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February 8, 2023 | By Jeri Gore, IAES Blog Division Head

As we head into February 2023 and Autoimmune Encephalitis Awareness month 2023, we, the staff at the International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), are super excited about how far awareness has come for Autoimmune Encephalitis. There is ever increasing treatment options for AE, ongoing research and clinical trials, increased membership (which speaks to awareness), ongoing recognition, and increased knowledge of more and more types of AE. The staff at IAES are busy as bees with all that is happening in the world of AE and supporting those diagnosed, their families, friends, and medical staff! We are excited and our brains are on fire with what AE Awareness month will bring and offer this year and the positive direction we are headed!

The IAES sponsors AE Awareness month and we have watched in wonder as it has blossomed and grown over the years into a month full of incredible speakers, information, support, and recognition!

The theme for AE Awareness month 2023 is ‘Brain on Fire’. In 2012 Susannah Cahalan released a book based on her AE journey with this name. A film based on this, her memoir, was soon to follow in 2016. Ms. Cahalan has been gracious enough to allow us to use this title for AE Awareness month this year. We are grateful and feel it is a very apt description. AE Awareness on all levels is moving in a positive direction as if on fire. This is terrific news for all AE Warriors, caregivers, medical and support staff, and all of those who will be diagnosed with this disease in the months and years to come.

As we all know, AE can be a difficult and devastating diagnosis. We all have stories to tell about our diagnostic journeys and recoveries. For most, we are fond of saying the recovery to our new normal is in no way a sprint and linear road but rather an arduous bumpy marathon. Like all journeys, there are ups, downs, and everything in between to talk about. At IAES we hear about and help to support folks at every level of their AE disease journey. We hear the good, bad, and ugly. And we hear funny, positive, and uplifting stories as well.

This year, to highlight the positive direction AE awareness is going we would like to talk about the uplifting, funny, incredible, and interesting gifts AE has given (or caused) and some of the very funny things we all have done on our paths towards recovery. Although AE is a devastating diagnosis, there is a gentle and humorous side that is sometimes left unspoken.

For me, personally, the gifts AE has given me may not be as concrete as for others. I have slowed down and appreciate ‘the small’ much more than I used to in my busy forward-looking life. I was always in a rush. I have said many times before that I always and I mean always tried to do way too much and quite possibly did not take the time to do things as well and with as much purpose as I do now. I appreciate those around me much more and I love. I love each day I am given. I love those around me. During my recovery, there were some strange and very funny things that happened. Chalk it up to a healing brain but during the thickest part of treatment and when medication levels were at their peak, sometimes my brain worked in very interesting, strange, and funny ways. One night I woke up, sat up in bed, and said hello and goodbye to my husband in Polish. I have not heard any Polish spoken since long before my grandmother passed in 1969 and I could not even begin to speak it in any way now. Another night I woke up and could recite every address we had ever lived at as well as all my relative’s addresses’ dating back 50 years plus. I cannot do that now. It was crazy and very funny!

There are AE Warriors whose diagnosis has awakened a super creative part of their brain. There is an IAES member who has become an incredible portrait artist. This member had no formal training and prior to the diagnosis had not drawn a thing in their life and now could make a nice tidy living drawing portraits for folks. Another member can now write beautiful and publishable poetry. There is another member whose photographic skills were unknown before AE and now are worthy of magazine covers.  This list goes on and on!

All AE warriors, our families, and caregivers could probably write a book on some of the funny things we have done during our recovery journeys. Some may view some of these instances as sad or negative, but you must see the humorous along this marathon of a recovery road for it is in how we handle the difficulties that we are defined. And, simply, sometimes, you just have got to laugh!

One member recalls her son with AE in an acute rehab unit wishing to have French dressing topped with a healthy dash of iced tea on his salads because it tasted amazing. Another recalls stopping at toll booths and being amazed at how kind-hearted folks were giving the tooth booth attendant money just because! Another member recalls telling her family that a school bus driver was coming to take her home and she had never even ridden in a school bus. Most of us while in recovery have short- or long-term memory issues.  The brain is amazing but a slow organ to heal. We get very creative in our word choices, and they are sometimes hilarious!! For us, an iron could be called a ‘shirt flattener’. We may call a doorway a ‘get through’. A ‘get louder’ is a remote control. We sometimes put sticky notes up in various colors to help remind us of this, that, and the other thing and cannot remember the color coding of the sticky notes. A clothes dryer could be called a clothes oven. Our brains, with AE, are on fire and as you can see, very creative at times!

As AE Awareness month 2023 progresses, we hope you find wonderful information from the speakers presenting the newest in AE research and treatment. We hope you find support and inspiration whether you be an AE warrior, a caregiver, a loved one, a friend, or anyone wishing to further their knowledge in this exploding field of research and medicine. We hope you see the positive and humorous for although AE is a difficult diagnosis, there is hope and a future for those of us whose brains are on fire!

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Tabitha Orth 300x218 - AE Awareness Month 2023: Brain on FireOn June 16 th, 2022, Tabitha Orth, President and Founder of International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society officially became the 7,315 th “point of light”. Recognized for the volunteer work she and IAES has done to spark change and improve the world for those touched by Autoimmune Encephalitis. The award was founded by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

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International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE. 

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For those interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.  

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Our website is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice. Nothing contained on our website is intended to be used as medical advice. No content is intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice. Although THE INTERNATIONAL AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALITIS SOCIETY  provides a great deal of information about AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALITIS, all content is provided for informational purposes only. The International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society  cannot provide medical advice.

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society is a charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2016 by Tabitha Andrews Orth, Gene Desotell and Anji Hogan-Fesler. Tax ID# 81-3752344. Donations raised directly supports research, patients, families and caregivers impacted by autoimmune encephalitis and to educating healthcare communities around the world. Financial statement will be made available upon request.

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