Selena Gomez is looking at her battle with lupus and resulting kidney transplant as a “beautiful thing.”
“I don’t want people to think it’s a sad thing that I went through this with Francia or with anything in my life,” she told Savannah Guthrie. “Because at the end of the day, I think all the stuff that I went to made me and defined everything that I am right now. I think it’s a really beautiful thing, and I have to remind myself that it’s not a negative experience.”
Gomez said that she often pushed herself too hard despite her diagnosis in 2015.
“I don’t think I made the right decisions, because I didn’t accept it. It was extremely selfish and at the same time really, really just unnecessary,” she said. “I’m not really proud of that.”
When Guthrie suggested Gomez was being hard on herself, the former Disney Channel star replied, “That would be easier if I just accepted it, but I am definitely the hardest person on myself, for sure.”
Gomez took some time off last year to deal with anxiety, panic attacks and depression triggered by the autoimmune disease that affected her entire body from arthritis to low energy.
“I went away to a facility. I took some time off. I needed to get my mind right, be healthy,” she said. “I removed myself from everyone in my life.”
“We went six months without speaking,” Raisa, 29, said. “It was a huge lesson of friendship for me, and trust. Because it’s easy to feel offended or want to be there. It’s just, they need to go through their own thing.”
“I don’t think I ever accepted the position I had,” Gomez said. “It was me almost feeling guilty about fame, because people could see anyone in my position and say, ‘Wow, they’ve got it all figured out. They’ve got everything. They get to live this cool life.’”
However, the “Wolves” singer explained a lot of pressure comes with being in the spotlight.
“You’re isolated. You’re being looked at. You’re being judged. I’m always trying to be nice,” she said. “I want to be great. That’s genuinely who I am, deep down. But it just seemed pointless.”
Last month PEOPLE spoke with a doctor who specializes in transplants for people with immune diseases including lupus, Robert Montgomery, MD, director of the Transplant Institute at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Montgomery told PEOPLE that it’s common for lupus to damage kidneys to the point where one or both need to be replaced. “Not every patient who gets lupus ends up with kidney failure, but some do,” he said.
When lupus patients need organ donations they are often added to a waiting list to be matched with a deceased donor, and they may have to go on dialysis for kidney failure while they wait months or even years. In Gomez’s case, she had Raisa to serve as her live donor, which Dr. Montgomery said is a “great advantage” because “live donor transplants last twice as long, on average, as deceased donor kidneys.”
Raisa said the experience brought them even closer. “I am beyond grateful that God would trust me with something that not only saved a life, but changed mine in the process,” she said.