Selma Blair is an amazing woman. Not only is she the actress I grew up watching (oh the ludicrous drama of Cruel Intentions, the timeless legend that is Legally Blonde, and the iconic portrayal of Kris Jenner in The People v. O.J Simpson: American Crime Story), but she is also living with Multiple Sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance. (NHS, 2018)
Selma Blair first opened up about this in October 2018, writing on her Instagram: “I have #multiplesclerosis . I am in an exacerbation. By the grace of the lord, and will power and the understanding producers at Netflix , I have a job. A wonderful job. I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it . And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.”
(This is a shortened version – the full version can be seen here)
The reason I love Selma is that she is open and honest about her condition in a world and industry that is continuously harsh. All you have to do is follow her on social media to be exposed to life with an illness – where you feel tired, grateful, anxious, isolated, overjoyed, and everything else under the sun, all at the same time.
Selma Blair walked the red carpet at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party 2019 with an enviable cane in hand and served some SERIOUS LOOKS. She cried, she asked for support, and she was absolutely sensational. I felt huge respect for her for braving an entirely overwhelming situation with incredible courage, and the outpour of support on social media suggests to me that everyone else felt that too.
Lady Gaga is also someone I find especially powerful. In her Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, Gaga opens up about her fibromyalgia, an illness which sufferers can struggle to get taken seriously.
“We’ve all heard of Lady Gaga, but fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) may be more of a mystery. It is a condition that is hard to diagnose, explain or treat. And many people with the condition say they struggle to get medical professionals to take their symptoms seriously.
FMS is a long-term condition that causes widespread pain. Its debilitating symptoms include extreme tiredness, muscle aches, difficulty sleeping and concentrating; headaches and bloating are also common. In Lady Gaga’s case, it is easy to see how she may have initially put these problems down to touring and performing. But the fatigue and pains persist even when you rest, and can be far more draining than normal tiredness.” (The Guardian)
I know a lot of people with fibromyalgia, and it’s common knowledge among the community that even having a few hours of ‘fun’ or ‘enjoyment’ can result in days and weeks of pain. Despite this, Lady Gaga lives with strength, touring the world and producing award-winning work (which I also love).
In an interview with Vogue, Gaga said: “I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real. For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result,” she said. “People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”
She, like Selma, is very open about her journey with illness. She’s also very open about her privilege, which has also been noted in the report by The Atlantic: ‘during one excruciating flare-up shown in Five Foot Two, she sympathizes with less-privileged sufferers of the disorder: “Like, I don’t know what I’d fuckin’ do if I didn’t have everybody here to help me.”‘
Blair and Gaga are just two of my role models when it comes to illness, but there are countless others out there. I know many amazing people who are sharing their stories and recreating the narrative of illness, identity, and disability in 2019, and many of them are in my Vasculitis support group. You don’t need to be a celebrity to be an inspiration, but it certainly helps when high profile influencers are able to increase the volume of the conversation.
In this blog post, I have aimed to use specialist terms such as (but not limited to) condition, illness, and disability in the correct way. I am only comfortable with labelling my own experience, so if I have misidentified or mislabeled something, please let me know! I want to be helpful and constantly seek education on these topics.