Selma Blair Was Labeled "Crazy" When She Exhibited MS Symptoms at 7 Years Old
The actor didn't get her diagnosis until she was in her mid-40s.
Actor Selma Blair wasn't diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) until 2018, when she was well into her 40s. But she had been unknowingly dealing with symptoms of the disease for years, dating all the way back to her childhood. Since announcing her diagnosis publicly, Blair has been vocal about living with MS and the challenges she faced in finding out what was wrong with her. In a new interview with British Vogue, the now-50-year-old star revealed that she was brushed off by doctors when she was already battling MS symptoms at the age of seven. Read on to find out what she had to say about being labeled "crazy" and about her MS journey after that.
READ THIS NEXT: Christina Applegate Says She Can No Longer Do This After MS Diagnosis in New Interview.
Blair was dealing with serious health problems at a young age.
"That thing you didn't know about. It had been there all along," Blair wrote in an essay about her long-undiagnosed MS for The Guardian in 2022. "The pieces started falling into place. I'd suffered from symptoms that would come and go ever since childhood. Fevers, urinary tract infections, nerve pain and numbness, depression."
British Vogue's May 2023 cover story on the actor notes that "by the time Blair was seven she had lost use of her right eye, left leg, and her bladder."
Per the Mayo Clinic, MS "is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system)" and the symptoms can include "partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement," "unsteady gait or inability to walk," and "problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function," among many others.
Her concerns were dismissed.
According to British Vogue, Blair's mother thought first that her daughter might have cancer and "at times became frustrated" with the amount of extra care that she needed. But Blair explained that neither her mother nor the doctors she saw were able or willing to grasp what was actually going on inside her body. She told the magazine that she was dismissed as being hysterical, partly because of her gender.
"If you're a boy with those symptoms, you get an MRI. If you're a girl, you're called 'crazy,'" Blair said.
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She self-medicated with alcohol and other coping mechanisms.
For The Guardian, Blair wrote that she "tried to dull [her symptoms] with alcohol." And in her memoir, 2022's Mean Baby (via Today), she revealed that she first got drunk at the age of seven, which is when she began to experience serious effects of juvenile MS.
As the actor scored roles in movies like Cruel Intentions, Legally Blonde, and The Sweetest Thing, she remained without a diagnosis for her varied health issues. "I just thought I was a hugely emotional person," Blair told British Vogue of the uncontrollable mood swings she would have. What she later learned was that the frontal lobe of her brain had been damaged by the disease.
Still, she continued working.
"Sets were excruciating sometimes with the exhaustion and the tics. I took benzos and Klonopin [a medication used to prevent seizures and anxiety disorders]," Blair recalled to the magazine. "I didn't abuse those things, just alcohol. But I was lost and sad and could hardly ever smile. Hence my roles, I imagine."
The actor explained that she feared losing jobs by being "deemed an insurance risk," so she tried to mask her health problems and alcoholism. She also said that she "wished [herself] dead" often and attempted a few times to take her own life.
Blair has been sober since 2016.
Her MS is now in remission.
Blair announced in 2021 that her MS was in remission following a hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. Two years later, she gave an update to Today, saying, "I still have symptoms. I do not have the absolute weakness that I had for a long time, and if I focus on something really truly and I'm awake, I can correct it. But often, it just takes a lot of energy."
She shared with British Vogue that her condition still varies day to day, and that she has to avoid the sun, as it "still triggers extreme weakness and lethargy." Blair also uses various aides, including a service dog.
As for her future as an actor, Blair is cautiously optimistic that productions will be willing to meet her needs. "[I think producers] are open to it now," she told the magazine of casting actors with disabilities. "The reality of a set is another thing: the hours, the nights, the logistics of somewhere to curl up and reset my nervous system once over-activated. I haven't actively pursued work in acting—it hasn't been the right time yet—but it's absolutely doable for me. I have to take the leap."
If you are or a loved one is struggling with suicide or depression, you can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or visit 988lifeline.org.