A woman with CP discusses how she identifies with the ‘Introducing, Selma Blair’ documentary. A beautiful & honest depiction of disability.
I recently watched Introducing, Selma Blair on Discovery Plus. It’s an eye opening documentary of Selma Blair’s journey with multiple sclerosis while seeking treatment for the autoimmune disease via stem cell therapy using her own stem cells.
The first thing that struck me watching the documentary is the vulnerability shown by Ms. Blair. I expected this portrait of her life to be sort of glamorized, maybe watered down, or mined for little nuggets of inspiration porn. Because that’s what portraits of disability typically are when made by largely non-disabled people.
This is none of that. It’s raw and honest. It’s painful, it’s human, it’s brave, it’s sad, and hopeful. It shows everything it is to be disabled and it apologizes for nothing and that’s beautiful. It’s beautiful because I think the disabled community at large feels as though we must apologize for existing in spaces that find us inconvenient.
Back to the vulnerability.
Imagine with me for a second that there’s something that you don’t like about yourself, something you would never willingly show in front of someone, and it’s something over which you have no control. And there it is blinking in neon for all the world to see. You would probably feel naked right?
This happens to Selma within the first ten minutes of the doc. She begins to struggle to speak as she begins to tell the audience about her diagnosis. The more she tries to ignore it and continue on, the worse it gets and it begins to manifest itself physically as she fidgets against her own will as she has no control over how her body handles the stress or how her brain processes being over stimulated.
In Introducing, Selma Blair, she comes across visibly uncomfortable in her own skin in this moment and incredibly vulnerable. As a viewer I don’t think she was embarrassed – nor should she be – but she was clearly frustrated with the manifestation of her symptoms. All she wanted to do was succinctly verbalize her thoughts but could not. I think maybe it was the first moment she actualized that she was going to let the world watch her struggle, and she wasn’t fully in control of the narrative or perception of what was seen.
It was vulnerable and so incredibly brave.
I sat there thinking “no fucking way could I do I that”. I hate for people to watch me struggle. I’m the queen of “I’m fine” and silver linings. I never let anyone outside of my inner circle see me not be fine. I never let anyone hear my inner dialogue of “no silver lining there, that’s just a black cloud of fuckery I’d rather not deal with.”
Yes, my inner dialogue can get a bit colorful, sorry Grandma.
I’ve never truly related to a famous person before but watching this I could relate to Selma.
Her humor can be dark, irreverent and inappropriate – which I identify with. But more than that, I related to her journey. From finding pieces of her purpose in the disability community, to trying to give her community more visibility and acceptance, and experimental treatments that might not even work (but ya gotta try because the other options are too shitty to contemplate). I get her. Watching this documentary makes me feel less alone.
I have had experimental surges that did not work. I have been reduced to tears moments before going under the knife, with the realization I might die on the table. It’s a terrifying moment realizing it might literally all be for nothing. The day before she goes in for treatment, when Selma closes the door behind her son she just dissolves into tears. I did too. She is betting a whole hell of a lot on a maybe.
I can relate.
I sympathized when the people around her had opinions on whether or not she should do the treatment, and watching her remain steadfast in her choice. Going with your gut in the face of dissenting opinion is fucking hard.
I recently received an unfortunate diagnosis; the metal support rods in my spine are broken and the solution to the problem is not a step I’m okay with. When I get a second opinion, if the option given is not markedly a better choice, I will choose to do nothing. That choice could lead to my premature death. Some of the people in my life are not okay with that choice. I know because I can read it in their expression or tone as I explain my reasons. Disabled people have to make super-unfair and super-difficult choices. It’s easy to feel judged and that is highlighted in a beautifully honest way in the documentary.
Additionally, I watched the Introducing, Selma Blair documentary out of curiosity because they’re also doing stem cell studies on people with cerebral palsy; ages 1-35. I have not done any research – because I’m done being an experiment for this lifetime. But even if I wasn’t done being a lab rat, if the protocol is anywhere near similar for CP patients, you can count me out. I’m not tough enough. Watching the chemo and stem cell implantation process was intimidating.
There is another moment I could relate to greatly. Selma gets home, from weeks in the hospital, and is both exhausted and extremely excited to see her son Arthur. She breaks down crying saying, “I’m a positive person” over and over again. This could have been from the sheer mental, emotional, and physical effects of a long term hospital stay, or it could be the constant internal struggle disabled people face. Wanting their struggles to be recognized, while also not wanting to be pitied or have their existence seen as tragic. I have experienced both, complete with those exact same words.
Then Selma washes her face and goes downstairs to greet her son with a glittering smile; the picture of resilience. Every mother and/or women (regardless of ability) has sucked it up, squared her shoulders, and moved forward at some point in their life. It was both amazing and humbling to watch that moment. Mostly because it was so normal and yet, it is rare.
Life in general is the great equalizer, we all experience pain, we all have struggles that no one sees. It takes grit and true grace to live life not covered in pretty words or Instagram filters, and not everyone can do that or is willing too.
In closing I’ll say this, and I’m not using it as an ableist platitude. Selma Blair is brave. Not because she lives with a disability, but because she lets the world watch her live with it unvarnished. She hides nothing, and shows the world that living with a disability isn’t inherently inspirational. It’s inherently hard.
Selma shows you can be disabled and be a really good parent. She demonstrates all the hues of herself as a disabled person and does so without apology. And she moves the narrative forward about what it is to be disabled. By adding her narrative and perspective to the conversation of what disability is, Selma educates people ignorant to disability as a whole.
Watch Introducing, Selma Blair it’s definitely worth your time.