Grace was a second place winner of a 2021 NJCTS Scholarship Award.
This was the essay she included with her application.
When I first sat down to type this essay, I had a hard time figuring out what exactly to write. In all honesty, I have spent the majority of my life trying to pretend like my diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome was not real. I never wanted to talk about my tics to family or friends, I absolutely hated when my mom insisted on check-ins with a neurologist, and I despised my therapist whenever the subject was brought up during our weekly conversations. ! never wanted to be that kid everyone celebrated for living with a disorder they had no choice to have. All I wanted was to be the same as everyone else, and never to be singled out purely because I squeak when I get excited.
But, as you may have noticed, I decided to write this essay. That must mean I had some grand revelation about my identity as a youth living with a tic disorder, right? Not necessarily. I still struggle with the fact that l am different from my friends. I still have not come to terms with the fact that my nerves act without my consent But maybe that is what I was meant to write about.
As I progress through life, I see in the media all of these articles and interviews about people who have overcome their disabilities and want to spend their life inspiring others; and I am happy for them. I genuinely am. I want to be them, as they seem so confident in their abilities and their place in the world. Yet, I can not say I am mentally ready to be one of those people. How can I inspire others, when I can not come to terms with myself? In short I am not writing this essay to encourage others, I feel that would be hypocritical of me. Instead, I am choosing to write about the journey to acceptance, as that is a trek I am still taking. Have I progressed? Of course. But I am nowhere near the end of that trail.
From time to time I will reflect inward and ask myself “Why do I care so much?”. I feel the truth is I feel that l have had no one in my personal life l could relate to. Everyone I grew up with were lucky enough, at least to my knowledge, to not be diagnosed with a lifelong condition.
The people around me, despite loving me with my flaws, never were able to see how I truly felt This separation in understanding was the beginning of my denial.
It was not until many years later that I was even able to begin this current journey towards acceptance, and to that I thank social media. I could fill pages upon pages gushing over the amazing people I have met, but the short version of the story is I found people who were like me. Some had Tourette’s and some did not, but we were all able to relate to one thing: we were born with traits we could not control. For the first time since my diagnosis, l felt somewhat comfortable with myself. Was I fully ready to put myself out there and begin advocating? No, but what I do know is that in the moments where I share an lnstagram exchange with one friend or I am in a Discord call with another, I feel understood. I appreciate everyone in my life for their acceptance of who I am, but it really does impact me on a different level when I am understood.
One day I do hope that I can be that “someone” who inspires others. l want to be someone others can look up to and find comfort in. But for now, I am happy with where I am on my journey to self-acceptance. Sure there will be continuous rocks on the trail, but the more I come to terms with the fact that they are simply just going to be a part of my journey, the easier they will be to overcome.