, I’ll be able to do something.'”
When it came time to telling her son of her diagnosis, Blair said it wasn’t hard “at all.”
“I always want him to feel safe, never responsible for me, but he had already seen that I was falling and doing things and I was always laughing,” she explained. “And he’d imitate me and I’d be like, ‘That’s fine. But don’t do that out of the house. People will think you’re a jerk.'”
“I did have to tell him after the MRI. I said, ‘I have something called multiple sclerosis,’” she recalled. “And he almost cried and said, ‘Will it kill you?’ And I said, ‘No. I mean, we never know what kills us, Arthur, but this is not the doctor telling me I’m dying.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, OK,’ and that was it.”
Blair described her prognosis as “strangely amazing” and revealed that her doctors are “hopeful” and think that she could have 90 percent of her abilities back in a year. Despite that hope, Blair does have hard days, which she combats with both sleep and her loved ones.
“I have three of the dearest people with me all the time, plus my son,” she said. “I never thought I’d have such riches and that I’d have to be so vulnerable and accepted. It’s keeping me alive, no pressure to them. So rude of me, but the truth is they have been.”
“I get in bed and I don’t move,” she continued of her need for rest. “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… I’m going to do as much as I can, but I have to put my brain in recovery. I have to reset my attitude sometimes.”
“I need to smile and I need to get the positivity to believe,” she added.