This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2015 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!
I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when I was seven years old. At that age, it did not bother me much, and was not severe. It did not even cross my mind often at all. As I grew up, in my little, close-knit town of Lyndhurst, the tics did increase in severity. Naturally it started to bother me more and more as time passed by. In Lyndhurst, everyone seems to know each other and is friendly towards one another. This fortunately ended up benefiting me when it came to my TS. In elementary school, I went to class with the same thirty kids every day of every school year. I was very much respected by all of my teachers, classmates, and coaches as well. I lived a happy childhood with great friends who I loved so much, many of whom I am still friends with today. As I look back, I think about what an amazing,happy life I’ve had. I think about how appreciative I am, because I have lived this incredible, happy life that I am so grateful despite having TS.
This past year, I have come to realize that the best philosophy that any person with Tourette’s could have is that it does not define you. Little did I know that this was subconsciously my mentality throughout my whole life. It took me a few years to actually build up the courage to tell people about my disorder when they had asked about it. Before that, when people unknowingly asked about my tics, I would act as if nothing happened. Even then, it did not occur to me that the disorder I had was seen as something that stifled children from living a normal, happy life. I kept being myself and it worked. I acted as if there really was nothing wrong with me, because that was how I wanted to be viewed by others. I really was a normal kid who played sports, hung out with his friends as often as possible, and received excellent grades. Everything else in my life followed suit.
As I anxiously began high school, I told myself to act like I always had been. Fortunately, this was an extremely beneficial plan of action. Although I did make obvious screeching sounds and neck movements in the middle of class, my peers did not seem to mind much. I remained the kind, respectful, student and friend that everyone was fond of. My younger cousin also had tics, which caused me to start thinking about my own case. It became clear that since I knew I was a normal person, I could easily be one. I could even be extraordinary.
Medication was necessary due to the severity of my tics for quite some time. It made me very drowsy, and my mind constantly foggy. One summer, I reduced the dosage to help myself feel more alive and energetic. I then had to increase the dose again when my tics escalated. Eventually, with the help of my parents and neurologist, I slowly began to decrease the amount of medicine I was taking. In due time, I was completely medicine free. Soon, I started to become more energetic, as I hoped I would. I was loving life. The best part was my tics had barely gotten worse!
Over these past few months, with the new found gift of a clear, open mind, I have been thinking a lot about this topic. I realize that the best way to live with TS, is to act like it doesn’t even exist. This is what I have done for the majority of my life, and it could not have turned out better. I have never missed honor roll, I am a three year varsity baseball player and captain, have so many friends who I wouldn’t trade for anything, a caring family, and an incredible girlfriend who won homecoming queen along side me winning king. It is more than possible for people with this disorder to be as people without it. In fact, they can be extraordinary. Tourette Syndrome is not a definition. It is not who I am. I am Nolan, and that has worked wonderfully for me.