45-year-old Michelle Myers, from Phoenix, Arizona, suffers from Foreign Accent Syndrome, a very rare condition that causes her to speak in various foreign accents – British, Australian, Irish – despite having never traveled outside of the United States.
Myers was diagnosed with the unusual condition in 2015, when, after going to bed with a pounding headache, she woke up unable to speak and with the left part of her body completely numb. She was taken to the nearby West Valley Hospital in Goodyear, where doctors said she was suffering from aphasia, loss of speech, symptoms associated with strokes or brain injuries. However, their diagnosis was turned on its head when the woman finally started speaking again.
Photo ABC15 video screengrab
“I went to say, ‘My name is Michelle,’ and it came out like, “Rabbit, fox…,” Myers told Fox News. “No one could understand me. I was like, ‘Is something wrong with my brain?'”
Eventually, her sentences started making sense again, but there was something strange about her accent. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Michelle Myers sounded like she was from the United Kingdom. Her deep British accent surprised doctors, so they called a psychiatrist to put her through a series of tests. She was diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome, an extremely rare condition, with only 60 cases reported since 1907.
The woman’s accent changed in May of 2015 and hasn’t gone away since, despite her seeing various specialists and neurologists. She claims the condition was really hard for her to deal with, especially in the beginning, when people took it as a joke and said things like “You sound like a Spice Girl”. But she’s learned to live with it and realizes she may sound like a British woman forever, so she’s now focusing on spreading awareness about her bizarre syndrome.
“I would give anything to be normal. I would give anything,” she said. “Rare diseases are very emotional. You feel very alone, isolated. I want to help someone so they don’t have to live in hiding. I understand this sounds crazy; I get that, but all you have to do is Google this. I’m certainly not the first person with Foreign Accent Syndrome.
Photo: Michelle Myers/Facebook
Interestingly, while Myers’ 2015 accent change is the longest one yet, it’s actually not the first one. In 2011, after dealing with a three-day severe headache, she woke up with an Irish accent. Her family and friends thought she was playing around at first, but they quickly saw her panic. Luckily for her, the weird accent eventually went away.
“It took eight days exactly,” Myers recalled. “One morning, I woke up and it wasn’t so bad. By the afternoon it was completely gone and so was the headache.”
Then, in 2014, it happened again. Michelle was sitting on her porch watching her children, when she felt a sharp pain in her head. She closed her eyes for a few minutes, and when she opened them, the pain was in the entire left part of her body. Her left hand was numb and she couldn’t speak a word, all she could get out was a gargling sound.
When she finally became able to speak, she sounded “like Crocodile Dundee”. Her Australian accent went away after two days, but the following year the British one set in, and has been with her ever since.
“I have some amazing family and friends, who’ve helped me to realise I’m still the same person – I just sound different,” Michelle Myers said. “I do see old videos sometimes and tear up a little bit.”