Noelle was a winner of a 2022 NJCTS Scholarship Award.
This was the essay she included with her application.
I was about eight years old when I was first diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS). I didn’t quite know what it was at that time, nor did I think to realize the type of impact it might play on my life. What I did know was that my body was experiencing feelings and movement it had never before. Over the years, I have experienced many different types of tics, all being motor. The main two tics that have been with me since my diagnosis is a nose twitch and some variation of a neck roll/thrust.
Prior to my diagnosis, every once in a while, I would have these extreme tantrums; most times stemming from the littlest things. Anger, rage, sadness, and anxiety were the emotions that poured out of me for reasons that I could not w1derstand. All I remember is being mad at the world and myself. During these “tantrums” my body would ache in places like behind my neck and the back of my knees. Eventually learning more about my Tourette diagnosis and its comorbidities, these tantrums began to make sense. By the 7th grade I was officially diagnosed with OCD and anxiety. Still though, for as far as I had come and as much as I had learned about TS tried to ignore my diagnosis, pretending my life had not changed.
My mindset towards my diagnosis started to shift, however, once I got to high school. I began to realize the unique perspective having TS gives me, and the impact I can have on others. One instance stands out in particular. It was towards the end of my freshman year of high school and I was in my first period graphic design class. A bunch of my friends and I were sitting in the homeroom and, somehow, the topic of mental health was brought up. One of my friend was discussing one of her struggles with mental health when I brought up the fact that I have Tourette Syndrome. None of my friends believed me at first. I was shocked! It wasn’t until I explained the extent of my diagnosis that they believed me. Talking about my diagnosis also led some of my other friends to talk about their own personal struggles. Having this conversation made me realize the type of impact my voice has as someone with TS can have on others.
My mindset continued to change into the summer of 2020. When I attended the Tim
Howard Leadership Academy). Attending the academy was the first time that I was able to interact with peers who have also been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Not only was it an amazing experience, I was able to learn about some of the amazing things my peers are doing within the TS community. Personally, l was able to learn how to further advocate for myself and for the TS community, something l never thought I was capable of.
In my daily life, Tourette Syndrome has helped me push myself harder both in the classroom and on the field. As a naturally fierce competitor, I always like to push myself to do my very best. I take pride in my work ethic and my ability to accomplish the goals I set for myself. Ever since I was diagnosed with TS, I never liked to use my diagnosis as an excuse. In fact, I use my diagnosis as a motivator for myself to break the limit and boundaries that are normally set on people, with ‘disabilities’. Over the course of my high school career I have been able maintain straight A’s, consistently landing on the High Honor list, while also being the captain of my varsity track team, playing both varsity and travel softball, and being the president of my schools DECA chapter. Throughout my journey with TS I have come to realize that it is not a ‘disability’ or something that holds me back. Having Tourette Syndrome gives me new perspectives, pushes me to work harder, and opens new opportunities.