Three years ago, actress Selma Blair received the devastating news that she was suffering from MS (multiple sclerosis), an autoimmune disease that can cause impaired coordination and/or loss of vision, along with pain and fatigue. MS damages nerve insulation which can progress to neurologic issues and effect motor skills. Blair made the brave decision to go public with her diagnosis when her motor skills began to deteriorate, thwarting any speculation that she was under the influence of anything other than a serious illness. During her treatment, which included chemotherapy and a revolutionary stem cell procedure, Blair made another brave decision – to let cameras document everything. The result, Introducing, Selma Blair, a documentary that will debut this fall on discovery+, is a no-holds-barred exploration of acceptance, resilience, at times despair, and a woman questioning her mortality along with everything she knew about life and the fight to keep it.
During a Summer 2021 Virtual Television Critics Association Tour panel promoting the project, Blair opened up about her journey thus far, and why sharing her story was so important. “It was my hope to be able to share that time of looking to HSCT (Human Stem Cell Transplant) and that process and what I was going through as a mom and just someone getting a big diagnosis,” she revealed. “I've read things like, 'Wow, my MS is nothing like this woman’s.' Sometimes we see the real extremes with disease or illness. [People] are either really incapacitated or, for some, it’s more benign. When I was first looking at it, I wanted examples. I wanted to feel like I wasn't going crazy. Why can [some area of my body] work when I'm at home, then I go out and I'm overwhelmed, and things fall apart?
“I don't have advice [for others],” she added. “I just wanted to lead by example of saying this is just where I am. I don't know. If I slow down and have patience with myself, I do find this too shall pass, whether it’s a glitch in thinking, a movement, or something else. Everyone’s journey is their own so I can only speak for myself.”
Blair admitted to being calm about her diagnosis, as the problems she has are something that she carried for a long time. However, when a name -- MS -- was put to it, she was stunned. “The name was a surprise," she said. "It never occurred to me. So, I'm learning like everyone else. It can be very isolating when you get a diagnosis for some people. For me, it wasn't. It brought me out more because before I just thought I was bat-shit [crazy], which could still be the case, but bat-shit openly with MS and being symptomatic at times.”
The 49-year-old single mother credits humor as one of her coping mechanisms. “My humor’s a bit sticky,” she laughed. “But yes, I always like humor. Because [as] Carrie Fisher said, 'If it wasn't funny, then it would just be true.' There are many different ways to tell a story, but I do like humor, sometimes very inappropriate. I ask everyone’s forgiveness as I go on this journey in life, [as] I'm sure I'll be canceled.”
She also credits her son Arthur as a source of strength during a prolonged MS flare-up that wouldn’t respond to treatment. “I wasn't remitting,” she revealed. “It just was going on so long and I was so burnt out. If there was an option to halt this, to give me time to rebalance, it's absolutely for my son. I have no desire to leave him alone right now, none. I never really liked life, but I do now. Strange, huh? I was so scared in life, so to suddenly start to find an identity and safety in me, and figure out boundaries and time management and energy? I think it's like I'm having the time of my life -- kind of.
“My prognosis is great,” she added. “I'm in remission. Stem cell, absolutely; HSCT put me in remission. It took about a year after stem cell for the inflammation and lesions to really go down. I was reluctant to talk about it because I felt this need to be more healed since I put it out there. I had accrued a lifetime of baggage in the brain that will still need a little sorting out or accepting. And so [it] took me a minute to get to that acceptance. It doesn't look like this for everyone. There's still maintenance, treatments and glitches and wonderful things I've learned. I don't have any new lesions forming.”
Blair is hopeful that Introducing, Selma Blair will educate others on the impact of MS, and while she can only tell her story, the outpouring of support and love she’s received, along with messages of thanks from perfect strangers, has been uplifting. “A lot of people don't feel safe really getting off their shoulders what they're going through,” she said. “It creates real rigidity and fear in a lot of people.
“To hear that me showing up with a cane, or willing to talk about something that might be embarrassing, or oversharing, to people, was a key for a lot of people in finding comfort in themselves," she continued. "That means everything to me. I'm thrilled I have some platform.
"By no means am I speaking for all people with this condition, or any chronic illness or disability or anything," Blair said in closing. "I'm speaking my story. If that helps normalize one thing -- to open the door for other people to be comfortable telling their stories that could be enlightening, informative and build new ways of being with love and support -- then I'm thrilled to have this here to talk to you all.”
Introducing, Selma Blair begins streaming October 21 on discovery+.
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