Christina Applegate Says This Is the 'Worst' Part About Parenting With MS: 'It's Heartbreaking'

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Christina Applegate has been open about the way multiple sclerosis has affected her life since she was diagnosed in 2021, from the early symptoms of “tingling on my toes” and difficulty with balance to later being brought to the set of her Netflix show, Dead to Me, in a wheelchair, she told Robin Roberts in a recent interview on ABC News. “I really just kind of put it off as being tired, or I’m dehydrated, or it’s the weather,” she said. “And then nothing would happen for, like, months, and I didn’t pay attention.”

Now, the actress and co-host of the new podcast MeSsy (with friend and fellow MS advocate Jamie-Lynn Sigler) is opening up about another aspect of life her condition affects: parenting her daughter, 13-year-old Sadie.

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“My daughter’s had to see the loss of her mom, in the way that I was a mom with her,” Applegate told People in a new cover story with Sigler. She explained that they’ve lost many aspects of their relationships, like dancing together, doing school pick-ups, and Applegate working in her school library. “Being present, out of the house, out of my bed. She doesn’t see those things anymore,” Applegate explained.

And there are times when Applegate is down for the count and unable to interact with her daughter — and there’s nothing either of them can do about it. “If she comes in my room and sees I’m laying on my side, she knows she can’t ask me to do anything,” Applegate explains. “And that breaks me. Because I love doing stuff for my kid… but I just can’t sometimes.”

Applegate says that is the hardest part of parenting through MS. “It’s heartbreaking when you have to say to them, ‘I can’t.’ It’s like the worst feeling in the world as a mother,” she explained, adding that it’s something she “freak[s] out about every day” and that “it rips your soul apart.”

Multiple sclerosis (which Applegate’s friend and former co-star, Selma Blair, has also been diagnosed with) is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, also known as the central nervous system. It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system attacks a part of the body — in this case, myelin, the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers, per Mayo Clinic. That causes communication issues between the brain and the rest of the body, leading to damage and deterioration of nerve fibers and symptoms like numbness, tingling, lack of coordination, vision issues, and cognitive problems, among others.

Though MS has changed Applegate’s life in every aspect — the star isn’t sure she’ll act again, though she misses it — she’s facing it with honesty and a fierce spirit, both as a parent and a person. “I spent my career pretending to be someone else for everybody in the public eye,” she said. “I don’t have time to be inauthentic anymore. It’s exhausting.”

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