CYPRESS, Texas - A Cypress woman says she's living with bugs crawling around in her body.
Brandi Runnel said she was a healthy 39-year-old woman until a year ago.
"This fly was in my body," Runnel said.
One fly turned into many more, then came the worms and insects infesting her body.
Runnel constantly uses creams, desperately trying to smother what she's convinced is leaving beneath her skin. She cleans around appliances claiming the microscopic insects live in cocoons behind her stove and refrigerator after they leave her body.
"You take them and push really hard, and that's how you get them out," Runnell told Local 2.
You might think she is crazy, but her story is one being repeated so frequently across this country with the same symptoms, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually launched a study into what's commonly called Morgellons disease.
After years of research, the CDC concluded Morgellons disease is the result of delusional parasitosis, a mental condition where the patient falsely believes they've been infested by parasites.
Local 2 asked if Runnel had a history of mental illness and she denied.
"It shouldn't matter if a person has a mental illness, first of all," said Runnel. "Secondly, it shouldn't matter if a person is on drugs. If a person is having trouble with a parasite it needs to be taken seriously no matter what the case is, so, even if I was mentally ill they should still investigate it."
Runnel said she once took a psychiatric drug that the doctor gave her and "it didn't work."
"So that's when they say, 'OK we need to get you a psych evaluation,'" Runnel said. "I had one and they diagnosed me as delusional."
Once the delusion title was put on her, Runnel said doctors would not listen to her and she said whether this is a physical disease or a mental illness, she just wants something to make it go away.
Professional counselor Audrey Omenson said what our minds are doing and thinking can affect our body in a physical way.
Omenson said if doctors don't seem understanding, counselors might help narrow down the root of the problem and provide referrals but added that anyone experiencing something like this needs to seek medical and psychiatric evaluation.
Also, counseling can help cope with anxiety that's undoubtedly felt from this as well.
"In terms of her perception it's definitely real and definitely something impacting her daily life, and something that should be treated as real and something she should seek out treatment so she can get back to normal life," Omenson said.
In an e-mail to Local 2, Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation said, "Morgellons Disease research has come a long way in the past few years making a strong association with the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi (causative agent of Lyme disease) detected in the skin."
Many dermatologists, psychiatrists and other medical professionals disagree.
"It's not that I'm crazy because I'm not. It's not that I want to do this because I really don't. I want it to be gone," Runnel said.
Runnel's family members contacted Local 2 in an attempt to verify her story, claiming to have seen the insects beneath her skin. There are a growing number of patients experiencing the same symptoms across the country every day.
Research results and helpful agencies can be found at the following links:
- The Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation website
- Morgellons Disease Research & Publications
- CDC Study of an Unexplained Dermopathy
- PLOS ONE: Clinical, Epidemiologic, Histopathologic and Molecular Features of an Unexplained Dermopathy
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