Our differences make us who we are

While growing up in two different places, I never really stood out in the crowd. I was just normal, in a good way I suppose, and I didn’t think much of it. Although I feared new environments due to my shyness, I was soon in America by the age of three. I spent five full and fun years and went back to Korea. As I recall I was very organized, did all my work, and focused perfectly well. Those were probably the few reasons why I didn’t expect myself to be in the position that I was, and still am now. I don’t think that I will forget the three years of my Tourette Syndrome experiences.

To begin with, I had never even heard of the word Tourette’s before I started to have tics. I don’t remember when it first started. I don’t think you can have tics, the constant movements or noises I make, all of a sudden. It might have happened slowly, but it also could have been rushed through, too. One thing I clearly remember is the time my mom and dad told me we were going to the doctor’s when I was eleven years old. They weren’t very specific, but I already suspected it was because of my head-shaking and eye-rolling. “But why?” I asked. When my dad answered the question, I started to yell that I would not go. That I was not mentally ill. But I had to, and I did. After waiting for an hour and half, (it was a very good and big hospital) and within minutes I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. It was too much information that I did not understand at that point.

Although this post is not going to be purposely overly depressing, the first years were probably the hardest. It was when the truth hit me hard. My condition was worse than right now. Then, I had to accept the fact that I was “different.” Every time I looked around, I saw people. People just sitting, writing, laughing, playing. All doing so while staying still. But me? Why couldn’t I do the same? My Tourette Syndrome medicines increased to a high dose, and I started receiving antidepressants. I would have to answer the embarrassing question whenever I met someone: “Why do you do that?” There were a few times when some disturbing boys just had to imitate me, and I would get very emotional at those times. I would cry. I was never the one in control when it came to my tics. I was insecure enough―and I didn’t need them to point out the facts for me. And some days it was kind of annoying and depressing, unfair and just sad. For so many reasons, really. I hated when people who I didn’t even know stared at me as if I were strange, abnormal. I didn’t like how someone would judge me before they would even get to know me. It was inevitable, though. People would see my Tourette’s before they would see me. I didn’t like it.

Whenever I would share these kind of moments to adults, my doctor, parents, I felt like they would never fully, completely understand. I would spill the words out from my heart sometimes, but some days I would seal my mouth shut. I could never share these experiences to any of my Tourette’s-inexperienced friends, not even to my closest ones. They would never really get it. Even now, I’ve never really talked to them about it other than tell them about it. I knew that everyone was always there for me. But in a way, they weren’t because they would never truly know how it feels.

I sometimes admit that I think I have had a lot to benefit from having Tourette Syndrome. For example, I see more in people than I had before. I know what it’s like to be depressed. I understand how hard it is to be so hateful toward your own self. I know how sometimes, you don’t want to get out of bed; you just want to sleep forever. I also know that I’m no different than others. Our differences make us who we are.

But if you’re thinking having Tourette’s isn’t painful, or maybe not that bad let me tell you that you won’t want to have it. People stare. Your neck will hurt, and you’ll pretend to roll your neck naturally in school—oh, I’m just stretching—afraid people will notice. Anyone can use it against you; from petty girls to “Everyone likes me so I’m a good person” type of boys. It can be genetic, but in my case none of my parents had it. I could make a list of reasons why I don’t want it. When I look back at the past, I was a very sad third-grader. I was always stressed. I was this normal, popular girl in America, and when I came to Korea, I suddenly had these stupid, severe tics. I mostly cried everyday, and screamed a lot, too. I continued to read a lot. I only enjoyed reading English books, and it was one of my few remedies. I had only a few girl friends. Most of my friends were boys. I didn’t care though, until I got to fourth grade.

It was the first day of school in fourth grade, and as soon as I walked into the classroom, I was screwed. First of all, my tics were in bad condition. Especially my vocal tics, which are the sound tics. Second, I barely knew anyone in the classroom. ‘Forget good first impressions,’ I thought to myself. Almost everyone knew each other, which was very awkward for me. When I got to my seat I waited until my teacher came and until everyone was in the classroom. I still remember this, and I almost died of embarrassment, but I kept on clearing my throat. A boy, who was the most popular boy in our class later on, suddenly called out, “Who’s making that weird sound?” At the time no one knew except for me. Later on, everyone probably figured it out. It did not stop the girls from staring or constantly asking me why I was doing it or what I was doing.

I have recently watched a video called “I Have Tourette’s but Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me.” I saw some things I already knew, one of them was there is at least one child with Tourette’s in every school in the U.S. It was one of those facts that I had to remind myself. In the video, I saw children between the ages of six to thirteen with Tourette’s. I found myself relating to them, especially a boy named Seth and a girl named Anna. When I heard her talking about seeking true friends, I ached because I remembered how bad I longed for a true friend for years. I cried while seeing Anna pounding her stomach, seeing her cry, scream, and talk. I cried because I saw myself. I cried because I felt her pain.

Even today, I am sensitive about my Tourette’s. I think it’s because knowing that I’m no different, and feeling like it are two different things. However, I am more truthful about it now. I have told a few of my friends what I have, because I think it is wise to. My doctor, thinks that I should tell my friends, too. I don’t think I’ll have to lie about it again. I am not embarrassed anymore. I previously had one incident, caused by my Tourette’s last year. It made me feel so many emotions at once and I quickly burst into tears. I don’t want to cry for something that is not even worthy of my tears. It’s been done too many times. I know my tics aren’t going to suddenly go away. I don’t expect them to. I know it takes time. I don’t have any stress or depression. I think the stress was one of the harder stages. I will continue to find my way, and the more I do, I think the more I will accept my Tourette Syndrome.

I have this thing…

Do you know that feeling when you have something to say but you don’t know how to say it? It’s like you know the thoughts and you can feel the emotions, but you don’t know the words.

Every morning you wake up, brush your teeth, put some clothes on, eat some food, go to school or work, meet people, eat food in between, come home, do more work, eat more food, wrap up, and go to sleep only to repeat it all over again the next day, and the day after that, and so on.

And each day when you go through your routine, you think:

Nothing’s wrong

Because the fact is, you can’t put into words exactly what is wrong. It’s like you’re forgetting something.

No, not some ‘thing’, some ‘thought’

And not ‘forgetting’, more like ‘needing to know’

You don’t know what it is you’re supposed to think but it’s there in your brain. It’s an abstract, mind boggling idea churning through you like you’re in the middle of a giant city and you just. Don’t. Know.

You don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing

Or where you are supposed to be going

Or even who you’re supposed to be.

All you know is:

Where you are now.

There is something that has been plaguing me for 9 years. 9 and a half actually. It’s very real, it’s very alive, it’s something that I can’t change. And it’s taken me this long to come to terms with it.

I have this thing, which causes me to be awkward in public—not in what I say, but more in what I do.

I have this thing, which causes people to look at me weirdly—not that I’m disgusting but more like I’m crazy and mental, and not in a good way.

I have this thing which causes me to be so self conscious but at the same time in the heat of the moment I forget I have that thing until someone reminds me with just one look, one laugh, one smirk.

I have this thing…

I have tics.

No, not ticks like from deer that make you break out into rashes and look like a tomato.

According the Merriam Webster a tic is:

Full:

“Local and habitual spasmodic motion of particular muscles especially of the face. A frequent usually unconscious quirk of behavior or speech <”you know” is a verbal tic>”

Simple:

“A small repeated movement of a muscle especially in the face that cannot be controlled. A word or phrase that someone frequently says or an action that someone frequently does without intending to.”

Cannot be controlled. Without intending to. Unconscious.

People don’t see that. All people see are the spasms and the repeated movements and the frequent words or actions. All they see is what annoys them and not what the person is going through—they see the funny weird things that they don’t know about and they laugh, they imitate, they take someone’s weakness and exploit it.

Because that’s all it is…

A thing.

A thing with no cure, a thing that doesn’t go away, a thing I am stuck with for the rest of my life.

I can’t even have a conversation with someone without getting stared at. I know in the other person’s head they’re thinking, “What is that? What is she doing?” because it’s written all over their face.

What am I doing?

I want you to open your eyes, right now, and keep them open…

Still keep them open.

And open

Did you blink yet? Eventually, you will because after some time you will blink naturally. This is how I feel every day. The unexplainable need to go through with the action is, to me, as automatic as blinking is to you.

But what are these actions?

Tics are either motor or vocal. Motor tics consist of nose twitching, hair fixing, obsessive touching, face grimacing, hand stressing, and more. Vocal tics involve grunting, humming, blowing, or saying actual words, like curses. They worsen when under stressful conditions, but are also temporary until the next need arises.

Around 200,000 people in the U.S have the condition, however there is no exact number because many people are not diagnosed. Symptoms typically show in adolescent years and over time, most people improve. This condition isn’t something I just picked up from someone sneezing, its genetic, passed down through many ways but to me specifically, from my aunt.

Treatments include taking drugs that make you feel like you’re drunk.

Sometimes I want to feel like I’m drunk. When I’m all alone in my bedroom on a Friday night because no one wants to be associated with the mental girl. When I’m on my way back from the bathroom and I overhear my cousins laughing at what I was doing, imitating me.  When my parents are yelling at me to stop because they don’t understand that I can’t stop, that I don’t know how to stop. And I don’t know how to tell them, any of them, about what I have.

How do you tell someone that you have a disorder?

Sometimes I feel like I’m gay and I’m coming out of the closet, except I’m not gay and there is no actual closet… I want to scream at the world that I am in fact not crazy, that what I do is not uncommon, that just because I do weird things on the outside doesn’t mean I’m a bad person on the inside. I wish that I could make people understand what I have.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

I miss the me that I was back then. Years ago, when we were all friends—laughing and smiling. Not worried about impressing anyone or our looks or being the best. When we were just. Us.

Now, we worry. We worry about who is dressed the best and who has the most followers on Instagram, and likes, and pictures. We worry about making that shot in basketball to impress a girl or worrying about not tripping over our heels while we are already tripping over our words to impress a guy. We worry and we worry and we worry, about being like everyone else, about fitting in, about being liked and loved, about having friends and being popular. But never do we actually take the time to think about ourselves.

Life is made up of moments. Hard fast and blinding moments and when they pass they pass only to make room for more moments. And those moments make you, You. I have a moment, a hard fast and blinding moment, where I realized I have a thing—a thing that makes me, Me.

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Living with Tourette Syndrome”

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!

MichaelS

MichaelS

I pondered what it meant when I was diagnosed with Tourettes. The doctor explained to me there was no cure, and that with time it’d get better, but he said Tourettes will be a part of my life forever. I had finally figured out the answer as to why I constantly rolled my eyes, or why I occasionally let out an obnoxious vocal sound. As a confused 4th grader, I didn’t realize this would soon become part of my identity. After the diagnosis I was uneasy about telling people, even my close friends, why I did all these strange things. I was scared they’d think of me differently or put a label on me. Every time my classmates asked about it, I’d reply with an indifferent “I don’t know.”

I remember showing up to a basketball camp and as we were huddled around a coach, he was lecturing us. My eyes rolled uncontrollably. He stood up and then scolded me, talking about how disrespectful I was and I was forced to run to the point where I felt like I had to throw up. I was too frightened to tell him it was because of Tourettes. After that fiasco, I realized it was time to tell people.

It took me 3 years to finally muster up the courage to tell a couple of my close friends why I had been rolling my eyes, crinkling my nose, and letting out vocal sounds. I explained to them that they were called tics that unfortunately forced me to do some strange things. I told them I couldn’t suppress these tics or else I would feel like I couldn’t breathe. I was nervous as to how they would react. I didn’t want them to think of me differently. They all essentially said the same thing: “It doesn’t matter; you’re not different; you having Tourettes doesn’t change anything.” I was shocked. I thought I’d receive some questions, but everything was alright.

Sure there were instances throughout my life where people asked questions and said mean things. Soon I realized that having Tourettes was a blessing in disguise: I was able to talk to people and educate them on Tourettes. I was trying to eliminate the stereotype that all people with Tourettes curse excessively or are constantly mumbling random words. After telling people about my neurological disorder I became cognizant of that fact that this was me, I couldn’t change it even if I wanted to.

As I got older, more and more people began to put a face to Tourettes and it was mine. I was uncomfortable with this at first, but it was a component of who I am; I’m not complete without Tourettes. People were able to see that anyone can have Tourettes and that sometimes we may not even know they do. Without Tourettes I feel like I’d be a different person, maybe a little more normal, but “normal” can be boring. Tourettes is a part of who I am: it’s an essential part of my identity. As I grow up, I realize it will forever be a part of me: maybe a small part, but a part nonetheless.

 

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay

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!

I have had TS all my life, and it has affected me all my life, even though I may not have known what it was until more recent years. Knowing that I have Tourette Syndrome gave me a sense of identity, and a group of people to belong to. More importantly, it gave me direction and even more reason to create. I have always prided myself in being an artist, in particular a photographer. Being diagnosed with TS has given me a need to create and provide good representation for those with TS. I feel as if I need to prove to the world that I’m not some crude video on YouTube for people to laugh at, I am a remarkable human being that can create something beautiful out of anything. Having Tourette Syndrome has its good days and its bad days, and even on those bad days I can be reminded to keep on going and keep on ticking because TS makes me, me. I am the most important thing I could ever have. Tourette Syndrome showed me that while things can be uncontrollable, wild, and unpredictable, there is always a place for you to belong. TS has taught me that you have to be willing to go with the flow, and that not everything has a reason, which I believe that is one of the most valuable things you can learn going into adulthood. Accepting things as they are will always be a benefit to you, especially with something like Tourette Syndrome.

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Living with Tourettes”

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!

EricR

EricR

I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome at the age often. My tics were much worse when I was younger, but have started to dissipate as I have grown. The diagnosis of Tourette’s is central to my identity and matters a great deal, as it has shaped who I am and how I interact with the world.

Having Tourette’s does not define me, however, it was a pivotal player in the shaping of my early years. I started showing symptoms around the age of six. The first observable tics included humming and blinking. My family had no idea what was happening, so they took me to see multiple doctors. At first the doctors said that I had transient tics. They could not make the diagnosis of Tourette’s until I displayed both motor and vocal tics consistently for over a year. This was a problem because my tics would change constantly. I could have one or a combination of multiple tics occur simultaneously and then they would suddenly disappear for months at a time. This occurred for a number of years. Therefore, it wasn’t until the age often, that a doctor officially made the diagnosis.

Tourette’s has come to shape my personal identity in different ways over the years. I have had to learn how to deal with it every day of my life, since elementary school. When I was younger, my tics were at their worst, so I had to focus more on controlling them than on the lessons being taught at school. As a result, my parents often had to re-teach the lessons to me, and at times I also needed tutoring. Once I became a teenager my vocal tics were the most noticeable and disruptive. Fortunately, my teachers and classmates were compassionate and understanding. They knew that I had Tourette’s and that I wasn’t making strange noises on purpose. It was during this time that various medications were attempted, but they only made my tics worse and gave me bad side effects. Despite the downside of distracting me from my early education, many positive things have come out of my condition.

Having Tourette’s Syndrome has allowed me to understand myself on a deeper level. I have become more confident as I grow and adapt to my disorder. Because of the confidence I have acquired, I am a more focused and dedicated student.

As a result of this dedication, I have been on the honor roll every year since entering middle school. I also hold memberships in both the St. Thomas Aquinas Honor Society and the National Honor Society of High School Scholars. During my sophomore and junior years, I received several Outstanding Academic Achievement Awards. In addition, I have been recognized as a member of the Sapientia Sanctitas Society.

My success did not come easy. Many hours of studying and tutoring occurred throughout my elementary and high school years. I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I would need to focus and concentrate on doing well. My determination and perseverance paid off, as I have been accepted into three colleges to study architecture.

Experiencing challenges at an early age caused me to have a unique and positive perspective of the world. I see the world in a different way. I am not quick to judge other people, as I understand what it feels like to be looked at oddly. When I was younger, I used to be very introverted. Now that I am older and my tics are more manageable, I have become more extroverted. I am no longer afraid of what others will think of me and I now welcome new challenges.

Tourette’s has helped shape my personal identity as it has exposed me to diverse and challenging situations. I have become less introverted and have formed a positive opinion of the world around me because of the confidence I have gained from adapting to my disability. I look forward to experiencing new challenges and more opportunities for growth, as I continue my education as an architecture student.

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Me, Myself and Tourettes”

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!

SebastianL

SebastianL

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.

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Visible”

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!

NoelleG

NoelleG

My parents always wondered why I could not stop sniffling. I did not have any other symptoms of a cold, and my sniffling was continuous, far longer than a cold would have lasted. I was prescribed a nasal steroid spray. The doctor thought I had allergies. As it turned out, my sniffling was not a result of allergies but was rather one of my earliest identified tics. I have Tourette Syndrome. My mother noticed my odd, seemingly involuntary movements and brought me to a neurologist. I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, and we realized that my sniffling was actually a tic. As the years have gone by I have expressed a multitude of different tics, most of which were motor tics. I had a few minor vocal ones dispersed within the rest, but as a whole my tics are motor tics.

When I was young I was a walking paradox. I adored attention and loved being in front of people, but at the same time I was dreadfully shy when it came to people I did not know very well. I would dance in the school talent show and not sweat it but I could not hold a conversation with another fourth grader for the life of me. This weird mix of feelings made having Tourette’s very difficult. I loved having people look at me, but when people looked at me because of how my face moved on its own accord I felt uncomfortable. It felt like the wrong kind of attention. I already struggled to fit in because of my inherent social anxiety and lack of friends, so feeling like something was fundamentally wrong with me made my social life and self-esteem pretty pathetic. I could not even control my own body. How was I supposed to blend in? Kids at church made fun of me for my tics. They imitated them and counted how many times I would tic per minute. It was a fun game for them, but I cannot describe how anxious and hurt it made me feel.

As happens to many children, my tics have subsided a bit with age. In fact, most people

in my new town do not even realize I have Tourette Syndrome. The tics are most visible when I am anxious, and they are far more manageable. I do not find myself frequently sporting sore muscles and joints as a result of ticking anymore. The tics still exist, but they are less frequent and less exhausting. I am pursuing acting as a profession. I am glad that I have grown to accept my condition for what it is. I have selected a career path that I am passionate about, and it happens to be a career which is very visible. People will be watching me, whether I am on stage or on screen or in an audition room. Yes, I have Tourette’s. Yes, I do have involuntary motor tics. But they do not significantly distract from the artistry of what I am performing. And they have shaped me into who I am. Would I be the same person if two boys did not count each tic for minutes on end? I probably would not. I am incredibly conscious of other people’s insecurities and disabilities. Would I be the same person writing this today had I not overheard the other cheerleaders whispering to each other about the weird throat-clearing noise I made? No, I would not. I make it a point not to talk about people like that. Would I be the same person if I did not have a peer ask me “What’s wrong with your face?” No.

Having Tourette Syndrome has afforded me skills and life lessons which are unique to the condition. I am coping with it every day, and I am succeeding. I no longer mind when people look at me. I am strong and can even explain what is happening if they would like. I have Tourette’ s. And it is visible. But it’s me.

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “My Life with Tourette Syndrome”

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!

Having Tourette Syndrome has impacted my life in so many ways. It has influenced the choices I’ve made and the people I’ve met. My experience with Tourette’s has helped shape me into the person I am today. I’m not ashamed of my Tourette’s (in fact, I’m almost proud of it), and I feel that it has helped make me a better person.

I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in the fifth grade, at the age of ten. I’ve suffered from vocal and motor tics since I was in the second grade. Neither I nor my parents understood what caused them, and my teachers and other students would often become frustrated with me. Even my own family would grow tired of my constant noise-making and movements. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Eventually, someone told my mother to look into Tourette Syndrome. I was finally diagnosed with Tourette’s in the fall of 2008.

Instead of letting my Tourette’s drag me down, I used my diagnosis as motivation to better myself. I began taking karate lessons later the same year after my diagnosis. In eighth grade, I decided to play football. It was a rough season, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Football gave me an outlet in which to channel my frustration. I was never a great athlete, but I worked hard, so by my senior year, I had earned a starting varsity spot on my high school’s football team.

In my junior year, I participated in a research study for a new Tourette’s medication. This was done at Overlook Hospital, in Summit, New Jersey, under the supervision of Dr. Roger Kurlan. The medicine worked well for me. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to be able to possibly help others with Tourette’s.

In conclusion, Tourette Syndrome is a part of my life. My experiences with Tourette’s have greatly contributed to the person that I am today. I’m not ashamed of my Tourette’s, instead I embrace it as part of who I am. I have never let my Tourette’s drag me down, and I hope to inspire others with Tourette’s to embrace it and use it as motivation to better themselves as well.

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “A Journey with Tourette Syndrome”

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!

JordanT

JordanT

Tourette Syndrome has played a significant role in my life ever since I was diagnosed in fifth grade. Initially, it did not pose much of a threat for me. I was still able to focus during school, which allowed me to continue my education and learning. I was grateful for that phenomenon, but it did not come without a caveat. Even though my facial tics were not very severe, I still developed a shyness and self-consciousness because of them. However, I was surrounded by a group of kind and accepting friends, which greatly alleviated my anxiety.

I was able to prosper throughout middle school with the support of my friends and family, but high school was a much different story. I am currently attending the Academy for Information Technology, a prestigious school dedicated to teaching students about the vast possibilities of business, information technology, and computer science. Unfortunately, I was the only student from my middle school who enrolled that year, so I was in a completely new environment. I was terrified at first, but I was able to overcome my fears and make new friends, just as friendly as the ones I had in middle school. The course work was much tougher than in middle school, but I was able to succeed in my academic endeavors. My facial tics were under control as well, so all was well in life.

My senior year of high school was a major turning point for me and my Tourette Syndrome. At the start of the year, I felt an immense weight on my shoulders because of all the new responsibilities I had to assume. With more demanding school work, the college application process, and my extracurricular activities, I felt swarmed with an enormous amount of pressure. And with the additional stress, the frequency of my facial tics skyrocketed. The first few weeks were probably the worst. During class and at home, I could barely keep my eyes open. Not because of a lack of sleep, but from incessant blinking, one of my most prominent facial tics. The warm summer weather only aggravated my symptoms. My self-consciousness also reemerged, as I was afraid people might start noticing my facial tics. I felt like I was hopeless, but I resolved to overcome this obstacle.

Senior year marked a new precedent for my Tourette Syndrome, but I gained a valuable trait from my facial tics as well. My tics were starting to impede my focus, so I knew I had to something or else my learning would suffer. One day after school, I went into deep contemplation and emerged with a strategy for alleviating my troubles. I realized my Tourette Syndrome was a medical condition, so I would not be able to just make it go away. Instead of trying to arduously suppress my facial tics, I decided to embrace my tics as a definitive part of me. Whenever I felt a sudden wave of facial tics about to occur, I would just let it wash over me and run its course. With this method of coping, I was able to maintain my focus and composure while doing my school work. It took some practice, but after a few weeks, I was back on track for success. My facial tics now seemed like involuntary actions, just like breathing or walking. With my new training, I acquired the virtue of patience, which has paid off time and again in school and life. I was confident in myself once again with inspired passion that I could overcome such an obstacle. Instead of seeing Tourette Syndrome as an adversary, I can now see it as a motivator to help me continually improve myself throughout life.

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Thank you, Tourette’s”

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!

SeanK

SeanK

The piercing frequency of my alarm clock shattered the barrier between an unconscious dream of mine and the cruel reality of Monday morning. With eyes half open and hair protruding in all directions, I made my way to the shower. As I flicked the light switch on in the bathroom, I stared at the mirror long enough to witness myself clench my left arm, throw my right arm to my side, and make a faint noise in my throat. Following these tics, I exposed to my mirror a gigantic smile; today was going to be a good day.

I have Tourette’s, and although it’s contrary to the above paragraph, I didn’t always embrace my tics. Learning to live with, accept, and at times even love my Tourette’s was a long, hard journey. I wouldn’t say I was ever depressed, though I was often frustrated. Not only was I dealing with the physical effects of Tourette’s, but also the psychological aspect. Any time I twitched, clenched my jaw, or made any faint noise in my throat, I felt anything but normal. Though the truth was that I was a teenager and with this title came normal teenager worries such as insecurity. Whenever someone asked me why I continuously did some movement with my body, I’d make up some stupid excuse then quickly change the subject. Though, it wasn’t until the summer of my junior year that everything changed for the better.

As the school year ended and summer got closer, I started to prepare my trek to Hardwick New Jersey where my friends and I decided to kick off our summer by volunteering as camp counselors at a Muscular Dystrophy Camp. The format of the camp is that each volunteer gets assigned a kid diagnosed with some form of muscular dystrophy, and we spend the week doing everything in our power to make it the best week of their lives. My camper’s name was Ethan, and although he was a little shy at first, we left the camp best of friends and even keep in touch to this day. From the beginning of camp, I sensed that Ethan’s muscular dystrophy, much like my Tourette’s, had him dealing with psychological effects. I did all I could to make him feel like he could talk to me about anything; that I would hear him out and be there for him.

One particular day Ethan was feeling especially frustrated due to the amount of medicine he had to take at breakfast and I immediately sensed this. After about ten minutes of silence, I said “Man I hate taking medicine everyday it’s so annoying.” I saw Ethan’s head perk up, and we had one of the most moving talks I’ve ever been a part of. I told Ethan about my Tourette’s and how everyone has something in their life that they struggle with; I told him it’s what makes us unique. I told him to never be ashamed of what makes you different because the toughest battles are given to the strongest soldiers. I didn’t know where my words were coming from, but I knew they were helping and that they were true. I didn’t sleep much that night, but rather stayed awake all night thinking about what I had said. I realized how much I needed to take my own advice, and vowed from that night on that I would no longer hide my insecurities but rather embrace them.

It was the camp that catalyzed this realization, but it was my Tourette’s that was trying to teach me this lesson all along. So, how has Tourette’s played a part in my life? It’s made me realize that it’s ok to be different and that instead of hiding our insecurities we should embrace them as things that make us wonderfully unique. Everyone has their insecurities, but the way that I now see it is that we can either let them rule our lives or we can embrace them and learn to love ourselves. Although it might sound odd, I am forever grateful for my Tourette’s; it has taught me to love and accept myself for who I am, and this lesson is priceless.