Seal opens up about life with lupus: 'This body is not who we are'

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March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Read more personal stories about people living with autoimmune diseases such as MS and lupus on Yahoo Lifestyle.

Reporting by Jacquie Cosgrove

Seal became famous thanks to his singing voice, but he’s also known for the scars on his face. And that’s a fact that he’s well aware of.

“Something that had kind of been initially traumatizing turned out to be something that has made me instantly recognizable,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Those scars are the result of lupus, a chronic disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of your body. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, about 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide have the disease. Lupus most commonly affects the skin, joints and internal organs, and it can cause a range of symptoms.

Seal, 57, specifically has a form of the disease called discoid lupus, which gets its name from the coin-shaped lesions it causes. “My lupus first arrived when I was 21,” he explains. “It’s not as serious as systemic [lupus], which affects the organs.”

The musician reveals that he initially was self-conscious about his scars, “but then I quickly realized this body is not who we are. I got off lightly.”

Seal also struggles with panic attacks and anxiety, something he says he’s experienced for the last 29 years. The first time he experienced a massive panic attack was in a recording studio. “I was rushed to the hospital and I was convinced that I was dying, having a heart attack,” he recalls.

He explains that panic attacks can be “destabilizing” and that fear of experiencing another one can be “cold, lonely and dark.”

“It’s given me such empathy and understanding for people who can’t get help,” Seal adds. “There is no shame... there is no guilt in asking for help and talking about it, whether it’s therapy or it’s a friend. It needs to be shared.”

Seal now says he turns to exercise to help control his anxiety. “Mental health and exercise go hand-in-hand,” he says, although he recognizes that it’s “sometimes easier said than done, especially for people who are suffering from depression.” He also meditates regularly. “It’s been huge for me.”

While Seal has been through a lot, he’s “grateful” for his experiences. “I’m not sitting here crying about my lupus or anxiety,” he says. “It isn’t by chance that I just have a voice to sing that touches people. I believe that my purpose is communication. That is a blessing.”

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