Actress Selma Blair, 46, known for her roles in Hellboy and Cruel Intentions, has been diagnosed with the neurological condition multiple sclerosis, which she revealed in an emotional Instagram.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing a range of symptoms including tremors, vision problems, fatigue, and numbness or weakness of the limbs and body, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. An estimated 2.5 million people worldwide are affected by multiple sclerosis, with two to three times as many women affected than men. MS does not yet have a cure, but treatments such as physical therapy and medication can help to slow the progression of the disease.
It is also very commonly misdiagnosed, as Blair believes hers was. According to a 2017 Health Union survey of over 5,000 Americans living with MS, 42% of the participants said they were initially diagnosed with other conditions including migraines, fibromyalgia and depression. Blair wrote that she had received her official diagnosis in August this year, although she believes she has battled with the disease for much longer and was “never taken seriously” by medical professionals.
Blair is currently filming a new Netflix series, Another Life, a sci-fi about astronauts on a mission to explore the genesis of an alien artefact. She said that she felt empowered to talk openly about her diagnosis because of the help she has received from Another Life’s costume designer, Allisa Swanson: “she carefully gets my legs in my pants, pulls my top over my head, buttons my coats, and offers her shoulder to steady myself.” Blair’s ability to speak openly and positively about MS is not only hopefully inspiring others to open up about their condition, but also encouraging people to lend a hand to those who need it.
But, what does it mean when these celebrities come forward with their conditions? Blair’s announcement, among those made by many other influential stars, shows positivity and strength and helps to shed light on this condition, as well as other disabilities which remain a taboo topic in wider society. It also shows how these conditions can happen to anyone, regardless of status. Ultimately, it’s another key step in working towards eliminating a stigma around illnesses and disabilities, showing that despite these symptoms, your illness does not define you.
“I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years at least. And I am relieved to at least know. And share.”
As Blair herself stated, despite the fact she is struggling, “I will do my best,” inspiring others to see the positives of their situation; helping them come forward without feeling embarrassed or judged, to talk to people, to ask for help, to share their story, as she has. It is especially great for young children, who are heavily influenced by these stars, to see them come forward with such a condition. It shows them that the media is not always about unrealistic beauty standards, and that these celebrities are real people, giving a platform for disabled children, especially, to relate to.
Image: Selma Blair’s Instagram account