After making her first public appearance in months at the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party on Sunday, Selma Blair gave her first interview since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year.
In an interview with Good Morning America, the actress says she struggled with health problems since her son was born in 2011, and only recently became aware that she had multiple sclerosis because doctors initially didn’t take her pain seriously.
“Ever since my son was born, I was in an MS flare-up and didn’t know, and I was giving it everything to seem normal,” she told GMA’s Robin Roberts. “And I was self-medicating when he 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.”
Blair recalled being so exhausted that she would have to pull over for a nap after driving her son to school one mile from their house.
“I was really struggling with, ‘How am I gonna get by in life?’” she said. “And not taken seriously by doctors, just, ‘Single mother, you’re exhausted, financial burden, blah, blah, blah.’”
Blair isn’t the only one who’s gone through this — research shows that doctors often have a hard time knowing what to do with women’s pain. According to a 2008 National Institute of Health study, women were 13–25 percent less likely than men to receive opioids when they were in pain (and even less likely than that when they were women of color). And a 2003 study published in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics found that women in emergency departments were less likely than men to be taken seriously.
After battling symptoms for so long, Blair said she “cried with some relief” when she finally got the diagnosis.
Back in October, she revealed on Instagram that she had been diagnosed with MS in August, writing that she was experiencing an “exacerbation” of the disease.
“I am disabled,” she wrote at the time. “I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS.”
During her interview with GMA, Blair was going through an MS flare-up that affected her speech, but said that she was doing “very well,” and added that her doctor predicted that despite her “aggressive MS,” she would have 90 percent of her abilities back within a year.
And despite being “a little scared of talking” for the interview, Blair was glad to be spreading more awareness for the disease.
“No one has the energy to talk when they’re in [an MS] flare-up, but I do ‘cause I love a camera,” she joked.