This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome for their 2012 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it! And here is my profile on the NJCTS website.
Often when I tell someone I have Tourette Syndrome, they act surprised and reply with an “I had no idea!” It’s a positive response, I will admit, but in its own way, it’s also an ignorant response. They truly do not have any idea.
At an earlier age, anyone could have seen that I have Tourette. My tics were more audible, therefore more noticeable than they have come to be today. Socially, I have not let TS affect my life in a detrimental manner. Actually, it’s been quite the opposite. I have found TS to be a bit of a comic relief, at times, and something I can use to relate to people and their own issues.
I am fortunate to have subtle tics today that only begin to act up when I am under stress, which brings me to my point of utilizing this neurological disorder for my own advantage. A stress indicator is a term I’d give TS. When I am ticcing a great deal and find myself overwhelmed, my Tourette tells me to calm down, take a deep breath and figure things out.
Although at that moment in time, it might make things worse, it actually helps to handle situations. I’ve come to accept Tourette Syndrome as something that helps to define my character. It’s a part of who I am, and it’s something I cannot change.
I have not let TS bring me down. As embarrassing as having Tourette can be, I don’t feel ashamed for twitching in public. I feel a deep sympathy for other people with Tourette who have not accepted the disorder as something unique. With all the South Park episodes and different shows depicting Tourette in a comedic light, it opens up two ways to perceiving TS: as something funny or something serious.
I can use TS as a judge of character. For one thing, if I am willing to tell someone that I have Tourette, I deem them to be a pretty good friend at that point in time. Depending on the person’s reaction, I will get a certain response. I take this response and analyze it. I am never offended when or if anyone makes fun of TS in general or specifically to me (that is rare). Instead, I get angry at the ignorance of the individual.
Tourette is an uncomfortable, embarrassing, stressful experience, and it certainly cannot be helped when considering how I ended up having Tourette. It is most likely hereditary. I was diagnosed around third grade, and by fifth grade, it had developed into a more agressive ticcing.
I would yell sounds and do strange things with my breathing, which would cause me to have trouble breathing. I’d later hear from my father that my mother would be up in her bed in tears over hearing her poor son toss and turn in his bed while uncomfortably twitching.
I had not remembered this memory until my dad brought it up — in a positive conversation, of course. I think back to how bad it was and almost block it out of my mind. I am so fortunate today to have a lesser amount of tics.
My life is not miserable by any means. Lately, things have been going great. I still tic, but they are subtle movements that I will give my body to lessen the attention of my actions. I tell people I have Tourette more often, either explaining myself or bringing to mind that I have TS after it’s mentioned.
I am going to attend Fairfield University as a film major. I have found a passion for the cinema art form and film business. I have already made a few short films and revived a film-making club at my school.
I have a good group of friends and a girlfriend who doesn’t care about me having Tourette. It’s never an issue or a “messing with you” area, and I really appreciate that because I feel that there are many young individuals who don’t take into consideration the magnitude of their words in the minds of their fellow comrades.
My parents are supportive in every way and have done a phenomenal job raising me. This was a challenge when it occurred, but they have always kept my going over the years, teaching me and nurturing me right.
I am soon going to graduate at Seton Hall Prep, located a town over from Seton Hall University. For almost my entire high school career, I found myself in a school that I wasn’t too fond of. I felt like a “preppy kid” or something like that, but I have now come to realize that the ideals and values enforced by my school have shaped my mind into what it is today.
Those ideas I feel I can take and consider my Tourette and apply them to other scenarios in life, such as racial issues, sexual orientation, the wealthy and poor, and the violent and peaceful. What do they have to do with Tourette? They attribute to who we are as human beings, just as Tourette attributes to who I am. I find it something not to be ignorant about, and although I cannot help it, I wish to further understand what psychological magnitude it had on my life.
My girlfriend told me of her cousin being diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. I think the little girl is going to be in first grade. For a child to walk through their early life facing the premature minds of other children is no easy walk. Kids and even adults will always say some offensive things. But I like to move on from any statements, consider them a tic or something that cannot be helped.
Tics come and go, for me anyway, and just like some are worse than others, new ones arise and old ones come back. Life moves on, and I still remain myself. I often hear the expression, “Everything happens for a reason.” I have Tourette for a reason, and although I may not have completely figured it out yet, I’ll make sure I have it for a good reason.
I thank life and biology and nature for giving me Tourette. As burdensome as it can be sometimes, it makes me who I am, and that’s someone I never want to change.