On January 11, I returned home from a two-day sleepover at a friend's house. We were home from college on winter break and I'd had a very successful first semester, making a 3.96 GPA.

On the 11th I was getting bored, had to take a shower, and had a bit of a headache. The last thing I remember is waiting in her foyer and seeing my family's car pull up to get me. The rest of the day, as well as the next, are completely gone to me.

I went into a coma in early January after what has been described to me as a bad cold. I was apparently weak, dazed, confused, and even throwing up which is unusual for me. I refused to go to the doctor so my mom kept me upstairs in bed with her while my dad was on a business trip. That morning, my mom attempted to wake me up before going to work to see what I wanted for breakfast. She was unsuccessful. She called 911 and within fifteen minutes I was being loaded into an ambulance.

At the local hospital, I was found to be running a 106 degree fever and had complete rigidity in my body, showing no response to stimuli whatsoever. I underwent several tests spanning from MRIs to EEGs to spinal taps and more. The local hospital couldn't do much for me so I was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of the best hospitals in the United States.

I was kept in the ICU and eventually I was diagnosed with encephalitis. Nobody in my family had ever heard of the sickness but would soon be more acquainted with it than they'd ever have liked to be. My dad flew home from his trip and was there at the hospital that first day. My little sister was pulled out of school to come be with me as well. My mom stayed in the hospital with me for the two-month duration of my visit.

Nine days later I awoke from the coma but never really came back until an additional two weeks after that. In that time my parents describe as me being akin to a house with the lights on but nobody home— enough to be considered inhabited but actually vacant.

When I finally woke up for real I found myself to be incontinent with a feeding tube and a trachea tube placed in my neck. I couldn't talk, I had no motor skills, I couldn't even open a chapstick. I had tachycardia. I was an awake mind in an atrophied body. The encephalitis was attacking not only my brain but also my spinal cord, so I had to undergo rigorous therapy for months that eventually and miraculously returned me to my previous self. Unbeknownst to me this therapy had began in the two weeks that I was awake from a coma but not truly myself.

At the tail end of February, I was released from the hospital continent again, talking, eating solid foods, with the tracheostomy being undone, and a walker in tow. I continued physical therapy for an additional two months at home and was eventually cleared to return to normal life. I got my driver's license back and returned to work.

Having missed an entire semester of school I was eager to return there too. What I didn't get back was the approximately three weeks of time that I am completely unable to remember. I now have trouble focusing and my short-term and long-term memory are still not what they were. There are entire gaps in my memory of "life before" encephalitis and I find myself writing and taking pictures more than ever in my "life after" encephalitis.

The final battle of encephalitis was a deep depression I found myself in around April of this year which forced me to move out of the home I was renting and back in with my parents. I commuted an hour to school for the last two weeks of it and have found happiness once more.

Encephalitis is all about perspective, I've come to find. I've even stopped wishing that it never happened. I am more at peace now and more secure in my life and relationships than ever before. The sickness, from its inception until now, has taught me more about life than many people may ever know. I don't live in fear or denial anymore and I don't long for a life I no longer have.

*Both of my parents are musicians and they used music as a coping mechanism to help them channel the deep effect my sickness had on them into something to keep them busy. The result is their band, Tuesday Morning, and an album, The Awakening, which is now available from www.tuesdaymorning.net