A mother-of-two has been left struggling to move as a result of an incurable one-in-a-million condition.
Antoinette Acosta, 47, suffers from Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS), which causes her muscles to tense uncontrollably.
Dubbed 'the human statue', she is often left gasping for breath as her chest goes into spasm.
As her voicebox is also prone to spasms, her speech is often slurred – causing strangers to assume she's drunk.
Antoinette Acosta, 47, suffers from Stiff Person Syndrome, which causes her muscles to tense uncontrollably (pictured in 2017)
The mother-of-two, who lives in New York, said: 'People look at me when I go out and assume I'm perfectly healthy, but I want people to realise that just because I look fine, it doesn't mean I am.
'I fight every day just to live my life and fulfil my basic needs. When I hear people complain about a cough or a cold, I just shake my head.
'I'd love to have that commodity, or to be able to work and see my friends like I used to.
She added: 'I struggle to go grocery shopping, and can't even shower every day because lifting my arms to wash my hair makes me spasm.
'My feet will stiffen and spread out, almost like a claw, and sometimes my head will feel so heavy, like a 70lb bowling ball, that I can't turn left or right.'
Before developing SPS, Miss Acosta was fit and healthy.
But in 2009, she started having problems with balance and experienced mysterious tremors.
On one occasion, she fractured her leg in two places after falling from an attic ladder during a spasm.
Currently incurable, the disease is believed to affect just one-in-a-million people (pictured: her foot stiffening up during a spasm)
The mother-of-two said: 'I struggle to go grocery shopping, and can't even shower every day because lifting my arms to wash my hair makes me spasm' (pictured: her hand tensing up)
She said: 'I had no idea what was wrong, but I couldn't stop it. I'd trip over and lose balance for no reason.
'I'd be cleaning my teeth and suddenly jam the toothbrush down my throat, or I'd be eating and my jaw would suddenly lock.
'Sometimes I'd bite down so hard on my cheek it would bleed.'
Doctors were just as baffled as her, particularly after tests for Lyme disease and Guillian-Barre syndrome came back negative.
By this point, Miss Acosta's symptoms were taking over her life, leaving her so exhausted she could barely speak.
After suffering for years, in 2014 Miss Acosta reached out to a specialist doctor through the big healthcare company she used to work for.
The doctor mentioned in passing her symptoms matched those of an SPS patient and sent her for blood tests.
Miss Acosta said: 'I was just about to move to Tennessee when I was referred to the new doctor, and the test results came back after I'd left.
'After he mentioned SPS, a friend looked it up for me and told me it matched a lot of my symptoms.
'I didn't want to look myself until I had the results back, though. I was tired of thinking I had all these different conditions only to be told I didn't.'
But as Miss Acosta was settling into her new home, her doctor called to tell her the test results were positive.
In 2009, she started having problems with balance and experienced mysterious tremors (pictured with her son Dietrich, now 15, in 2012)
In an unfamiliar town, she worried she wouldn't find anybody to treat her.
Thankfully, a local doctor had come across the rare condition before.
She was prescribed a cocktail of medication, including Valium, to help ease her symptoms and is waiting to hear if she qualifies for an upcoming medical trial.
There is also a possibility that a stem cell transplant or plasmapheresis – a procedure that replaces blood plasma to stop antibodies attacking healthy cells - could help.
But for now, life can be difficult for Miss Acosta, who is believed to be the 317th person to be diagnosed with SPS ever in the US.
As well as leaving her unable to work, Miss Acosta's condition also makes eating difficult, causing her to loose 34lb in just six months. Her memory is also affected.
WHAT IS THIS CONDITION?
What is Stiff Person Syndrome?
Stiff Person Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder with features of an autoimmune disease.
It causes a patient's muscles to stiffen over time - typically affecting the torso and limbs.
The condition is often triggered subtly by a period of emotional stress and it usually develops in a sufferer's mid-40s.
Sufferers can also experience a heightened sensitivity to stimuli, including noise, touch and emotional distress, which can trigger muscle spasms.
People with SPS can be too disabled to walk.
Abnormal postures - often hunched over or stiffened - are characteristic of the disorder.
What causes the rare disorder?
Stiff Person Syndrome affects twice as many women as men.
It is often associated with other autoimmune diseases including diabetes, thyroditis and the skin condition vitiligo.
Scientists do not know what causes the condition, but research has shown it is the result of an autoimmune response that has gone awry in the brain and spinal cord.
How is it diagnosed?
The condition is often mistaken for Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis.
A definitive diagnosis can be made with a blood test.
People with SPS have raised levels of an antibody that works against an enzyme involved in the synthesis of an important neurotransmitter in the brain.
There is no cure for the disease but it can be managed with medication.