Autoimmune Encephalitis
Book Of The Week

Unwillable: Reclaiming My Brain from Autoimmune Encephalitis

Life has a knack for tossing curveballs when you least expect it. You’re building a business, keeping everything on track, and bam! Sudden, unexpected illness comes to ruin all of your best-laid plans. Meet Jackie M. Stebbins. Her career as a successful self-employed lawyer came to a halt when she was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis – inflammation of the brain. Even after receiving treatment, she couldn’t return to her work. So, what do you do when your life’s been interrupted? “Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim My Brain” is a story that’s real, relatable and full of resilience.


What is the book about?

Unwillable is a memoir about Jackie M. Stebbins, who was a self-employed and nationally recognized young trial lawyer when she was suddenly and tragically diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis (“brain on fire”). Stebbins lost a few months of her life to a horror-story illness and near-death experience. When she was correctly diagnosed and treated, her brain miraculously turned back on, and her life came back into focus. But she was devastated to learn she lost her beloved career. Unwillable is about life interrupted, but it’s also about finding the way back to yourself after the worst happens. Unwillable makes you laugh, cry and lose sleep. It also inspires others to know that if their worst things happen, they can find a way to SuRvive, Recover and Rebuild.

Topics include:

  • Workaholic burnout.
  • The life of successful women.
  • Workaholic and perfectionist tendencies.
  • How to cope with life interrupted.
  • Jackie’s 3Rs of resilience: SuRvive, Recover and Rebuild.
  • Mental health.
  • Chronic health and disability.
  • Loss of identity and rebranding your identity.

Why should people read it? Who is the book for?

Women and men alike read Unwillable to hear the unique and terrifying first-person account of how autoimmune encephalitis unfolds and terrorizes the person whose brain it attacks. Women especially enjoy Stebbins’ storytelling combined with the raw details of her illness and the way she was able to lift herself back up to recover and rebuild her life after she nearly lost it all. Women ages 25-65 appreciate Stebbins’ authenticity, humor and casual but bold writing style, along with her unique perspective on life and what it means to revisit your identity after life interrupted.

Single most important takeaway:

The worst thing can happen to you, but you can find a way to SuRvive, Recover, and Rebuild your life.

jackie stebbins

Meet the author

Jackie M. Stebbins was living her dream as a nationally recognized trial lawyer and senior partner at the Stebbins Mulloy law firm when she was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis (AE) (a rare illness wherein the person’s immune system mistakenly attacks her brain and causes inflammation). Her journey includes a horror-story illness, near-death experience, extraordinary recovery, retirement from the law at age thirty-five and a miracle baby. She later founded JM Stebbins, LLC, to follow a new dream as a writer and motivational speaker. Her memoir, Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim My Brain, was published in May 2022. She is also the host of the Brain Fever podcast and author of the JM Stebbins blog. Stebbins lives in Bismarck, North Dakota, with her husband, Sean, and their three children. In her free time, she enjoys camping, reading, current events, trying to be funny and aqua jogging.

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