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Woman With Rare Condition Wakes up With Painful Migraines That Cause Her to Speak in Foreign Accents

Imagine waking up with a different voice.

That’s the nightmare that Arizona woman Michelle Myers says she’s living after a particularly painful migraine. Myers, 45, has never been overseas, but she speaks with an accent that sounds British.

Myers, who says she’s woken up before with Irish and Australian accents that faded in time, chatted with Glenn today to bring awareness to Foreign Accent Syndrome, an extremely rare condition that was first documented in 1907 and has been reported in cases around the world. Researchers have documented how brain injury and strokes can distort how patients speak to suggest a foreign accent.

“When I told my doctor I didn’t feel well, he kept telling me I had hormone problems,” Myers described the painful and blinding headaches that preceded her speech impediment. “All of a sudden, this Irish sound came out of my face.”

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

GLENN: Michelle Myers is a mom of seven. She lives in Buckeye, Arizona. She's a former Texas beauty queen. She has never left the United States.

That's an important fact to remember, when we speak to her.

She has been diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic with a couple of diseases. One of them is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. And that causes her to easily bruise, rupture blood vessels, painful joints. Her joints are easily dislocated.

It's really, really painful. The other thing she has -- I had never heard of. And I got to believe, for anybody who has been to the doctor over and over and over again, and they're like, well, I can't see anything here. This has to be really frustrating.

She has blinding headaches. But in three different occasions, she has woken up. The first time, with an Irish accent. She had that for a while. The second time, she had an Australian accent. And now she has a British accent.

I got to believe people would say, she's faking it. No. She -- she has a rare disease. What is it? The foreign accent -- I can't remember. Foreign Accent Syndrome. I didn't even know it existed. And she's here to tell us about it. Hello,

Michelle, how are you?

MICHELLE: Hello, Mr. Beck. Good morning.

GLENN: How weird is it for you --

(laughter)

GLENN: -- to sound as you described, like Mary Poppins, and you're not trying to.

MICHELLE: No. Not at all.

First, I want to say thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to speak for people whose voices, pun intended, are not being heard exactly.

Second, the Mary Poppins thing definitely came from everyone who makes me think that I'm from somewhere else, but I'm not. I'm a very proud American daughter.

GLENN: So, Michelle, how -- you literally just wake up and you were Irish. How long -- how long do these spells usually last?

MICHELLE: The very first one was in 2011. And I actually -- a lot of people -- I really want to make this clear. Some people think I kind of fell asleep and woke up innocently. And, you know, like Mary Poppins, skipped off into the sunset. But that's not exactly how it happened. I actually have what's called (inaudible) migraines, which paralyze you down, called blindness in the eye. It's also very painful, aside from the Ehlers-Danlos and other things.

So I laid down. Because I had a headache. I had thrown up. I could barely see in my eye. So I laid down because when I told my doctor that I didn't feel well, he kept telling me I had hormone problems. So I didn't go back to see him. So I left. The next thing I knew, I popped up, and it was like -- I tried to say Charles' voice. All of a sudden, it's -- an Irish sound came out of my face. And I was shocked, shocked.

GLENN: Okay. I know there are millions of people in America that have -- you know, have diseases and have problems that nobody can diagnosis.

And they just feel -- I mean, you get to a point to where you're like, look, I'd rather have you tell me that I have cancer than, you got nothing.

You know, because you just -- I'm not making this up, man. How long did you -- did the doctors immediately know, or did doctors start to say, okay. Michelle, I mean -- I mean --

VOICE: Yeah.

GLENN: Did they know automatically what this was? Because I've never heard of this.

MICHELLE: And I never -- Mayo Clinic and some other people have made reports about it, but I never went to the Mayo Clinic. Some of that is getting reported.

GLENN: Oh, okay.

MICHELLE: And it's just because different people are commenting on the story. So it can kind of get messed up a bit.

GLENN: Okay. Sure.

MICHELLE: But honestly, I didn't go to the doctor for years, because I literally thought I was crazy. I thought that something was just wrong with em, which is what everyone thinks.

GLENN: Yeah.

MICHELLE: The other thing is, it's not -- I don't know why. It was coined in 1907 by a neurologist whose last name is Murray. P.M. Murray (phonetic). And he called it Foreign Accent Syndrome. Because what you hear from me sounds kind of (inaudible), and it sounds like I'm from somewhere else. However, it's a speech impediment due to something traumatic happens to your body.

So you would tease someone who has a stutter. We would all be in a tizzy about it. But when there's people like me -- and there are other people like me. I know them personally. We've met through social media and things.

And we get thrown under the bus by physicians and doctors and health care people. And we are asking for help. It's not just me. I speak for a little microcosm of people, who have had this happen. So, yes, my doctors -- they sent me to a neural psychologist, a psychiatrist. You know, all that stuff.

GLENN: So just -- just one more question on this. And I'll go a little deeper with you.

But did you -- I mean, it is -- it's a consistent accent.

So it's not like a stutter or a slurred speech or anything. I mean, it's a consistent accent.

And before it was Irish. And then Australian.

Was there any influence in your life that put that, or is it just really mechanical?

MICHELLE: No. It truly -- I've had people even contact me and say, Michelle, your DNA has memory in cells.

So perhaps what's happened is some type of reset, some divine reset has happened. There's also been some weird people that are like, I see a dead Englishwoman wrapped up in your body. None of that. None of that. Some guy actually contacted the news here, and they let me know he wanted to do an exorcist on me. Because he felt some dead lady from Britain. I'm like no. Jesus took care of that. I don't have that.

It's frustrating because people think that -- it is consistent, but people in the FAS community -- we have a little community. Our accents will sometimes be thicker and sometimes be lesser thick. And sometimes it depends on if we have migraines, headaches, or another stroke. Some traumatic thing that happens to your brain in any way, neurologically at all, it can change. It can change sound. It as well can change intensity as well.

GLENN: Can this just go away on you? Can you --

MICHELLE: I haven't had -- I haven't had mine leave in three years. The -- first one, the Irish one lasted eight days. And the next one lasted for just barely like an afternoon. And then in 2015, in May, it's been three years. It will be three years in May.

STU: It's fascinating. I mean, because you have a -- it's very consistent.

GLENN: Yeah.

STU: But you would have to have the knowledge of the accent. Right? Like people who grow up with an English accent is because they're hearing it constantly. And obviously you've heard English accents in your life. But to able to apply it to every word you're trying to say.

GLENN: All the time.

MICHELLE: For three years.

STU: Yeah. How do doctors explain that?

MICHELLE: Well, that's the thing. That's why we need more people to research. If you think about it globally, if there's around 100 people -- in all the billions of people that we have -- and that's just reported. Because I know many people that they haven't reported anything.

For seven years, I've gone through people blaming it on my hormones, or blaming it on I need anxiety medication. All these other things.

But there was a catalyst. There's always a catalyst. People -- all of us report there was a brain trauma of some sort, even if it was -- even the lady with the dental surgery, she actually had a drug that altered her mind. Put her out. So everything has a catalyst. No one has authority like they want to be.

Am I allowed to mention other media news outlets?

GLENN: Yeah, yeah, that's fine.

MICHELLE: Well, a lot of my friends and I were actually quite offended because on the Live With Kelly & Ryan Show, they got a hold of my story. I did not talk to them. So I guess they decided to read it on their morning show. They literally -- Kelly ended up saying, she would like to throw herself down the stairs in order to sound like me.

And Ryan said, oh, that's kind of like Madonna. And other people, when they live some place, they have that accent.

That is -- that's greatly offensive. We have to struggle so hard. There are people who lose their jobs because their voices switch so much. These people have families. They have children. They have lives they'd like to live. But we have the accent. Why? Because we have neurological issues that are going on, and no one can really explain them. It was very hard.

GLENN: I will tell you this, Michelle. You know, the -- the British accent does -- I mean, there are worse accents to have. And, you know, so it's -- if you're looking at it from the outside and you're like, oh, if I could pick an accent, people would thick I'm smarter and everything else.

MICHELLE: Yeah.

GLENN: However, if you joke like that, what you don't recognize is, this isn't your choice. And I read something from you. You said that you watched videos of you with your kids. And it's difficult. Can you explain that?

MICHELLE: Uh-huh. You know, I am a believer in the Lord. And when I was 13 years old, the Lord told me about my first daughter that would be born. I wrote it in a little journal like a little girl does.

And when I got older, I had that child. And she is now 22 years old. But all of my children, he told me their names. And particularly, I have twin boys that are 14 now. I name them Tyler and Tyson.

I can no longer say the R on the end of the name. And while everyone would be like, that's such a silly thing to be upset about. I named him because his name -- that meant builder. Like the Lord -- he has this build thing in him. So for me, speaking over my son, it was very important to name him what I felt God told me to name him in prayer.

So now when I can't simply pronounce some of the children's names when I say them, they don't sound like my heart said them, or they were in my womb. And so there was a little bit of a grief there. Because I did not choose this path for me.

I'm also a survivor of sexual assault. While it's not a drastic and a violent -- in that manner, it was taken from me. And that's what people lose about this whole thing. There are so many thousands of jokes on the internet and terrible things going on. I didn't do this on purpose. No one did.

GLENN: Michelle, I'm thrilled to talk to you. And to get your perspective on this. I hear that you and your husband are fans of the show and listen to the show.

MICHELLE: Oh, Good Lord, no, I don't have a husband. That was a nasty rumor.

GLENN: Oh, really? I thought -- wow. Okay. Then, you're available.

MICHELLE: My brother -- my brother --

GLENN: Oh, your brother. Your brother. Your brother.

MICHELLE: He's listened to you for so many years. He's, like, running around here like a little -- he has a man crush or something. He's so excited. He's my younger brother.

GLENN: Well, thank you so much. And I -- I can't imagine -- and we would love to hear from you again, if it goes away, we would love to hear from you. And if anybody happens to be listening and has this, do you have a way for people to contact you?

MICHELLE: Well, there are some different groups that people have sprung up. One way to contact me obviously is just through the website. You can go to (inaudible) 25.com. It's really easy. And I try to lead people in the right direction. I thank you for helping me give a voice to it. But it's really about chronic illness. And invisible illnesses. There's so many.

GLENN: I know. I know.

MICHELLE: So we just thank you for this opportunity to talk about it.

GLENN: Thank you so much, Michelle. Thank you so much.

MICHELLE: God bless you too. Goodbye.

(music)

STU: Just happy she was mad at Kelly and Ryan. It's like the first time we've ever had one of these things that we weren't the ones people were mad at. It's weird.