2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “Tourette is a Blessing in Disguise”

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!

My grandmother always told  me that every person  was put  on this  earth for a  purpose. Some people bring music to the world or find new  cures for different  diseases. I,  on the other hand,  was placed  on this  earth to  spread tolerance for  those living with Tourette Syndrome.

I could go on about how horrible it is to  have Tourette Syndrome  and how it  has been embarrassing, depressing  and sometimes painful. I could go on  about how it has negatively affected my life. However, I  am past that stage in my life.

Through my work as a Youth Ambassador  and a Patient-Centered Educator, I  have become confident about living life with this disorder  and have become grateful that I  was blessed with the opportunity to make a difference in the Tourette’s community. I will share that Tourette Syndrome has positively  changed my life.

Tourette Syndrome has molded me into the person I  am today. Having this disorder has brought  me to new  and exciting  places to meet amazing and inspirational people. I want to show people the positives over the negatives of living life with Tourette Syndrome.

Having Tourette Syndrome is like living your life  on repeat. Same tics every day, the same sideways looks from others, and the same  need to explain myself over  and over again. Every day I  share my story in order to  educate the world  about the disorder, to clarify that having Tourette Syndrome rarely entails shouting  curse words  and absurd phrases.

I  can truly say that having Tourettes Syndrome is a blessing in disguise. It  has brought me closer to my friends  and family. It  has brought me to make new friendships  and go places I never thought I would go. I  can confidently  say ” Hi my  name is  Grace Hawruk, and I have Tourette Syndrome.”

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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I don’t have anyone like me in my life

My grandma, who is one of my best friends, showed me this website. I was excited that people like me can share stories and talk about our experiences together. I longed to have a spot on the website so I can do the same!

Tourette’s Syndrome affects my life because when I was about 6 years old, my mom noticed some eye blinking and throat clearing behaviors, not knowing they were tics. It’s stopped for a while, but resurfaced when I hit about 12.

Ever since I was in third grade, I stuttered. My speech was sometimes so bad I couldn’t get out sentences. That also stopped for a while, but has always found a way to come back. Around the time my tics appeared again, my stutter was in full swing, and hasn’t stopped since. I am now 14.

My mom was worried about me and was always looking up possibilities that could be causing these tics and my stutter. She thought it might be Tourette’s Syndrome, and I was in denial. I didn’t know what to do. This went on for years — no diagnosis, bad stutter, and tics. I’ve always had Tourette’s like symptoms as well — couldn’t ever fall asleep, OCD, as well as general anxiety and depression.

All still impact my life, and it’s very hard to deal with. So this past November, I went to University of Michigan to find out what’s happening to my body. The neurologist told us that I had Tourette’s Syndrome, and having a name to what was going on felt relieving, yet, I also was at a loss for where to go from there.

The neurologist also told me that my stutter was something along the lines of a vocal tic. It’s all connected in some way. So, being on this blog website would be a release for me to talk to other people like me, since I don’t have anyone like me in my life.

10 reasons I LOVE Tourette’s!

Like the title says, these are 10 reasons why I love having Tourette Syndrome! Of course, there are times when I get frustrated with my tics and wish I could just stop the things that I say and do. I have come to find reasons to absolutely love my Tourette’s and be thankful that I have TS. Here is my top 10:

  1. Something more serious is not wrong and causing the things I do. I had tics as a kid, but they reared their big, ugly head once again as a teenager and adult. They were subtle at first, but got so bad that I could not stop moving and twisting and contorting. It hurt. I had no idea what was causing me to do what I was doing. I think back now and am grateful that something more serious was not the cause of the sudden, severe outburst of my Tourette’s. I am not saying that TS is not serious. It should be taken very seriously. There are things that would have been much more devastating that my imagination came up with during those times before my diagnosis, though.
  2. It has taught me some great lessons in life, such as acceptance, kindness, not to judge people for what I observe of them. Of course, these are lessons we are all taught (hopefully) throughout our lives. However, when something like being diagnosed with a chronic illness or a traumatic experience happens to you, you tend to understand and implement these lessons in your own life even more (again, hopefully). Having dealt with mental illness such as depression and anxiety in my own life and struggled with self-injury, I had very strong feelings about not judging people by what you see or hear, but when my tics kicked in and started evolving into what they are now and what they were when they first became a real problem, I noticed the judgment and stigma around me even more. People stare, make fun, and can be downright rude at times. It can really hurt. I never want to be one of those people who misjudge someone because of what I merely observe about them. You never know why someone is doing something or why they look the way they do. Get to know a person before you judge them. You may make assumptions about someone and miss out on a great opportunity to learn, make a new friend or enjoy a great new experience that will never come again.
  3. It is so freakin’ hilarious! I have never laughed harder in my life than I have at some of my tics! In fact, I even wrote a post about funny tics and hilarious moments that have happened because of a tic! Great memories have been made because of a funny tic or situation that occurred because of a funny tic. These are memories that I will have forever. They will probably be some of my fondest, even. Continue reading

The future

Hey everyone, this first appeared on my Life’s A Twitch blog site back in July, but I wanted to share it here, too. Thanks for reading!

I’m kind of in a rough spot right now. I used to always have everything planned out. I knew my future and I knew what I wanted. Now that I’m getting closer to college, I’m not sure what I want to do anymore. It’s really affecting me. I like to have everything planned out right away. It’s part of my OCD. I live about three years in the future constantly. I can’t see anything in front of me.

I’m going into junior year of high school and I feel like I’m starting sophomore year of college. I do not see a computer in front of me. I see a small laptop in a tiny dorm room. I don’t see three large windows next to me. I see a loft bed and tons of textbooks. I can’t live in the present. It’s not how I work.

I need to live so far ahead that I know everything is going to be OK. I am going to be 16 years old in two months and I do not know how to drive. I have not even considered Drivers Ed in the past because of my Tourette’s. I have driven before on a few back roads, and it was terrifying. I kept taking my hands off the wheel and my eyes off the road to tic. Driving is a sort of trigger for tics.

As you already know, I don’t live in the present. Three years from now, in college, I need to be able to know how to drive. I can’t drive at the moment and I need to be able to. It is all a part of the plan. If I look farther in the future, I need to drive to my job, right?

All of you know it is true. Everyone has to do it. Go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, retire, die. This is how life works. I want to go to college, get a job, get married, and have kids, but how can I? My Tourette’s is in the way of everything.

I know a lot of people with Tourette’s say they can drive, but I can’t. I’ve tried. If I can’t drive, I can’t conform to a normal life. Maybe I’m not meant to do things the normal way.

My Tourettes has been really bad lately. I don’t know how I’m getting through it, but I am. I haven’t been depressed for a while now, thankfully, but suicide has crossed my mind. It crosses every person’s mind though, doesn’t it?

What isn’t so normal is that today I got really stressed out about my future and then it started blurring. I didn’t want to have a plan anymore. It all seemed to be falling apart. How in the world could I accomplish anything I wanted to do? What did I even want to do?

I started planning a suicide. I think a lot of people do that, though. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m part of the not so many that actually stress out to the point that they start planning their own demise. I was so sure that tonight I was going to swallow a bunch of pills and it would all be gone. Everything would be gone. I would be gone. I wouldn’t have to worry about anything anymore. I wouldn’t have to tic. I wouldn’t get depressed from time to time. I wouldn’t be planning everything in my future, because I wouldn’t have a future. It sounded so nice to be done with everything.

Even so, there are so many repercussions from a suicide. I’m sure my family would be devastated. I’m sure my friends would be upset. A lot of times when the thoughts come to me, I think that no one loves me and that no one would care if I was gone.

Today the thoughts did not come. It was nothing like the times I was depressed out of my mind. It was not like when I felt worthless. It was different. I was stressed out of my mind and upset. I wanted to be gone. When I was able to calm down, I was still thinking about a suicide, but after putting everything into perspective, I decided against it.

I still don’t really know what my future holds, and that scares me. I like control. I like being able to know where everything and everyone is and everything that is going to happen. I don’t like that my future is shaky and blurry and that I can’t see into it. I don’t have a definite future, and it’s so frightening. I feel stressed, not in control, and unhappy, but most of all, I feel scared.