I was a little obsessed with Toni Braxton a few weeks ago. This time last year Toni Braxton announced her retirement from music. This came two months after a scare in December of 2012, when she was hospitalized with a blood clot in her lungs. That in itself can be quite frightening, particularly after being hospitalized for what was originally thought to be a heart attack in 2008. I understood her announcement to retire and, at the same time, saddened to hear the news.
After watching a few TV interviews, most of them done in that horrible soundbite window, it was the one she did on the Dr. Oz Show that made me feel her decision to leave music was based more on fear of the unknown than what I was hearing in those soundbite interviews where she stated she just wasn’t feeling it — music — anymore.
Another of those phrases that has stayed with me much of my life is: What we don’t understand we fear and what we fear we attack. It is the reason I question a lot of my own decisions. If I drill down on it, sometimes I’ll find my decisions are based on fear. I don’t understand what is happening, why it’s happening, or something along those lines and as a result, I make decisions based upon fear. To counter this, I will do as much research as is necessary to fill myself with information to understand what I’m going through. I hate jumping and doing anything based on fear, which later turns into an attack, i.e., “well, I don’t like thus and such and therefore I’m not doing it.” Often, when I face my fears, I realize I’m stronger than I’ve given myself credit.
Of course this thought came up last year when I saw and read the interviews with Braxton announcing her retirement.
I am probably one of the most anal retentive people I know. Maybe I’m a bit autistic but like Einstein, once that wild hair hits me I’ve got to research it to death. I will spend loads of time on one idea, project or problem and Toni Braxton became that obsession. I wanted to know more about her life with lupus. I knew about her bankruptcies, her diagnosis with lupus, and her hospitalization for the blood clot but I saw those as micro-moments — taken out of context — in her life but was clueless on the whole picture. I wanted to know more. I felt I needed to know the whole picture and I’m glad I did it because knowing about a woman with lupus is better than knowing about the celebrity with health issues.
Yes, I was obsessed. I went through hours of videos on YouTube and elsewhere. I saw interviews with her, I watched prior seasons of her reality show (feeling nails scratching a chalkboard the entire time) to see how she dealt with her disease on the show. I watched her interaction with Babyface as she discussed her reasons for leaving the music business. And finally, I watched the making of her music video, “Hurt You”, with Babyface. I saw her grow from not being interested in music and losing love for it, to returning to music and enjoying it — albeit sometimes fatigued — which is what I saw at the end of the making of video. In the end, she learned how to cope with her new normal.
In 2008, Toni Braxton was hospitalized with what was initially thought to be a heart attack. She heard lots of words during that time, pericarditis, microvascular angina and eventually lupus. The lupus diagnosis came 24-hours after being told she would need a heart transplant. During this time, Braxton was told her music career was over. She might be able to sing a couple of songs here and there but full performances and tours were out of the question.
In December of 2012, she was hospitalized with blood clots in the lung and put on Cumadin, a blood thinner. Photos I saw of her after her hospitalization showed a puffier face and weight gain that screamed she was on the drug Prednisone.
After her diagnosis, Braxton was told to “never tell anyone you have lupus, you’ll never work.” She was told no one would want to work with her if she came out about her illness. She would never get insurance — which an artist needs to do concerts — if she were to announce her lupus diagnosis. But, she did come out and told the world at a lupus program here in Los Angeles. She was tired of hiding her disease and I can’t blame her for doing it. It can be pretty stressful trying to hide a disease when the medications you take are unforgiving, like Prednisone.
One year after her announcement to retire from the music business, Toni Braxton, along with Babyface, released their newest collaboration, Love, Marriage & Divorce. Quite fitting I think. From February of 2013 to February of 2014, Toni Braxton changed her mind about music and thankfully, she has a firm support system of family and friends who helped her realize she could do it, on her terms. Added to that, she’s touring again. Not big tours or the tours we’re used to seeing from her. They, again, are tours done on her terms. I’m sure everyone is familiar with her onstage costume malfunction. Yes, that happened last year.
All of us with lupus must learn to adjust to our new normal. We can still do a lot of what we used to do but we must also understand adjustments are the necessary evil with this disease. Okay, so maybe I can’t run like I used to but walking is equally good.
Toni Braxton will serve, for many of us with lupus, as the poster child on how to live the new normal. She rests when she feels the need to rest. She may not do concerts every night, perhaps every other night or once a week. She is frugal with her time and she knows how to turn it off and on when needed. She admits she is trying to change her diet and eat healthier foods. She acknowledges she has good and bad days and during the video shoot for “Hurt You” you can see she turns it on when needed and after the shoot, her face drops, she looks beat and she turns it off. She got through it, the disease did not defeat her and she has learned to sit and rest when she needs to sit and rest. That’s a good thing.
In my obsession watching videos, reading interviews and ugh, watching videos from Braxton Family Values, I saw a woman transform from feeling powerless to taking back her power. Knowing Prednisone can make you look like a fish out of water with the heavy perspiration, I love the way she has handled that little annoyance. The hyper talk, the perspiration, the puffy face, all of those annoyances many of us on the drug know all too well, can be seen in her interviews. She handles it graciously and beautifully. I love her for that. I know the Cumadin has got to be doing her in as well, but she’s handling it.
Oh and then I discovered something else about the Braxton family. Autoimmune disease runs in her family. She lost an uncle to lupus, her only brother has lupus and a nephew as JRA, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’ve discovered the same in my own family.
Bravo Toni Braxton and welcome back! Do it on your terms. Unfortunately, we lost a very talented singer some years ago because he hid his disease. I can only presume or assume he took drugs to pick him up — because lupus causes chronic fatigue. Drugs to bring him down — because sometimes you can’t sleep. Drugs to help with pain — because joint and muscle pain are a given. He basically drugged himself to death to avoid acknowledging he had lupus. I’m sure he, like Braxton, heard coming out would mean the end of your career. Braxton learned yes, you’ll loose some, like Lloyds, but there are others.