2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “That’s Life”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest.

TommyL

When I was twelve years old, I was sitting in the lunch room, and in an instant, the school went into lockdown. For most students this is not a serious issue. They stay quiet and out of sight. For me, lockdowns are a challenge because I have Tourette Syndrome (TS), a disorder characterized by involuntary movements and sounds called tics. While the rest of the cafeteria was quiet, I couldn’t help but involuntarily yelp and twitch my neck. It felt as though the eyes of the world were glaring at me with their ears wide open to the noises I was making. I was not expecting the comment that would hurt worse than the constant staring and whispers from that school year. This unlikely offender was a quiet, but kind person who sat in front of me and asked, “Why are you doing that? What’s wrong with you? Someone should put you in a cage or something!” It was at that moment that I knew that I had to speak out about Tourette Syndrome and advocate for myself.

About a month later, a person from the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome and
Associated Disorders, Inc., came to my school and educated my peers about TS. During both presentations I stood up and stated that I had TS and I deserved respect. Through speaking out at the presentation, I became more confident and unafraid to say I have TS. In a span of six months, I went from being bullied, and afraid to feeling confident and free to be me. I learned through that entire experience that I wanted to be the one up in front of a crowd helping kids with TS come out of their shells. I later became a National Youth Ambassador and Patient Educator for Tourette Syndrome. I continued on to speak at schools, hospitals, and universities. My most rewarding experiences were when I spoke to children with TS and their peers.

Out of the adversity I have faced, I have learned to be resilient. I have developed thick
skin that has made every comment and stare bounce right off. I have learned to get back up after each defeat and push through to every victory. Throughout every tough event in life, I have turned to music to get through them. It is a known phenomenon that people with TS don’t tic while performing. Music is the reason that I wake up at 5:00 every morning to be at my before school choir class. Throughout my life I have had two passions: music and Tourette Syndrome. It is my hope to combine them into a career in music therapy. I hope to do research to figure out the correlation between the reprieve from tics and music in Tourette Syndrome patients. Hopefully, one day I will come up with a viable way to treat people with TS through music.

Through my past experiences I have learned to see each challenge as a gift. If I didn’t go through what I have in life, I wouldn’t be me or have done half the things I’ve accomplished over the years. My past experiences are what made me who I am today, and I wouldn’t change any part of them. They are what gave me the drive to be successful and create a positive change in the world. I will meet each new challenge and goal with the same intensity. I will continue to be resilient, because no matter what I do in life there will be staring, comments, and people who say I won’t succeed. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that people say many things, but they aren’t always right. Someday I will be living proof that nothing, and no one, will stop me from accomplishing my goals in life.

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Tourette Syndrome will always be a part of me”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest.

Trevor S.

At ten years old, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and it has had an impact on my life at first. Being so young, I did not really understand what Tourette Syndrome was, or what I was diagnosed with. It made it a little difficult to communicate with friends and let them know exactly what I was doing or why I ticced. One of the things that I wanted to do when I grew up was to learn more about Tourette Syndrome so I would learn more about me as a person. I moved to New Jersey two days before the start of my freshmen year. At the start of junior year, my mom found out about the [NJCTS Tim Howard Leadership] academy and it was an awesome experience. It helped me learned more about myself as I learned a lot more about TS than I previously had. The time I had at the academy left me feeling great that I finally understood who I was and I could explain to people about TS. I explained what TS was to my friends who were curious and I ended up becoming a youth advocate for TS. During the first couple months of school, I attended a presentation and answered questions for the students about TS. I have also attended two TS walks. I have recently been accepted to the academy again and look forward to attending it. Tourette Syndrome has had such an impact on my life that I do not believe I can imagine my life any other way. My letter for college was about Tourette Syndrome and how it had affected my life. I have been accepted into all but one of my colleges and have received the presidential scholarship at every university. Tourette Syndrome is, and will always be a part of me. It does make certain things interesting such as school and sports but it invites me to see new things. In school, I do well and I get to have extra times on my tests when it is needed. While there are some negatives, the positives outweigh the few negatives by a lot. I have made many new friends through the academy and other places and my knowledge in general has increased.

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Tourette Syndrome and its Lasting Impact on Me”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest. 

Daniel O.

I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at 6 years old. I was very scared when I first found out I had some rare disease but my mom made me feel better about the condition that I had because she would educate me about why my body was doing the things it was doing. I started to become more aware of my tics, later on in my diagnosis I found out about some specific learning disabilities I had, and began to develop anxiety issues.

Tics have waxed and waned my whole life but thankfully for me, my tics weren’t as noticeable compared to some other children who had Tourette Syndrome growing up. Thanks to this, I was never really subject to bullying. However, the types of tics that I had such as shoulder shrugs, rapid blinking, joint popping, and muscle flexing takes a toll on my body and can leave my back in pain on days where I tic a lot. Recently I’ve learned to cope with these tics and use conditioned response therapy to help relieve them.

I am fluent in many subjects that don’t require much math skill such as language arts, woodshop, and many other fields. I’m a creative person but I feel as if I my creativity and knowledge capacity is limited due to my learning disabilities involving math. It is hard for me to stay focused on a math problem and when doing many math problems I become anxious and overwhelmed. Learning math is hard for me as well because I will learn about certain types of problems or theories and we’ll just barely grasp it. When we move on to different theories, I sometimes forget what I learned before making it more difficult to learn new problems. I’m lucky enough to have a tutor in my school who I am close with who helps me when I struggle with math.

Not until quite recently have I become aware of my anxiety issues. I tend to get overworked on things and tasks that many people find normal, but my brain blows it out of proportion. This can cause me to rethink a lot of decisions I make as well as a sense of self-doubt. This ties in with my learning disabilities and can aggravate my tics.

Tourette Syndrome will always have a lasting impact on me, when I go to college, when I get married, and when I have kids. My tics will still be there, my learning disabilities will be there, and my anxiety will be there as well. I need as much support as possible getting into college so I may become successful and independent so one day I can get married and have kids.

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Life’s a Twitch”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest.

Anna B.

One of my all time favorite quotes is by Scott Hamilton, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” From my own experience, I can honestly say this is very true. Life with Tourette is very unpredictable and sometimes you just have to learn to roll with the punches. I am not always the best at this, according to my parents my attitude is, “less than awesome.” At least it used to be, with age and acceptance it has improved tremendously.  

As a twelve year old who’s tics were becoming more obvious by the day, I decided to make a difference. I wasn’t going to let my so called ‘disability’ hold me back. I knew without explaining myself the kids at school were going to make fun of me because they didn’t understand. That’s why I did research and wrote my own speech to present. If the kids are uneducated and pick on me it’s just because they don’t understand, but if they understand and still are unwilling to accept me then that’s their problem. I gave my very first speech to my class in the sixth grade which coincidentally was also the day I got my diagnoses. All the positive reactions empowered me. During my research I came across the National Tourette Syndrome Association’s Youth Ambassador Training program in Washington, DC, and the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS). I was trained to be an advocate for TS and given a presentation to use in schools. I began presenting professionally to small classrooms but it wasn’t until I became involved with NJCTS that I really began making a difference. I attended the first patient center education training and another training on how to present in classrooms. My sophomore year of high school I spoke to around 50 doctors and other medical professionals about Tourette. Every presentation I did gave me a little boost of confidence, which for a shy kid was life changing.

Though my transition through it all seemed like smooth sailing was far from it. To put it gently, freshman year I was a hot mess. I had developed coprolalia and let it get the better of me. My bad attitude really was crippling. I focused on what was going wrong instead of focusing on how I could use it to my advantage. [NJCTS Family Retreat Weekend at] Camp Bernie changed that for me. I made amazing friends who I am actually talking to as a write this four years later. Hearing their experiences and sharing coping techniques was huge for me. Being in a place where my differences were not only accepted, but embraced as well, was utterly life changing. Steven, a teacher who also struggles with coprolalia, made me realize that even if I didn’t improve I could still be successful and teach special education as well. Once I was able to come to terms with my Tourette I was able to help others do the same.  

Now I am a happy, successful, eighteen year old pursuing my dreams and doing my best to empower those around me to do the same. My favorite example of this was a presentation I did a few years back. A third boy was being bullied for his TS so I did a presentation at his school. After the presentation, he came up to me and said, “Thank you, I think I’m going to have friends now.” It all starts with a good attitude and self acceptance.

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “My Tourette’s, My Advantage”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest.

Tim Howard, an amazing athlete playing Premier Soccer and two-time representative in the World cup. He defines himself as a player who happens to have Tourette. We have this in common. No, I am not a professional soccer player, but I am a successful student, passionate person, and someone who has compassion for everyone beyond belief, who happens to have Tourette. Many view my Tourette as a disability. I, on the other hand strongly believe it is to my advantage. The person who I see in the mirror everyday is not the once shy kid who was afraid to speak out. I am someone who is not afraid to advocate or my condition, someone who smiles at the sight of a challenge, someone whose ambition is so high that whatever my life has to throw at me I can easily pick myself up, dust off my shoulder and trek forward. I already have one challenge completed: not let my Tourette control me.

I was diagnosed with TS at seven years old, and Howard was one of many who my dad told me about who was very successful in various fields of life that had Tourette. It was great to have these examples when I was forced to resolve awkward questions from peers and the occasional bullying in school. Even teachers would make comments about the unusual things I would do in the classroom. I was very shy about my tics and never spoke out to advocate for my condition. As I look back to who I was then, and who I became today I realized that the NJCTS Tim Howard Leadership Academy changed me. Those three weekends showed me that I don’t have to hide, and I should be proud of who I am.

During my first year at the Academy, my confidence boosted tremendously. I was able to talk about my tics in a light-hearted fashion and I also started to feel a sense of pride about having Tourette. I no longer view Tourette as a disability because it makes me who I am today. Throughout the academy many professionals in the medical field helped me to improve myself with the condition I have. With this new information, I was able to teach important lessons and advocate for others at the end of my third year. The coaches and others who attended the academy made me a better person today by teaching me how to advocate for myself. They shared stories with me in meetings which allowed me to share my story, thus shaping me into the person who is not afraid to speak out and advocate for our “advantage”. The Tim Howard Leadership Academy is near and dear to my heart. This academy was the first time I was able to express my true self in front of newly made friends, and not to be embarrassed about my condition. It was a great opportunity to let out my inner “Noah” without the fear of rejection and abnormalcy to people who go through similar situations in their life.

I truly believe that my Tourette has guided me to become a person who not only could defy expectations but to accomplish triumphs I never expected to complete. Who would have thought a kid with a so-called “disability” could get into every school they applied to and have so many options to better their future. I would encourage people with Tourette or other “advantages” to speak out, to let the world know that we can do anything we set our mind to. Yes it might be a struggle, but that just means we will work 10 times harder than an average person. Whatever my future is – a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher – I know that with my little buddy by my side (Tourette) we can defy the odds and do anything. Now I might not be the greatest athlete or the most brilliant student but I am who I am. The condition called Tourette will be a part of me for my entire life but it will not be a limitation. I cannot control how people view me. can only control how I view myself.

 

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Growing Up with Tourette”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest.

Tess K.

Eleven years ago: I sit, legs crossed, looking down at the brightly colored shapes and
letters covering the carpet below me. I’m in my kindergarten classroom. The teacher walks through the door and abruptly stops. “Tess, are you crying again?” I squeeze my eyes shut and desperately attempt to stop the tears. My teacher stares at me. She’s disappointed, I can tell. “Do I need to call your parents again to take you home?” I nod and get up to follow her out of my classroom.

Getting home always felt good, like I was finally in a place where I could be me. My six year old self never questioned why I felt so out of place; I would just cry in my room because something felt fundamentally wrong. Five months after kindergarten began, I finally realized why. I began to hear countless adults tell me, “You have Tourette Syndrome which means you will experience some movements and sounds that you won’t be able to control, but don’t worry, you’re ok.” However, no matter how many times I heard these words and saw the encouraging smiles that so often came with that sentence, I was still scared. I wondered why I couldn’t finish a sentence without uncontrollably sniffing, or why I couldn’t stop blinking. I didn’t want to do these things, and I hated that I wasn’t in control of my body. I barely understood what I had been diagnosed with, and the unknown terrified me.

For six years, I hid my Tourette. I only told my closest friends and family, and I relied on my parents to explain my situation to anyone else. My coping mechanisms were successful, but nevertheless untruthful. I would lie about my Tourette, telling people I just had a cold or there was something in my eye. Every time I made another excuse I felt guilty about hiding who I really was. My life was good, but I still lacked the necessary skills to advocate for myself and others with Tourette.

Five years ago: I stand in my synagogue, pacing back and forth, holding a speech, my speech, tightly in my hands. I see people file into the room. I start to shake, doubting myself and the decision I have made. Hello everyone, my name is Tess. I’m in 7th grade, and I’m here to talk to you today about a neurological condition I have, called Tourette Syndrome. I think to myself: Can I really say these words and can I say them with confidence? I walk up to the front of the room. I take a deep breath, calming my body and mind. I smile and begin. I hear my voice, a strong powerful voice I barely recognize. I think: Is this really me? Am I really doing this? I am.

Present Day: I sometimes recall memories of when I gave my first talk. It’s hard to even
remember that scared little girl I used to be. From the moment I finished that speech I knew I was not that child anymore. Now I proudly advocate for my disorder and I am not embarrassed about who I am. I want to become a voice for kids who haven’t found theirs yet. I present in classrooms to students with Tourette so they don’t feel the need to hide their disorder in school. I present in hospitals to doctors to share my personal struggles and story. I am finally comfortable in my own skin.

The Future: Educating others and explaining how important it is to accept one another is something I will always be passionate about. I’ve made it my goal to publicly speak about Tourette whenever I can. I want to continue doing this throughout my life. I will always make it my mission to share as much knowledge about Tourette as I possibly can, because then hopefully someday others will too.

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “What It’s Like to Be Me”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

Rachel M.

I have Tourette but Tourette does not have me. I have told myself this from day one, when I was diagnosed at 5 years old with Tourette Syndrome. It is a part of me and I let it help describe what kind of person I am. I feel like I am stronger because I have had to deal with this; more aware that I have seen other people just like me and some even worse; smarter because I now know how to deal with my disorder and how to figure out my goals. There are times when it gets rough but I learn from those times; how to handle my body differently; how to distract myself so I do not hurt myself; how to advocate for myself and how to make up work quickly at school; how to calm myself down. Things that help with my tics, are things like, petting an animal, crafting something (like a wreath), playing games on my phone, playing on my laptop, hanging with my friends, getting a hug, and just concentrating on something for a while. Since there is no specific medicine to cure Tourette, it has been experiments from day one. Try this, and try that. It gets frustrating when things do not work and it is relieving when medicines decide to help. And sometimes, the side effects from the medicine were not worth it. It was actually better to be ticcing than to be on a medicine that made me gain tons of weight, or have changes in my hormones, or get a huge permanent birthmark. From first grade through middle school, I would stand in front of my class and advocate for myself; telling my classmates about my disorder. I loved hearing when they had questions. It showed that they wanted to understand more about my condition and more about me. There were some kids that were not so nice, but everyone has those kids, regardless of if you have a disorder or not. I just kept myself away from those kids and kept moving forward. In high school, all the bullying magically stopped. It was probably because I completely switched school districts. But, I do have to admit that there were times where those kids got to me; made me wonder why I was not born “normal”. But in reality, there is no normal. You can be, whoever you want to be in life. I learned not to be the person that everyone wants you to be, but be the person that you want to be. Be a person that satisfies you. Do not let anyone stand in your way just because you have a disorder or you have acne, or you are not as smart as some of the other kids. That is just you. You are special in your own way. I have learned that throughout my years of dealing with this disorder, I cannot stop it. I could not prevent it. I was born with it. Just like people are born with blue eyes or freckles. Be who you want to be in life. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back. I am living the life I want to live. I am making something of myself. I am going to succeed. For a while, I let my tics overtake me. And I was just getting lower and lower. I did not know if they would ever let up and stop. Finally my friends told me to hold my head high again and push through. So I did. And yes it was hard. But I succeeded. Maybe I will be able to tell more people about my disorder, the older I get. Maybe I can learn to advocate for myself better so that I can create a club. Maybe I can meet more people with similar or even the same disorder and we can discuss our problems and how we overcame them.

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “I have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s doesn’t have me”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest.

PatrickM.

“I have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s doesn’t have me” is a quote that I have lived my life around. Nine years ago, when I was eight years old I was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. I’ve had to live with this disorder for the majority of my life now, and I’m proud to say that I’ve overcome it and persevered through the struggles it brought. Most importantly, I haven’t let it get in the way of me being successful, well rounded, and involved in my life.

One special thing about me is that I am an extremely loving and caring person that will always put others first before I think about myself. I am involved in the TOPS soccer program, where you have a buddy with special needs that you play soccer with on Saturday mornings. My buddy Justin was very important to me. I ended up becoming very close to him and I couldn’t wait to see him every weekend. I am also in the Key club at my school where I do a lot of volunteer work to help various causes and people. Out of all the volunteer work I’ve done, one of the standout favorites of mine that I’ve participated in was Letters to Santa. I love children so this was especially fun for me. For this event I stayed after school numerous days and acted as Santa, replying to children’s letters they wrote to Santa.

Something else about me is how I haven’t let Tourette’s stop me from getting involved. In my school I am in many clubs such as DECA, Math league, Science League, and Key Club, all of these in which I participate in heavily. I was also on the soccer team in high school and this taught me many things about teamwork and being a leader. This eventually led to me being nominated by my coach to participate in the Sophomore Leadership Academy. This was a full day event where kids who showed leadership qualities were nominated by their teachers/ coaches and gathered together to be taught how to be better leaders. I was extremely honored and humbled to receive this nomination and I will continue to show the leadership qualities I have while attending Saint Joseph’s University.

Another thing that I am extremely proud of is my ability to excel academically while dealing with my Tourette’s. Throughout my four years of high school I have made Honor Roll or Superintendents List consistently. I am also currently a part of the National Honor Society. I attribute this success to my hard work ethic. I am an extremely hard worker and always give 110% in every task that I take on. My hard work also helps me during my job which is working at Visalli’s Farm Market. Working at a farmer’s market can sometimes be tough, especially during the summer in the scorching heat when I’m out in the fields. However, I always give it my all no matter the circumstance. I plan to bring my hard working attitude along with me to Saint Joseph’s University and to contribute wherever I can.

I will continue to persevere and be successful in my life while battling and beating Tourette’s. So far in my life I haven’t let this disorder hold me back from participating in many different activities and I will continue that trend at Saint Joseph’s University.

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “How Tourette Syndrome has Played a Role in My Life”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest.

DavidC

A major obstacle I had to overcome, and I still deal with, is having Tourette Syndrome. When I started sixth grade, my parents noticed the twitches and grunts continuously emitting from my eyes, mouth and arms, when I watched television. I knew something was wrong long before, but never said anything. I would be in class and my tics annoyed and worried classmates who sat near me. “Is that you?” they would ask. For a long time, I was self-conscious of my actions and hated how there was nothing I could do to stop it. When school got harder, the tics got worse. I also had trouble reading passages in textbooks. My eye doctor said my right eye was weaker than my left, so I had a delayed sensory. I compensated for this by re-reading passages until I understood the text. My doctor said what should have taken 30 minutes to read, would take me up to two hours. It made sense to me, because I studied for long periods of time at home, and often went for extra help before, during and after school. It wasn’t until my junior year that my parents had me classified. The designation allowed me to get extra time for tests and other support. I’m proud that despite the Tourrette, I took AP and High Honors classes and was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. I was able to overcome this disability with sheer will and support from my family, teachers, and friends.

Having a steady hand is crucial in a drawing, but I also know that doing something I enjoy limits the impact of my Tourettes. It’s amazing, but, when I’m drawing I never experience tics. I love to draw and I love creating art. I want to be able to work more with both of those passions and become an animator.

As a child, I loved watching cartoons. That is how my passion for animation and the arts started. I have found what I want to do and that is to become an animator for a major studio or television network and create my own cartoon series. Even with my disorder and my late start in art, I was still able to apply, and get to accepted, to three amazing art schools. They are Ringling College of Art and Design, Savannah College of Art and Design and California College of the Arts. I still have not decided yet where I would like to go, but I know the disorder will still be there. However I will be there too fighting everyday to make sure my dreams can come true and that I can achieve whatever I want. I did it before with my grades in middle school and high school, and I will do it again in college and in the future when I do become an animator. No matter where I end up, my faith makes me confident that I will find success.

 

2017 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “The Imaginator”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2017 Youth Scholarship Award contest.

MichaelP

It was Halloween season and the teacher handed out gigantic Goosebumps posters. Without warning, they exploded into a creature made from green ooze, multiplying, contaminating, and encroaching the whole school. The creature splattered out like syrup that someone had microwaved. Its mere presence made me falter, go numb, and want to scream. Terrified and alone, I was surrounded by classmates who were now infected by a horrific parasitic slime. I hid under a desk to protect myself.

For months, this surreal episode haunted me in school every day. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and General Anxiety Disorder. My motor tics were both involuntary and compulsive. I also created mental compulsions in my imagination to combat anything ‘bad’ to keep me safe: First, I focused on my defense, using my mind to create an energy shield all around me. I then built up my offense: I kept billowing imaginary fire from my body to blast and obliterate the green slime until it burned up into clear smoke.

I had to be home-schooled for a year before returning to middle school. At one point, I wondered exactly how long I would live with these disorders. With the support of many people, I slowly gained better control of my tics and compulsions. I was gradually integrated academically and socially. I learned to control my ‘imagination’, to bend it to my will, and master it instead of letting it run wild. It was no longer a curse; it was a blessing. I gradually developed the ability to harness the power of my imagination to help me face my circumstances and view my world in new and unique perspectives.

When I had few friends, I created my own friends and various worlds in my mind.  These friends were different versions of me: a hero, an explorer, a swimmer – all different types of characters with their own personalities.  They shared with me their stories and aspirations. They whipped me back into shape when I needed some tough love. They reassured me it was cool to wear “socks with Crocs”, and honorable to stand up for a friend being mocked. I was determined to be an independent thinker who does not follow the masses or seek approval from my peers.

Nowadays, I rarely need to purge my fears with imaginary fire. I no longer need the crutch of my imaginary friends. My imagination has become my arsenal of inspiration. During swim races, I create vivid images of a world where water becomes air, pierced through by my wings as I fly through the air like a falcon. Other times, I become a jet fighter flying over the Pacific, touching down on an aircraft carrier. Each time I finish the race into the wall, it is like my wheels slamming upon the metal deck of the carrier as I screech to a halt. When I study Chinese characters, the lines move, forms bend, and shapes dissolve to reappear in my mind as pictograms that the characters once originated from. The pictograms become animated images. The Chinese characters literally become characters with dialogues and actions in a story.

The images and stories in my customized universe, created by my ever-active imagination, have become the source of my strength and my vision. They encourage me to overcome the impossible and inspire me to reach beyond the seeable and the thinkable. The characters and creatures are akin to my children; they are my legacy. I have a spot for every one of them in this technological age of virtual worlds and merged reality, where anything is possible in video games and digital animation. I dream of bringing them to life and turning their stories and their worlds into stunning, exciting, and unique sensory adventures.

As I reflect on my TS and OCD experience, it’s hard to believe I was that fragile kid and how far I have traveled in this journey. Through force of will and discipline, and with the support of many people, I steadily overcame my adversity. I have learned to face down my fears and stand up to negativity. I am more confident with who I am, and more compassionate towards other people’s unique situations. Since my symptoms never truly disappear, they are daily reminders to keep fighting. Working extra hard and advocating for myself, I have come to terms with who I am. I look forward to a bright future.