This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2016 Youth Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!
Imagine telling a child with the hiccups to stop making sounds. That child will try his hardest to keep it inside of him, but it gets to a point where your body stops listening to your mind. He doesn’t want to have the hiccups, but it JUST WON’T GO AWAY. That’s exactly what it’s like to have Tourettes Syndrome, except you’re stuck with it for a much longer time.
My parents first noticed subtle things that weren’t really that odd, but I just kept doing over and over again at around the age of six. Every time we ate, I had to have had my fork and knife perfectly aligned with the napkin.
Not really that weird, but to the point where it became annoying since I did it everywhere, not just at home. But once I entered elementary school, things became a little more difficult for me. I couldn’t stop shifting around in my seat and I couldn’t stop moving my long hair out of my face. I became a common target for yelling at because while everyone was sitting doing work, I was sitting on my knees and tapping my pencil. My parents thought they were going to be stuck with a troublesome kid, but it wasn’t quite that.
One day at school, my surfer-dude type haircut was really getting on my nerves. Strands of hair were in front of my eye and I felt as if my sense of touch was off the charts because it felt like I could feel every single piece of hair bother me. So, I got my safety scissors out of my pencil case and gave myself a new haircut. From that day on, I didn’t have bangs that would bother me at school. However, when I got off the bus that day, my mother wasn’t too happy to see a twenty dollar haircut go to waste like that. I explained what happened and it was around this time my mom began to think that these weren’t really traits of a so-called troublemaker kid. So we went to a doctor and they told me I had “nervous tics.” I went along with it, because why would I argue with a doctor right. So from then on, I assumed that I was just some nervous kid for no reason.
Time went on and I entered the middle school where everybody was grown up and cool. By this time, I’ve had a track record of being “that” kid and I just accepted the status I was given and tried to run with it. But this is when my “tics” started to evolve into what is actually known as Tourette’s. I started making noises and making noticeable repetitive movements. One day during math class, my favorite period of the day (sarcasm), I was feeling rather anxious. I made a high pitched noise, kind of like when a girl sees a spider and yells “EEK!” Some heads turned but I just played it off like I always have whenever I did something weird. While the teacher was going on with her lesson, I felt this extreme tension in my throat. This is when I compare it to hiccups, because once it starts, you can’t stop it. I tried really hard to “hold it in” but it just hopped out. Heads turned once more and the teacher gave me a warning, telling me to stop interrupting the class. About a minute later, something in me decided to bother the class once more and I let out another “EEK” like noise. My teacher had enough of my shenanigans by then and yelled at me in front of the whole class and told me to go to the office. I walked out with my head low, confused and sad because I wasn’t able to understand why I was doing these things. I wasn’t nervous at all and I’ve never done something that outward. The principal told me to stop being a bother to people and I tried to be as quiet as possible the remainder of the day. When I got home, all the sadness I was holding in just exploded into tears when my mom asked me how my day was. I explained to her what happened and we went to the doctor once more. They spoke with my mom and told her we should go get an MRI of my very nice brain. They did a bunch of stuff I didn’t get and when we left she hit me with the “nervous tics” phrase again. I’m convinced that she knew it was Tourettes but she didn’t tell me because she didn’t want me to feel bad.
Fast forward and I’ve had plenty of time to learn how to hold in my “tics” while at school and public places and to allow them to come out at home. It’s freshman year in high school and by now I’ve figured out for myself that what I have was probably Tourettes. I asked my mom if we could get some medicine to ease them a little bit but that just made me feel sick all the time. So we went to another doctor who asked my morn if he could talk to me in private, so I could speak honestly about my Tourette’s. He and I spoke about what was going on with me and we had a genuine down to earth conversation. He told me about his friend, who happened to have Tourettes, who also happened to be a heart surgeon. That heart surgeon had the same repetitive noises and movements like I did, but whenever he was going into an operation he became as still as a statue. His whole psyche changed and he was able to do amazing things and save people’s lives. My doctor told me I didn’t need medicine, that the power to control my Tourettes was in me and I just had to hone it like his friend did. I walked away from that visit with a new sense of hope and pride. From that day on, I never let my Tourettes get the better of me and I aimed to make the best me possible. And I’ve never abandoned that mentality to this day.
Despite all the negative things that I was forced to go through, at the end of the day, it made me stronger and I was able to push myself harder than anyone else. Instead of resenting the people who made fun of me, I accepted them and grew to understand why people acted the way they did. With all the time I kept to myself, I thought about things that a child in middle school wouldn’t normally think of, the world, humanity and myself as a person. I also continued to read a lot and it became relatively easy for me to excel in school, always meeting honors. I believe I grew wise beyond my years and rapidly became a person with a wonderful perspective. My Tourette’s created a teen with more love, acceptance, and knowledge than those around me and I am proud of that. And if having Tourette’s was the only way that that could happen, I wouldn’t give it up.