Gabrielle Union Held Nothing Back While Talking About Her Frustrating Health Misdiagnosis
Union also discussed her mental health and speaking to her children about racism in a new, wide-ranging interview.
Gabrielle Union is done blaming herself for her battles with infertility, systemic racism, and mental health — and she is taking control of her narrative in the process.
In Union's second book, You Got Anything Stronger? (Buy It, $22, amazon.com), a follow-up to her 2017 memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine (Buy It, $17, amazon.com), she discusses issues and points of her life that she wasn't ready to share before, including details of her infertility struggles and the frustrations of being dismissed for her age. While many believed her age was a factor in her struggle to conceive, it turns out Union, 48, was misdiagnosed for years before doctors nailed down that she had adenomyosis, a condition in which the endometrial tissue (which normally lines the uterus) grows into muscles in the uterine wall. The tissue thickens and makes conception and carrying a child to term exceedingly difficult for those who have it.
"It's maddening," she told Health of the misdiagnosis. "You get so focused on the thing that they're saying that it is, and there's not a lot I can do about being my age. When the reality is, it's something that has nothing to do with that — it's something that's been plaguing me for over 25 years, and no one ever got to that issue. By the time I got the answer, it was just like, 'Are you f—king kidding me?' Then, it went from shock to anger. Rage, really — an all-consuming rage. And then relief that it wasn't me. I felt like there was a thing that I could tag as the problem other than myself." (Related: Gabrielle Union Reveals She's Had 'Eight' or 'Nine' Miscarriages)
Union and husband Dwyane Wade welcomed daughter Kaavia via surrogate in 2018. They also co-parent Wade's children from past relationships, including son Zaire, 19; daughter Zaya, 14 and son Xavier, 7; as well as Wade's 19-year-old nephew Dahveon. Explaining the realities of racism to their children hasn't been easy, and Union explained that they've had to address the issue in several different ways over time.
"With the older kids, we talk about how the world is, I'm not going to say changing, but at least acknowledging certain truths that we've known for the last 400 years," she said during her interview with Health. "People might say different things, but the proof is always in the pudding. You have to watch their actions. If someone says, 'We value diversity,' go to their homepage and click on the picture of their board. That will tell you about their commitment to diversity. We teach those lessons to the older boys."
"With Zaya, it's hard because there's so many roadblocks for her and her life," she added of the couple's daughter, who is transgender. "All we can say is, 'We're not going to leave you on the road by yourself. We'll be here. But this is what it is. And it's OK to still be shocked and hurt and surprised when people that you thought you could count on to be better aren't — whether that's teachers, administrators, friends, parents, family members, strangers on the street.'"
As a means of coping with the various harrowing experiences in her life, Union has been in therapy for almost 30 years — and the Bring It On star told Health it's been her saving grace more than once.
Union first began going to therapy after being raped at gunpoint when she was 19 years old. Union continued when she went to college at the University of California Los Angeles and looked to resources at the UCLA Rape Crisis Center. Once she began acting and was no longer on her parents' insurance, however, Union recognized that something in her therapy needed to change and that "something" is an issue many women of color face when trying to get help for their mental health. (Related: Accessible and Supportive Mental Health Resources for Black Women)
"I started acting pretty quickly, so I had to find a therapist in my network. I didn't know you could be specific about the kind of therapist you wanted," she said. "For the longest time, I just used therapists that were convenient to my insurance. When I started making more money, I was like, 'There aren't enough Black women therapists in my network, and I really want one—I feel like it could make a difference.' So I found my therapist who has now been with me for, like, 20 years." (Read more: Free Mental Health Services That Offer Affordable and Accessible Support)