My Medicine of Dance

This blog post originally appeared on BrittanyFichterWrites.com.

I don’t watch Dancing with the Stars often, but when I heard that there was going to be a  Disney night, I couldn’t resist. And I was not disappointed.

I grew up dancing. It was always one of the biggest parts of my life, but I didn’t realize how much it did to improve my Tourette Syndrome, OCD tendencies and anxiety until I graduated from high school and my tics began to get worse. I’ve given it quite a lot of thought, trying to put into words what my body and soul feel when I’m dancing, attempting to make sense of why dance so helps calm my mind and loosen my tics that cling so tightly to me.

This is what I’ve come up with.

How Dancing Improves My Tourette

If you’re not familiar with Tourette, having it makes you feel like you’ve got a million little bursts of energy all over your body. These bursts of energy make you feel like you need to constantly move, your tics (involuntary vocal sounds or physical movements), itching to escape. Suppression is possible, briefly, but what you’re left with is a body with a ton of energy that has nowhere else to go.

Unless you dance.

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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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2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “I’m Moving On”

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!

Tourettes. We all have our own challenges. Mine has a name. It is a name that will be with me forever. So what do I do? For me, l just move on, When I was twelve years old I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.  I couldn’t control the tics that my body was doing, I was having a harder time in school, and my teachers and family were becoming less patient. I had been already been diagnosed with ADD which made school and other work harder and while my Tourettes was not as severe as some other cases,  it was still a struggle.

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder in which causes involuntary motor and/or vocal tics and twitches. TS has coexisting conditions such as ADD/ADHD, speech and motor skill deficiencies, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Although 1 out of 100 children have Tourette Syndrome, it is a commonly misunderstood disorder and there is no cure. When I was first diagnosed, my tics included various vocal, facial and motor tics. Tics are like a sneeze in that you can’t stop them from happening.

Having TS can feel like being a puppet on a string with someone pulling your body  in ways that you can’t stop. lt can be so consuming to try to do the tic or try to stop from doing it, that you can’t think of anything else. Tics wax and wane so you never know what each week will bring.

Despite the complications and difficulties resulting from various symptoms, the personal philosophy that I have developed has always been to deal with “the hand I’ve been dealt” and keep moving forward.

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2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “I Can Accomplish Anything”

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!

“l’ve been from the bottom of the deepest and darkest  abyss, to the top of the highest and brightest mountain” (from the book “Against Medical Advice” by fames Patterson and Hal Freidman). This quote is a great description of what it has been like living with Tourette Syndrome for most of my life.

Since my diagnosis at the  age of 3, my TS has caused me much trouble, stress, and difficulty, TS has caused me to be bullied, to get in trouble at school, and to have an almost impossible time focusing.  Good behavior? Sitting still? Forget it!  TS didn’t allow me to have it.

Tourette Syndrome changed my life by teaching me how to persevere and overcome very painful (almost torturous) life obstacles. My tics were very disruptive and painful for most of my childhood and early teens. For example, I would bite my thumb, my neck would twitch constantly, and I would scream in the middle of  class. My muscles would become exhausted, would  ache, and would  cause me continuous physical pain.

My sleep was impacted due to the muscle pain, tics, and exhaustion. I would lay awake at night crying because  I couldn’t sleep or was in pain. When I began taking medication as a young child, I had negative side effects such  as extreme drowsiness, weight gain, increased appetite, and loss of memory.  I also struggled with OCD, which played a big role in making the TS worse because I would feel the need to continue certain tics after the initial tic urge went away.

Along with the physical pain, TS hurt my social life.

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