Rare Disease Day 2021: What You Can Do to Demolish the Myth That PANS Is Rare

 

On this Rare Disease day, for the 1000th time, let me clear something up and then show you how to fix it:

PANS/PANDAS is not rare, and it’s not only kids that have it. So please, stop referring to it as a “rare pediatric disorder.”

Current estimates say that PANS/PANDAS affects 1 in 200 kids. And since nothing magical happens when a person turns eighteen, you can be sure there are thousands and thousands of adults walking around who grew up and never got treated.

I have been advocating for awareness for nearly seven years, ever since I was diagnosed at age nineteen. We have seen much progress in research, but when I can still go to a doctor and hear “rare” and “pediatric,” it feels like I’ve been screaming into a void for all this time. And I realize that I am only one of thousands of advocates who probably feel the same. So if we haven’t been able to achieve major reforms in the treatment of this disorder so far, what are we missing?

Continue reading “Rare Disease Day 2021: What You Can Do to Demolish the Myth That PANS Is Rare”

The Simple Thing You Can Do to Help Thousands Living with PANS/PANDAS

As an adult with a neuroimmune condition that most doctors don’t know how to diagnose, let alone treat, all too often, I’ve felt like there was nothing I could do to change their minds. I would bring papers and mention the many fine hospitals that are researching PANS only to be dismissed and gaslighted. Why? Partly due to arrogance or wanting to maintain the status quo. But these behaviors have their root in the “P” being for pediatric, the fact none of the research studies mention adults, and the lack of enough large-scale studies in general.

Have you ever felt alone and frustrated by how little help is available while you watch your life waste away?

Now what if I told you that you could do something tangible that could change the situation? What if I told you there was a way for you to help bring PANS out of the grey area of medicine into which many providers place it? Continue reading “The Simple Thing You Can Do to Help Thousands Living with PANS/PANDAS”

The Kind of OCD We Need to Talk About

For six years, I kept a secret that I was determined to take to my grave. I pretended I wasn’t constantly afraid. I made excuses when asked about my unusual behaviors. I was so hell-bent on avoiding being found out that I did everything I could to fool every psychologist, therapist, and doctor I encountered.

And the whole disaster started with one thought.

When I was eleven, while lying in bed, something along the lines of “F– G*d” popped into my brain. As the good-girl church acolyte that I was, I felt horrified. What did it mean that a sacrilegious thought like that could appear in my mind? I felt like I had to do everything I could to keep it from coming back or else that meant I was a bad person. I already felt incredibly guilty that it had happened even one time.

But as the days went on, the more I tried to resist thinking that thought again, the more often it happened and the more it evolved and mutated into increasingly offensive thoughts until they had some of the most explicit, blasphemous, sexual, and violent content imaginable. Everything I didn’t want to think, I ended up thinking. I fell into complete and utter despair. Continue reading “The Kind of OCD We Need to Talk About”

Why Autoimmune Encephalitis Doctors Need to Stop Ignoring PANS

Today is World Encephalitis Day, and I want to take a moment to shed some light on a certain controversy within the PANS and encephalitis communities:

Is PANS a form of autoimmune encephalitis, or is it something else?

Back in 2014, in a matter of weeks, I went from being a typical college student earning straight-A’s to a psychiatric cripple who was afraid to eat and didn’t want to exist anymore.  I also lost the ability to walk, was overcome with constant involuntary movements, and couldn’t stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time.

How could a person develop sudden-onset Tourette’s, narcolepsy, bipolar symptoms, and severe coordination problems simultaneously in isolation from each other? 

Continue reading “Why Autoimmune Encephalitis Doctors Need to Stop Ignoring PANS”

The Questions No One Should Have to Ask: Life on the Verge of Relapse

As I opened my eyes to the morning sunlight peeking through my blinds, for a feel blissful seconds, I forgot the many reasons I shouldn’t feel as calm as I did in that moment.  But not a minute later, it all came rushing back, and my stomach did a somersault.

I rolled over and saw a missed call from my infusion pharmacy, and all at once I remembered the horrible quandary I’m in.  I remembered the unfortunate events that led to it.  And worst of all, I remembered that losing access to monthly IVIG treatments could mean I was on the verge of a relapse that would make me lose my mind. Continue reading “The Questions No One Should Have to Ask: Life on the Verge of Relapse”