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2013 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “My Battle for Confidence”

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.

McCarthy, ConorThere is nothing that upsets me more in life than when someone gets upset with someone who is going through something very stressful just because they have to put up with that person’s stress.

This seemed to always be the case with my Tourette Syndrome, which started up when I was about 10. I’ll never forget it. The scariest part about having Tourette is when it first starts affecting you. Before I knew what Tourette was, I would feel the urge to curse. My parents would get very mad at me. I didn’t know what else to blame it on besides myself.

When I was diagnosed with Tourette, it made me feel a little better, not not quite. People stared, and I felt alienated. I always had to leave the classroom at school, and I didn’t feel like a normal kid. At that point, I didn’t try as much. I didn’t see the sense in it if my Tourette wouldn’t allow me to perform my work most of the time.

In fifth grade, I left my hometown school district for one for kids with special needs. I was a little nervous at first, but I soon felt I finally fit in somewhere. The kids there weren’t strange or mean. They were just people that had to go through similar things that I had to. I made a lot of friends, and I no longer felt alienated by other kids. We went over each other’s houses and even got into a little bit of harmless trouble once in a while.

I finally realized that I was just the same as every other kid.

After eighth grade, I returned to my hometown high school, feeling a bit nervous. However, I soon found out that everyone had matured. They were a lot nicer and very understanding. No one made fun of me. There were the occasional people who didn’t understand and maybe started a bit, but at that point I didn’t care much. I felt a lot more confident at that point.

Unfortunately, by the end of freshman year my Tourette grew very bad. It became so bad, in fact, that sometimes I could barely stand or hold a drinking glass. I spent most of the time in the house because I didn’t have the courage to leave. I was no longer in school because I just couldn’t function properly.

After going to numerous doctors and trying many medications, we finally settled on one idea: A doctor told us about this hospital in Wisconsin that tries a new type of therapy. Instead of telling you to let tics out, they tell you to hold them in and use tricks to make them go away. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

My parents said that if this didn’t work, they would do whatever else it took to make me feel better. Yet something told me that if they were willing to put so much time and money into something that hasn’t been proven medically to work yet, we might have been running out of options.

That summer, my parents drove me to Wisconsin, where I stayed for 10 weeks. I hated it. I never lived on my own before. I already began to miss my friends, family and dog. It was dreadful to think of a summer being wasted in a hospital when I could be at the beach. In a few days, I went to the doctor in charge of the program and demanded to leave. I did not want to stay there.

He convinced me otherwise. He made me realize that my family really wanted me to get better. They were counting on me. It started to become a lot nicer then. I made a great amount of friends. We also did a wide array of fun activities on the weekends such as camping, going to the zoo, and we even explored a cave in a nearby park.

When I returned, it was a bit difficult to adjust at first. However, after a while I started to go a week at a time without even having one tic. My family was proud of me, and I was proud of myself. I was doing well in school, and my grades were good.

The greatest affected feeling you have when you have Tourette is confidence. Having Tourette can make you lose a huge amount of confidence. Many people say you should simply encourage yourself and make yourself feel more confident. What that might be true, I say that on top of that, why not achieve your goals to gain confidence?

When my Tourette got me down, I didn’t just sit there and take it, nor did I try to simply do nothing and look on the brighter side of things. I fought back and gave myself a brighter future. Even though this is a great thing for people with Tourette to achieve, everyone should be able to do this. Don’t sit around waiting for your life to get better. Make it better.

ConorM

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