July 20, 2018

I am a survivor, sometimes I feel weak but after all I have been through, I know I am stronger than I think I am. When I feel pity for myself I remember that there are people who have gone through worse situations than me. When you cannot change or control the situation, you must learn to adapt.

About my senior year of high school I had anxiety, panic attacks and some days I felt sad for no reason. College was hard and I always kept myself busy with work and school to occupy my mind. I used to be very fit, hard working, and concerned about my physical appearance at the time, but regardless of my healthy habits, my body was changing.

There were times when I felt like no one understood me because I had little control over my emotions. Sometimes I would throw fits alone and try to hide how I felt without knowing why I felt that way. I would say and do things without thinking, then I would regret it. Small problems would become big in my head and trigger anxiety.

Then the headaches started, the fevers, the hair falling out, the swelling throughout my body and the weight gain regardless of my active life… my anxiety became harder to control. The pelvic pain I had experienced several years earlier increased and I became more emotional. I could feel something hard on my left side, it but I was so busy with work. The doctors always told me I was fine, so I did not bother to see a doctor at the time. I worked two jobs and exercised three times per week. My friends would take me to yoga and introduced me to essential oils to try to help with my symptoms.

Before being hospitalized, the last day I remember was Valentine’s Day 2016. I had a fever, felt cold and extremely tired and could not focus or pay attention when people were speaking. I thought my body was fighting a cold or my homeostasis was off at the time because I had a low-grade fever for a few days. My axillary lymph nodes were also swollen. I felt like my mind was disappearing, as if I were asleep when I was really awake. My head hurt and I don’t remember how I went to bed that night.

Months later I found myself at home, a different person with a lost memory. My appearance had changed, and my personality also. I felt lost and did not know who I was or what had happened to me. I feel like I missed out on a portion of my life because of the memory loss during that time.

During the months that I lost my memory many things had happened to me. I was hospitalized and misdiagnosed with psychosis, meningitis, and possibly schizophrenia. I was tied to a bed, put into an induced coma, and treated with anti-seizure medications. Then they found out I had autoimmune encephalitis. I was treated with immunotherapy and had an operation because I had a teratoma in my left ovary. I have no control of the things that I said or the things that I did during the time of my sickness. I was alive but dead and don’t remember anything. After leaving the hospital I was sent to a rehabilitation hospital.

It has been almost two years now. My life changed completely and it was a long and hard road to recovery. I cannot say that I am back to normal; after something traumatic to our body like this, we change. Unfortunately, I can never take back the pain that all my loved ones experienced, sleeping countless nights in the hospital, not knowing what would happen to me. I am grateful for my family, I am grateful to be alive and I am grateful for the doctors and nurses who never gave up on me; I wish they could see how far I have come now.

I am currently back working as a medical assistant and plan on starting college soon to become a registered nurse. Being a person who has also been a patient, I feel I can understand and be sympathetic to the sick. My advice for survivors like me is to keep moving on,  eventually we will learn to adapt and be proud to be survivors, fighters.

Thank you to Renata who shared her inspiring story with us!