This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2013 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it! And here is my profile on the NJCTS website.
Though we are alike in countless ways, I never knew what it felt like to be the one on the ground. I never suffered the blows to my face or the shoes to my ribs. Brian knew, and he knew better than he deserved.
It was evident since the day I met Brian in sixth grade that he endured a rough life of Tourette. He struggled enough as it was, weighing more than 200 pounds in just the sixth grade. Being large, twitching uncontrollably and uttering arbitrary noises were all traits that the typical sixth-grader did not have.
Brian had no choice as to having these traits, and neither did I. However, unlike Brian, I appeared more normal to all who knew me. No, I was not overweight. No, I did not yell or shriek at random. However, when I was 6 years old, I began to exhibit some atypical behaviors.
My parents decided that what I was doing was not normal. After a visit with a neurologist, I was diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and an involuntary tic disorder. Therapy failed to help. Relaxation techniques proved disastrous and worsened my tics. There was not a single person out there who knew what I was experiencing, and I felt trapped.
When I was old enough to understand my disorders, I vowed never to let them get in the way of my life. Naturally, I was afraid that I would never make it. I constantly felt self-conscious as my body twitched without my permission.
For 11 years, I have struggled each day with my tic disorder and OCD. The severity of my disorders has decreased over the years, though they stubbornly persist. I can count the number of times I have tried to explain my disorders to people on just one of my hands. Not a single person has understood and been able to relate to me.
To overcome an obstacle as big as mine has been a tremendous — but far from impossible — struggle. People doubt me when I tell them the type of person that I truly am. How can a good-looking young man ranked in the top five of his class with a promising future in athletics have Tourette?
Yes, life with Tourette is exhausting every minute of the day. It is embarrassing to the point of tears. It is constantly painful and bothersome. However, what having Tourette has taught me is something that I could not have learned from anything or anyone else.
I have learned through my personal experiences that one must make the best of what he or she is given in life. Trying to change oneself and be someone that he or she is not might seem easier, but if one can master his or her own life impediments, success is evident.
When I saved Brian that day from the kicks and torture, I knew that what I had done was right. Brian sat minding his own business in gym class during our first year of high school. A group of four boys began to torment Brian, making fun of his Tourette. The class looked on with little care, so I took action and stepped in.
I understood exactly what Brian was going through, and though he did not know this, I felt the need to help him out. It was a shock for my class to find out that Brian and I shared a similar trait. However, I realized that giving in to my fear of people knowing about my disorders to help another person was the right thing to do.
Brian was a loner by choice, but the feeling that I received in my heart when Brian thanked me will forever be unparalleled. I am thankful for my life with Tourette Syndrome and will never medicate myself no matter how unbearable and invasive my tics become.
I have found great success in using my disorder to propel myself through struggles in life, as well as to help others. In saying this, Tourette Syndrome has truly motivated me to be the best that I can be and has definitely helped me in my path through life.
I was recruited by multiple college and universities for my athletic ability, and I ultimately have chosen to attend Rowan University, where I will be playing basketball and studying biology through the honors concentration. I have hopes of continuing on to graduate school and someday to work for the federal government investigating biological terrorism.
I plan on continuing to help others with Tourette and would love to speak one day on behalf of my success to demonstrate that life with Tourette doesn’t have to be a burden.