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Christina Applegate has appeared to be the picture of resilience over the past few years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, embracing the condition by showing off customized walking canes and a manicure that reads “FU MS”. But life hasn’t been easy for the 51-year-old since being diagnosed in 2021.
In a recent interview Vanity Fair, the “Dead to Me” star went into more detail about living with the condition — and she was refreshingly honest and candid about how losing mobility because of the multiple sclerosis, which impacts the immune system, has affected her life. “There are just certain things that people take for granted in their lives that I took for granted. Going down the stairs, carrying things — you can’t do that anymore. It f*cking sucks. I can bring up food to my kid. Up, never down,” she says in the interview.
“With the disease of MS, it’s never a good day. You just have little shitty days,” Applegate adds.
People who don’t have MS don’t always know how debilitating it can be. “People are like ‘Well, why don’t you take more showers?’ Well, because getting in the shower is frightening. You can fall, you can slip, your legs can buckle. Especially because I have a glass shower. It’s frightening to me to get in there,” Applegate tells Vanity Fair.
Even surrounding herself with supportive friends isn’t so straightforward, both because MS impacts her immune system — so catching a “minor” illness could be extremely damaging to her health — and because spending time with others can be “exhausting.” “Imagine just being in a crowd of people and how loud that is. It’s like 5,000 times louder for anyone who has lesions on their brains,” Applegate says.
Applegate also opens up about finding herself on the receiving end of uneducated and unwelcome “advice,” a phenomenon so many people with chronic illnesses can relate to. “Everyone’s like, ‘Why don’t you see if this works? Why don’t you go do this?’ And I’m like, because I’d rather just lie in my bed and be alone and watch TV, to be honest with everybody . . . I’d rather just lie here and cry or do whatever I need to do right now to process this,” Applegate says in the Vanity Fair interview.
Luckily, Applegate does have close and supportive friends who’ve helped her cope with the condition, including actors Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Selma Blair, who both have MS. Applegate called her relationships with Sigler and Blair “imperative” in her MS journey: “It’s impossible for anyone else to understand.”
Sigler, in particular, encouraged Applegate to set strong boundaries early on when it came to filming “Dead to Me”. “She was like, ‘You need to tell them [what you need] now that you’ve let it out of the bag,'” Applegate says in the VF interview.
The condition has had such an enormous impact on her life that Applegate tells Vanity Fair that she’s officially stepping away from acting due to MS. “I’m probably not going to work on-camera again,” she says.
Applegate has previously stated that MS affects her ability to participate in her career, saying that the SAG Awards would be her “last awards show as an actor” in an interview with the LA Times: “Right now, I couldn’t imagine getting up at 5 a.m. and spending 12 to 14 hours on a set; I don’t have that in me at this moment.”
But during her VF interview, Applegate shares that she already has a cane in mind for this year’s Emmys, if she’s nominated. “I’ll have my Neo-Walk stick. Well, I have a custom one coming out that’s going to have my name on it and it’ll say ‘F*ck you MS.’ It’s going to look kind of groovy and cool and it’ll probably light up and the proceeds are going to go to MS charities,” she says.
The way that Applegate has unapologetically embraced mobility devices, including her walking stick, and other lifestyle adjustments of MS (like sometimes needing to be barefoot) is a welcomed display of representation and has meant the world to so many people within the disability community. Whatever she decides to do next, whether it’s acting related or not, we know that Applegate will continue being a fierce and bold advocate for those with MS and other chronic or debilitating conditions.