Selma Blair wants people to see what it's like to live with multiple sclerosis in every gritty detail.
The "Cruel Intentions" star puts her physical and emotional struggles on raw display in the documentary "Introducing, Selma Blair," released on Friday.
"I spent so long trying to kill myself or numb myself or check out or figure out how to be alive by being half dead, and now I just want to help other people feel better," she says in the 90-minute film.
Blair, 49, was diagnosed in August 2018 with the condition where the body’s immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord. She shared the diagnosis publicly two months later.
MS can affect people differently, and Blair has joined celebrities like Christina Applegate, Jack Osbourne and Jamie-Lynn Sigler in sharing their lives with the condition.
She does not hide the effects of her MS in the film, showing herself in the introduction badly slurring and stuttering while her body spasms.
There is also footage of her laboring to walk up stairs while using a cane and trying to write a simple note with great difficulty.
"Well, this is what happens that I don’t want people to see," she says as she struggles to speak. "It’s the MS. That’s what people don’t understand."
Through it all, she gives glimpses of her gallows humor during trying times, her bracing honesty about her issues with depression, and her turbulent relationship with her mother, who died at 82 last year.
She shared that before she was officially diagnosed with MS, doctors initially told her that she was just experiencing "sadness" and feelings of being overwhelmed as a mother.
"And I was like, 'I can’t get it together. I hate myself, like I cannot function,'" she says in the film. "And then I got a little depressed and didn’t get out of bed. I’ve really been housebound for almost a year because when I go out everything intensifies."
Blair also discusses the embarrassing moment that caused her to stop drinking for good. She had a public meltdown on an airplane in 2016 while traveling from Mexico to Los Angeles with her son, Arthur, who was 4 at the time, and his father, Jason Bleick.
She said she had been drinking heavily in her hotel room before the flight after having Bleick around "after a bit of a contentious time."
"Arthur knew mom was definitely acting strangely, and I have told him I drank and that’s why I was in bed and childish and immature," she said. "It is the worst thing I've ever done as a parent."
She said she was blacked out during the incident from the alcohol and what she now knows was the pain of her MS that left her feeling like she was on fire. She has been sober since that day.
"Thank God my son was asleep," she said. "I could’ve died and that’s what my son would’ve known. I was grateful (Bleick) did not try to take our child away from me. He knew I was a good mother. That was the darkest moment of my life."
The documentary also covers Blair's hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) at a Chicago hospital in 2019. The experimental therapy involved Blair undergoing strong chemotherapy to help reset her immune system and then strengthening her immune system using her own stem cells.
She is shown having her head shaved ahead of the chemotherapy after her son Arthur, 10, cut it short before she left their home.
At one point she gets emotional while describing a complication that she said caused "horrible pain" in her heart.
"I couldn’t feel anything, I was, like, paralyzed and I lost my vision and went white," she said. "It really shook my faith, it really threw me backwards, gave me so much stress, and I’ve kind of been in this state of weakness and feeling vulnerable."
From the swelling in her face and body to struggles to breathe, her journey to recovery is shown in full. The film also depicts the frustrating reality that Blair did not just swiftly recover from all of her MS symptoms in a few months.
Blair also questions whether she will ever return to acting.
"No," she says at first. "I don’t know. I don’t know who would believe in me."
She is hoping by sharing her journey in all its ups and downs that she can help others.
"I never thought I’d be a disabled person that would help other disabled people," she said. "They saw themselves, and they saw some hope like, 'Oh I don’t just have to get in bed and be ashamed,' and just that act gave my life some meaning."
"Introducing, Selma Blair" is now in theaters and premieres on Discovery+ on Oct. 21.