Joni Mitchell’s mysterious medical condition is still largely unexplained, but she is much better


On April 1, tons of artists and fans gathered in the Marquee Ballroom at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to honor the music of Joni Mitchell at the MusiCares Person of the Year Gala. Billy Porter sang a powerful rendition of “Both Sides Now.” Brandi Carlile and Jon Batiste, two nominees for the 2022 Grammy Awards, were the artistic directors of the evening.

The show was magical, but it was special because of Mitchell’s presence. According to Billboard, the singer’s appearance was an open question. Mitchell’s public appearances have been rare over the years. She recovered from a brain aneurysm in 2015 and has also suffered from a rare and controversial condition called Morgellons disease for years.

Brandi Carlile, Joni Mitchell and Jon Batiste | Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Joni Mitchell’s condition kept her from performing and traveling for years, just like her cerebral aneurysm

In 2015, Mitchell was found unconscious in her home after a cerebral aneurysm. Mitchell, a polio survivor, had to learn to walk again, but her speech returned quickly. Later, NME reported that Mitchell was “making good progress”. She underwent daily therapies and soon started walking again.

However, another condition had kept Mitchell from performing and traveling for years before she aneurysm. She diagnosed herself with a condition called Morgellons disease, which many doctors describe as delusional.

In 2010, Mitchell told the LA Times that she had a “strange, incurable disease that seems to come from outer space, but my health has been the best I’ve been in for a while. Two nights ago I went outside for the first time Since December 23: I don’t look so bad in incandescent light, but I look scary in daylight.

Mitchell described his condition: “Different colored fibers protrude from my skin like mushrooms after a thunderstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral. Morgellons is a slow and unpredictable killer – a terrorist disease: it will explode one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.

“But 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 profession can be.”

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Mitchell’s condition remains unexplained

In his 2014 book Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words (per Billboard), Mitchell wrote, “I couldn’t wear clothes. I couldn’t leave my house for several years. Sometimes I had to crawl on the ground. My legs were twitching, like a spasm from poliomyelitis. It touched all the places where I had polio.

Despite what the “The Case of You singer and others say doctors doubt it’s real. Billboard writes that he was not nominated until 2002 by a lab technician from Pennsylvania named Mary Leitao.

“Sufferers say the fibers grow from skin lesions, potentially from tiny parasites,” Billboard wrote. “Crawling sensations, extreme itching and general fatigue/mental fog are also named as symptoms of the disease.

“While sufferers have united behind groups like the Morgellons Research Foundation, the wider medical community still does not recognize the disease. As it is not a recognized condition, there are not many numbers reliable on the people affected.

According to Slate, the Mayo Clinic states that the disease is psychosomatic. In a 2012 report on Morgellons, the Center for Disease Control did not find the disease to have infectious or environmental causes.

“‘Apparent unexplained dermopathy’, as they call it, is a psychosomatic condition – all biopsies of affected areas have either tested negative or positive for skin conditions such as dermatitis. Patients who self-diagnose with Morgellons are often treated for delusional parasitosis (the delusion that they are infested with parasites),” Billboard wrote.

Mitchell told the LA Times that in America his condition “is always diagnosed as ‘delusional parasites’ and they send you to a psychiatrist. I’m actually trying to get out of the music industry to fight for that the victims of Morgellons receive the credibility that is due to them.

In 2013, she told The Star: “I’m not cured, but I found a helpful doctor who thinks outside the box. Western medicine says it doesn’t even exist; it is a psychotic illness. It’s not.”

Some argue that Morgellons disease is psychosomatic because many people self-diagnose. “Rather than accepting a doctor’s diagnosis that there is no medical cause for their symptoms, they seek solace in their shared suffering,” Billboard wrote. Torie Bosch of Slate said that “because of the stigma of mental illness, people are loath to accept such a diagnosis”.

However, as of today, the Mayo Clinic says, “Further study is needed.”

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Mitchell is much better now

Despite Mitchell’s condition, she bounces back.

In 2020, Mitchel told Cameron Crowe (per the Guardian) that she was “moving on” on her way. “I’m showing slow improvement but I’m making progress. Once again, I couldn’t walk. I had to relearn how. I couldn’t speak. Polio didn’t catch me like that, but the aneurysm took a lot more from me, really,” she said.

“I took away my speech and my ability to walk. And, you know, I got my speech back quickly, but the walk I’m still struggling with. But I mean, I’m a fighter. I have Irish blood! [long laugh] So, you know, I knew, ‘Here we go again, another battle.’

Since then, Mitchell has entered a new chapter in his life. The Kennedy Center honored her in 2021, and so did the MusiCares Gala.

“You know, it’s been amazing to me, to see all the attention my work has gotten lately…the response when I’ve also been to Clive Davis’ Grammy parties. He announces me, and this audience gives me this thunder applause,” she told the LA Times in 2021.

“I’m always very moved when people tell me how much music has touched them. It’s amazing to me that after all, despite the criticism, intimacy paid off big. It has really helped people deal with their own intimacy, you know? Truth and beauty. This is what I hope to deliver.

Mitchell has proven that her condition will never stop her from doing what she loves. Fans will be happy to see her more.

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