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A Brain Disease Took Over Her Life And Nobody Believed Her

At 14 years old, Mariana Tana started getting headaches, tremors and pain in her back and shoulders.

It escalated when she started "collapsing out of cars".

She would later start having hallucinations, both visual and auditory. She said it was like having a demonic figure commanding her, like telling her to drop a glass.

"I fainted a lot, a lot of headaches, a lot of pain," Mariana told 10 daily.

A seizure would put her in hospital, but she said even then, nobody -- including ambulance officers -- believed her and she was accused of putting on an act.

It wasn't until age 15 that Mariana was finally diagnosed with an extremely rare auto-immune disease, which she said most doctors still have never heard of.

Image: Supplied (Studio 10)

Professor David Brown, Director of Immunopathology at Westmead Hospital, diagnosed Mariana with Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Mariana explained to 10 daily the disease causes her white blood cells to attack her spinal cord and brain.

Mariana said there was some relief when she finally got a diagnosis, after enduring countless tests.

She spent a week in hospital after being diagnosed, undergoing steroid therapy before beginning immunoglobulin treatment, which she now does monthly, along with taking tablets daily.

She was later admitted back into hospital after suffering a mental episode and taken into a psychiatric ward.

Image: Studio 10

Despite the physical and mental battles, the teenager has endured for years, her story of recovery is remarkable and she credits much to the support of her brother, her partner and his family, as well as Professor Brown.

Mariana said her results at school tumbled when she first began experiencing symptoms, saying she barely scraped through her year 10 studies.

"I graduated on doctor's certificates," she said.

"In year 11 I dropped out, everything just became too hard, I went back to hospital".

But it was at her partner's graduation, seeing the support of the teachers and the principal, that she decided to try again.

The principal took Mariana's case to the Board of Studies, who agreed to let the teenager enter year 12 if she successfully passed a series of tests.

"[The principal], my little brother and my partner, they motivated me to finish school".

Now, more than a year later, Mariana has not only graduated high school, she's top of her class, being named dux.

Image: Supplied (Studio 10)

The 18-year-old said she doesn't quite know where this year will take her, but she hopes by sharing her story she can help others around her.

READ MORE: How A Brown Smear Unlocked A Hidden Part Of The Brain

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"I have decided that coming out of this I want to share my story in the hope that it supports someone else in their time of need," she said.

Mariana urged anyone struggling to seek support, saying she received a lot of support from Headspace, an organisation which helps young people with their mental health.

Featured Image: Studio 10

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au