Joni Mitchell Has a ‘Weird, Incurable’ Disease That ‘Seems Like It’s From Outer Space’

Joni Mitchell dealt with polio as a child and a more recent brain aneurysm that left her unable to walk. For nearly two decades, the musician has also had a rare, somewhat controversial condition called Morgellons. She explained how this has impacted her health for years. She also believes the music community should do more to support those with the disease.

Joni Mitchell wears a black turtleneck and plays the guitar in front of a microphone.
Joni Mitchell | Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Joni Mitchell had polio growing up

When she was nine years old, Mitchell spent time in the hospital because of a polio diagnosis. The hospital where she stayed was far from her home, and her mother only visited one time. At some point in her stay, her doctors hinted that she wouldn’t walk again. She then began to teach herself by the light of her room’s Christmas tree.

“I just kept working my legs, working my legs, and then one day I said to them, ‘I want to try and walk,’” she told NPR. “So they wheeled me into this corridor, and they lifted me up and I put my arms on these chrome bars, and I pulled myself along to the end. I turned myself around, I came back, and then I said, ‘Now can I go home?’ ‘Well, you’ll have to wear braces. You’ll have to wear,’ you know, ‘metal-lined boots. You’ll have to have a wheelchair.’” 

Ultimately, she worried about being a nuisance to her parents when she moved home. This provided her with motivation to relearn how to walk up and down her home’s stairs. 

She says that her current illness feels like something from outer space

Currently, Mitchell deals with a condition called Morgellons. The condition is rare and causes fatigue, memory loss, and an itchy sensation beneath the skin.

“I have this weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space, but my health’s the best it’s been in a while,” she told the LA Times. “Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral. Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer — a terrorist disease: it will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.”

People reported that Mitchell was unable to leave her house or wear clothing because the disease made her feel like she was being “eaten alive.”

Joni Mitchell wants the music industry to support people with Morgellons

Morgellons is a controversial condition because some medical professionals do not acknowledge it as an actual disease. Instead, they believe that the condition is psychosomatic. Mitchell thinks that because of this, the music community should do what it can to support those with Morgellons.

“I have a tremendous will to live: I’ve been through another pandemic — I’m a polio survivor, so I know how conservative the medical body can be,” she explained. “In America, the Morgellons is always diagnosed as ‘delusion of parasites,’ and they send you to a psychiatrist. I’m actually trying to get out of the music business to battle for Morgellons sufferers to receive the credibility that’s owed to them.”

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