And that's a wrap on the 2023 Bismarck Brain Walk!
On February 22nd we celebrated World Encephalitis Day around the globe and Encephalitis Day right here in North Dakota. We logged steps, we wore red, and we showed up in a BIG way!
40 Brain Walkers braved the warmth, the cold, and the treadmills in 6 states! We had AE warriors reppin' in OH, we had runners in Caly, we had beach walkers in Fla, and we had Bismarck people taking over the YMCA track (it was somewhere between -10 and -99 degrees below zero here ...). We had 3-month-old Baby Willa walking and my 89-year-old Grandma suited up to walk at her home. We had walkers in a clinic, pharmacy, on an airplane, and on the prairie.
This year, a large part of the World Encephalitis Day campaign focused on mental health. In a piece written by the Encephalitis Society's CEO, Dr. Ava Easton, along with Dr. Thomas Pollack, they said: "Stigma around talking about mental health can also be a real barrier to speaking up about symptoms too, but it is an important barrier to overcome, and we hope that by talking about mental health and encephalitis this World Encephalitis Day, we are one step closer to breaking down that barrier for patients affected (and their family members who incidentally can also have their mental health impacted)."
Whether a biological result of what autoimmune encephalitis did to my brain, the trauma surrounding the onset and recovery, or grief from my losses, I have to work hard to keep mentally healthy. And I can tell you that the support I feel from my friends year round, but especially when the photos of people walking and wearing #StebbinsStrong-red flood in on February 22nd, it makes me happy beyond words! No matter what AE took from me, it COULD NOT and DID NOT take away your love and support!
Thank you, friends, for walking to spread awareness about encephalitis, the devastating impact it has on lives, and the resulting trauma and mental health complications it leaves with survivors and their families. This is important work and I'm so thankful you're joining me for the cause!