2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “I Have No Regrets”

This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2014 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

When the word “disease” is said, overcoming is definitely not the first thing that comes to peoples’ minds. In my opinion, having Tourette’s is a battle. I have been bullied, ridiculed, and laughed at. I think a lot about the kid I could have become, that is, if I surrendered. But luckily, I didn’t.

I managed to muster the strength and courage to face my problem. In fact, I sometimes convince myself that I no longer have TS. I have accepted the fact that I will never be cured of this. So what does this mean for me? Hide behind excuses for the rest of my life? Succumb to being a nobody? Not anymore.

Ever since I entered high school, I slowly started to see the best out of every situation. I have used my tics to my advantage by channeling my energy into something positive: setting goals and achieving them. Why should I let TS get in the way of challenging myself? I found that I can use this obstacle to my advantage.

When I was in middle school, I definitely didn’t have the same optimism about having TS as I do now. Unfortunately back then, I fell into the trap of self-pity. I would always make excuses for myself. I didn’t challenge myself in school because I thought my mental abilities weren’t sufficient for mainstream classes.

My bizarre motor tics made me feel out of place and ashamed. My fear was that people would make fun of me, especially this one tic in particular (that I still have today) where I tweak my neck to the side to feel temporary relief. If I held my tics in, I felt like exploding. Often times I would tic then nonchalantly try to cover it up by using “normal” gestures, such as cracking my neck.

Once I gained the courage to move into mainstream classes in my last year of middle school, things weren’t as bad as I had anticipated.

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2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “Born to Stand Out”

This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2014 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

At a young age, I was faced with a choice. Let the diagnosis I just received define me, or accept it as part of who I am and embrace life head on. I chose the latter. I was diagnosed with Tourette’s, OCD and ADHD.

When some people hear Tourette’s, they automatically think of society’s inaccurate portrayal of a disorder where people shout out obscenities or inappropriate words. They treat it as a joke, as if people who live with Tourette’s choose to do the things they do, or could stop it if they wanted to. Very few people understand what having Tourette’s is really like.

Over the years, l’ve experienced a wide range of tics. My motor tics included excessive blinking, sniffing, jerking my neck, and popping my shoulder, often making everyday life uncomfortable and awkward. l’ve had vocal tics where I would constantly clear my throat, grun! or make strange noises that would often draw confused and disapproving looks from those around me.

Living with this disorder has been far from easy, fraught with physical pain and many ups and downs. When I was younger and just learning to cope with my Tourette’s, my tics would make it difficult to focus in class. Having an eye blinking tic or neck tic would make it difficult to read. Nevertheless, I pushed myself to make the honor roll every marking period from third grade on.

Whenever the classroom got quiet and the teacher was speaking, I would feel the eyes of my classmates burning deep into the back of my neck. lt was as if they had laser vision, with eyes fixated on me, examining my every move. Regardless of whether anyone was looking or not, I was different, I stood out and thought they were staring at me.

I would try to suppress the tic. But that’s just like trying to stifle a sneeze or resisting scratching an itch. Eventually you just have to do it, just as I do when the urge reaches that point of becoming no longer bearable. With time, therapy, and educating myself on Tourette’s, l’ve learned to adapt to the struggles this disorder entails.

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How are you spreading TS awareness this month?

It’s Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month! What have you been doing to spread the word about Tourette Syndrome?

Last year in my high school I spoke to psychology classes about Tourette’s and gave them a first-hand perspective of what life was like with the disorder. Although they were learning about Tourette in class, they did not realize that there were so many everyday struggles to overcome to keep up with the norm.

In addition, I created a proclamation in my town to officially declare National Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month (May 15 to June 15). This year, I hope to do the same by making sure that this month is again recognized by my township, school system and community.

I plan to speak in psychology classes again this year, since I received such a positive response to my advocacy last year. I advocate not only because it is important to spread awareness, but because just one person can change the view of others once they have the right facts and resources.

By educating other teens, it can create a chain reaction of awareness and I believe that is one of the most important steps towards eliminating bullying and misunderstanding of Tourette’s. Those who bully and tease are simply uneducated, and it is the job of the TS community to provide education to those who are ignorant about the disorder.

Advocating, walking for the cure, even having the courage to explain to close friends about the disorder are all ways in which we can spread awareness and educate people about Tourette syndrome. No matter how you choose to spread awareness, remember that every little bit of knowledge makes a huge difference toward a world of tolerance and acceptance.

Share Your Story: Everything that happens in life can be used for good

Hello, my name is Jasmine. I am 24 years old. If you know me or have read anything I’ve written previously, you know that I have Tourette Syndrome. However, there are a few things about me you may not know.

For example, I have fought a battle for much of my life that a lot of people fight. Like others who fight, I have always fought in private. It is not a battle against others. I have defended against darkness, hopelessness and ultimately myself. Now, I am taking big steps to fight offensively, not defensively. I am not telling you all this for sympathy or for pity. I am simply sharing my story because I know how it feels to wish you weren’t alone. I know that it helps to know that someone out there understands what you are going through. Part of being human is having flaws and faults.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at the age of 18. The fear I felt at having a mental illness was almost as intense as the fear that it would never end. There is so much stigma in the world around us about mental illness. It’s sad, really. I find it sad that people create such stigma. It is such a negative thing.

Not only does it create misunderstanding, but it makes those who already feel so alone in the world feel even more isolated than they did in the first place. It keeps those who truly need help from seeking it out because they are afraid of what people will think of them. We become afraid of being judged and looked at differently. Sadly, that does happen … and it’s because of the stigma. Stigma is why a lot of people, such as myself, suffer in silence for far too long.

I suffered in silence until I absolutely had to find a means of escape. I searched desperately for a way to numb the pain I felt on the inside, so I created a pain I knew the source of and could control of on the outside. That is where self-injury entered the scene. Contrary to the stigma, it was never about attention. It was never an attempt to do permanent damage such as suicide.

In fact, it was something I desperately hid from everyone around me, from all those whom I loved. It was a way to cope so that I could stay alive. Even though it was only a temporary relief, it became an addiction that I couldn’t control and didn’t know how to quit.

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Not worrying about friends judging my tics

So I know my past couple of posts have been on the more negative side, talking about how my tics have been bad so far this semester and how I’m fed up with it. So I decided it’s time for a more positive post!

Anyway, a little while ago (the summer after my freshman year of college) I wrote about my friend Ivy. For those of you who didn’t read that post, I’ll summarize it here.

Basically, my freshman year I started a two-year freshman program about the mind and brain. It’s basically an intro program for my major. In that class, I ticced a lot, just like I did in every other class. Freshman year I didn’t really tell my classes about my TS because I was too afraid to. So once people noticed something was wrong, they usually tended to take one of two positions.

They either stared at me in a very obvious way or ignored me so as not to get caught staring. However, in my mind brain program there was this one girl who kept making it a point to sit next to me every day. I didn’t really notice though until one day she decided to start talking to me.

The first time she talked to me I thought she was talking to someone else, so the first time she said hi to me and tried talking to me I pretty much ignored her because I thought she was talking to someone else! LOL! Then she kept persisting, and I realized she was talking to me, and I responded and started talking to her as well.

Since freshman year, we’ve become friends. We’ve met up to do  lunch and dinner together quite a few times. We’ve had other classes together, considering we’re the same major. And we’ve kept in touch, at some points more than others; but nonetheless, we’ve remained friends.

Last summer, I told her briefly about my TS and about Camp Twitch and Shout, and she told me she has an older brother who has autism and is nonverbal. I know a lot about autism since I’ve worked with autistic children quite a lot as a result of my senior project with a class of high-functioning autistic middle school students and my mom’s job at a special school. In fact, I’m soon going to start helping out with their Friday after school social skills group this semester!

Anyway, back to the point of this post. Ivy texted me about a week ago asking me if I would want to room with her and her suitemate next year. In the text she said that she thinks I would be a really nice person to live with and rooming together would work really well!

My two other suitemates from this year — who I’m very close to — and I all want to stay together, so we’ve decided on a preliminary plan of having the 5 of us (Ivy, her suitemate, me and my two suitemates) room together in an on-campus apartment! I’m very excited about this idea and can’t wait to room with Ivy and her friend.

We’re going to meet on Sunday morning as a group so that the people in the group who haven’t met yet can meet and so we can discuss things in person. I think it will be really great to live with Ivy, her friend and my two other friends. I think we’ll all get along really well, and in particular I’m excited to get even closer with Ivy.

The only thing I’m worried about, though, is that Ivy has never seen my tics to their full extent. I worry that she will have a different opinion of me once she sees my tics in full force. But then I just think how my good friends who I have now have all seen my tics in full force.

They all at one point had never met a person with Tourette’s and now they just ignore my tics and see them as something that’s just normal. I think if anyone would be the kind of person to accept my tics, it would be Ivy. Even though I’m worried about it, I know in reality that Ivy and her friend will both get used to my tics fairly quickly, just like everyone else has.

And once they get used to my tics, they will see me for who I am and not for my tics. They will see my tics as just one small part of me and get to know the person I really am. Even though I don’t yet know Ivy’s roommate, I trust that she is a good and accepting person. I could never imagine Ivy being friends with anyone who is not this kind of person. I think this will only bring new friendships and more support into my life. That I am excited for!