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!
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.