When Selma, 50, first began to experience mysterious symptoms— fevers, urinary tract infections, nerve pain, numbness, and depression, she wasn’t sure what was going on. She tried to lessen the pain with alcohol, she wrote in an excerpt of her May 2022 memoir Mean Baby shared on The Guardian. In 2008, Selma started noticing the numbness in her legs worsening when she fell walking down a hill with her horse.
“The ground just slipped out from under me,” the Cruel Intentions actress wrote. In August 2018, after a troubling trip to Miami where she couldn’t move her legs after jumping into the ocean, Selma sought help. She posted on Instagram, saying “So, I am in pretty intense pain. Whiplash a few times on my horse and sitting on planes … and now I am in a real musculoskeletal bind. Hanging in though. Hoping I can rehab it and get back to riding and writing again soon. #chronicpain is a real challenge. Love to all of us.”
Selma’s friend, actress Elizabeth Berkley saw the message, which set off alarm bells. She connected Selma with her brother who is a spinal neurologist, Selma wrote in her memoir. Selma describes her moment of diagnosis as a catharsis, especially after years of being doubted.
“I felt an adrenaline rush of emotion. It felt like giving birth. The release of it. The catharsis of it. But more than anything, I was overwhelmed by a sense of relief, like the way you feel when an ocean wave breaks right at the shore before taking you under. For years, my symptoms were dismissed as ‘anxiety’ and ‘emotional.’…And now I had a map to follow. I had information. A label. This time, one that fit,” she wrote.
Selma says she was told by industry professionals to not disclose her diagnosis for risk of missing out on parts. But she bucked tradition and went public in October 2018.
Selma stepped out for one of her first appearances post-reveal in April 2019 and made a big splash at the Vanity Fair Oscar party. She wrote high heels, a colorful Ralph & Russo dress with a cape and a choker around her neck, and her hair slicked back. She also brought a cane. “I felt cocooned in this dress. Protected…I’ve never felt more beautiful,” she said in her memoir.
Now, Selma continues to work as much as she can and is an advocate for research into the disease. And, she hopes in speaking out that other people will get diagnosed sooner than she did.
“When I announced my diagnosis to the outside world it seemed as if ‘it hit so hard, so fast.’” Selma also wrote in her memoir, per The Guardian. “But they didn’t see the constant fatigue or the years of inflammation or the signs that presented themselves all along. I’d gone through a lifetime of knowing. The only thing that changed was that I was given a name for it.”