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I'm Still Standing

Hello friends and welcome to the JM Stebbins website. I’m so happy that you have joined me here. In 2018, my life changed for the worst. I became frightfully ill and was later diagnosed with a rare brain disease, autoimmune encephalitis. The onset of AE was terrifying. My recovery was long and daunting. I had to fight for my life. I told myself that I had to survive.

I did survive and I had a miraculous recovery. I am lucky to write those words. Many encephalitis survivors are not so lucky. Some die from the disease. Others survive, but resume life as a different person because of the damage done to their brain. I have been given a second chance at life. I have a new perspective on living. So maybe what happened in 2018 didn’t change my life for the worst, but for the better.

I have learned a lot about encephalitis in the past two years. I recently learned the importance of patients sharing their stories of survival and the value of these narratives. I also learned that I now belong to a club that I didn’t know existed and I never would have desired to join. As painful as it is, I’m now a card carrying member of the “Encephalitis Club.” Encephalitis survivors and other members of the Club, share our stories so others can understand this devastating and rare disease. But more importantly, we share our stories to cope with what happened to us and what happened to our loved ones.

Upon my “awakening” from the disease, I began to write. I wrote to vent, I wrote to feel emotions, I wrote to inform and I wrote to inspire. I know I cannot rewrite my past, but I can pen what’s in the present and my hopes for the future. I’m writing to come to terms with the devastation from AE and to move away from it. I’m writing because I still can. I’m writing my narrative. I’m sharing my story. I’m writing in a new way, in what feels like a new life that is far removed from the old life I led as a trial lawyer. In my new life, I write and speak to enjoy it. And I love that there is no need to bill by the hour!

I have been blessed with a few talents in life: my ability to speak and my ability to write. Those talents served me well as a lawyer. Encephalitis took away my legal career, but it didn’t kill me. Because I have been given a second chance at life, I want a higher purpose. And because I begrudgingly now belong to the “Encephalitis Club,” I believe that I need to put my talents and skills to use to benefit this cause. Beyond my family, the world of encephalitis has now become my higher purpose.

I write a lot about autoimmune encephalitis. I like to write about motherhood too, but much to my dismay, I’m not as funny as Erma Bombeck. Sometimes I write about meaningless garbage like why I drink Diet Coke and love to eat Hot Tamales (the candy, not the Mexican food, but I like that too). Sometimes I’m serious, but more often I try to be humorous. I quote a lot of music, but Elton John is my favorite. I love to tell long-winded stories. They usually make sense, but you have to follow me all the way to the end. This is me and probably my blog in a nutshell. My only hope is that you enjoy my writing and storytelling, and that you’ll find me to be thought provoking.

My first blog post comes out on May 26, which is a powerful day in my story. May 26 is the date I had a grand mal seizure that landed me in the hospital and clinched my AE diagnosis. It’s a day I try to forget and to celebrate, all at once. There is so much more to my story and more to come.

My best to you and yours,


“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did

I’m looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

I’m still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah.” ~ “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John


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