Michelle Meyers has lived in the United States all her life, and for most of it, she sounded the part. But in 2015, she went to bed with a raging headache and woke up with a British accent that will not go away. "Everybody only sees or hears Mary Poppins," she said.
Meyers, a former Texas beauty queen living near Phoenix in Arizona, has never left the United States. Yet, three times in the past seven years, she awoke speaking with different accents, including Australian and Irish, although those two only lasted for a week or so. The British accent, however, is here to stay.
There's a medical reason for Meyers' problem - she's been diagnosed with a disorder called Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS).
According to the University of Dallas, FAS usually manifests itself through changes of intonation or rhythm in the manner of speaking, but sometimes it can sound like an accent taken from another language.
FAS is extremely rare and usually appears as a consequence of a stroke, brain damage, and in Meyers' case, underlying medical issues.
Meyers told ABC that she has had a busy medical history, with regular visits to the hospital and a stack of medical records stocked at home. "When I was a little girl I used to always go to my mom and say, 'my bones hurt," she said.
It turns out Meyers suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a disease that Ehlers-Danlos Support UK defines as "a group of thirteen individual genetic conditions, all of which affect the body's connective tissue." Connective tissue works like mortar between bricks: it connects our organs but also keeps them separate.
When someone suffers from EDS, their joints can bruise easily or even dislocate, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the symptoms are invisible and include: chronic pain and fatigue, dizziness, palpitations, and digestive disorders.
The disease cannot be cured, although some forms of treatment exist to prevent complications and to manage symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While the connection has not been clearly established, EDS could be one of the factors that got Meyers to experience FAS.
The change has been hard for the mother of seven. She misses the way she used to pronounce her children's names, for instance. "I'm sad [...], I feel like a different person. The person I am now has been through so much compared to this person," she said.
Meyers wants to make clear she's not faking it or crazy.
"Some people think it's physiological; others think it's psychological. People like me - we don't care which one it is," she explained. "We just really want to be taken seriously and if it is something that's going to hurt me, help me."
There's no cure for FAS, and although the pathology was discovered in 1907, the research on this uncommon disorder is just beginning. However, speech therapy can help in certain cases and counselling is encouraged.