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From law firm partner, to psychiatric patient, local author shares her story

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 5:29 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A top Bismarck lawyer who was forced to leave her position after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the brain, is now sharing her story in a memoir coming out next month.

You would never know just by looking at Jackie Stebbins, that she has been through a very difficult past few years.

She went from her dream position as partner at her Bismarck law firm to patient in a psychiatric ward, with no idea why her body was breaking down.

“I got very fidgety with my hands and then I became very uncoordinated. I couldn’t walk. Someone had to hold my hand. I struggled to tie my shoes and dress myself, um, could not be left alone and really went into cognitive failure,” said Stebbins.

Her diagnosis? A rare disorder called Autoimmune Encephalitis. It’s when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells, leading to inflammation of the brain.

The cause of the disorder is unknown. Stebbins was treated by several doctors for her symptoms.

“What I can say is it’s been a challenge healing, a broken brain is a chore to say the least, the first year I really fought to live,” said Stebbins. " I, I survived and just hope that I could make it to the one-year mark and be symptom-free and seizure-free. And once I did that, I felt like I could continue to recover and hopefully rebuild my life.”

She wrote her story in a memoir called “Unwillable” in the hopes of inspiring others.

Since her diagnosis, she has given birth to what she calls her miracle baby and has become a motivational speaker and writer.

“I really hope it shows people that we are, we are stronger than we think. You are very resilient and that there are always better days ahead. Sometimes you need to just keep swimming,” said Stebbins.

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