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Master Of Play — Peyton E.

Hi. My name is Peyton and I’m 22 years old. I know, I’m a little old to be a blogger.

I wouldn’t call myself a gamer… I will call you a gamer. I’ll call everyone else a gamer. But I won’t call myself a gamer…  not because I’m ashamed; I’m a very proud gamer. But more often, I call other people… “GAMER!” because it’s a tic. I have tics. I have Tourette Syndrome. 

But, what are tics? They are a large part of what defines Tourette’s. Tics are involuntary movements and noises that people with Tourette’s do. They can’t control it. Well, sometimes they can. But it’s hard. And when someone tries to suppress their tics, they usually come back worse. I don’t usually try to suppress my tics. 

But enough of “they”. What about me? What is my experience with Tourette’s? 

It’s weird. I don’t remember a lot of my early experiences with Tourette’s. I had some problems with tics in school, but I was never a rude or “bad” kid. I did some things because of Tourette’s, and other things were simply mistakes I made as a kid. 

I don’t remember having a hobby in elementary school. I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I do remember when I started having anxiety… 

In sixth grade, I remember starting to have trouble controlling my mouth. I mean, I would blurt out thoughts I was having, or something I thought would make people laugh… ah, now I remember: I liked making people laugh. I wanted to, and sometimes I did. I had been on stage telling jokes in elementary school; my older brother had done the same before me. But, when I tried to make people laugh in class, I sometimes interrupted the teacher. I remember I almost got a few lunch detentions because of that. That being said, my teachers didn’t dislike me; I got along well with most of them. But I was trying to find the love and support of my peers, and I didn’t know how to fill the empty well of anxiety inside me. The only way I thought I could get their attention was by making them laugh. 

As I went into high school, I continued to try to be funny, as a way to connect with my peers and feel joy inside. Sometimes it worked… sometimes I fell flat on my face; or, at least that’s how it felt inside. I never again felt the courage to step again on the stage and tell a joke, like I did when I was younger. I didn’t have the confidence to try to be a stand up comedian, even if that’s what I wanted. But, that doesn’t mean I never stepped on stage again period. In eighth grade, I finally found a passion: Acting. 

It turns out I was still meant to be on stage, just in a different way. Acting made me feel excited; and the tics went away while I was onstage. I would still get nervous before and after a performance, but people assured me I was a good actor, and I knew I liked doing it. Plus, I made people laugh! The jokes were not my own, but still people laughed at the funny parts of my onstage antics. 

In rehearsals, though, I still tried (and often failed) to make my peers laugh. Chasing “funny” threw me into pit after pit of anxiety and depression. When my jokes fell flat or I annoyed people, I became despondent. 

After I graduated high school, I stopped acting for a while. One year turned into two as I sat steeped in anxiety and wondering what had happened. In addition to tics, an OCD diagnosis and anxiety held me back. As I’ve grown up, my tics have become less severe, but my OCD and anxiety have not. 

I was lost for a while, and sometimes I still feel that way, but I have made some changes. I’m seeing a therapist virtually now, and I started medication earlier this year. Medication was something I once feared: would it suck out my creative soul and turn me into a zombie? Would the side effects be really bad? Luckily, neither of those are the case. After a few tries, I’ve found the right medication and am working on finding the right dose. My OCD is still bad sometimes, but I feel stronger and more hopeful than before. After briefly attending and then dropping out of college in 2020, I’m going back to pursue acting! Progress is slow, but things are getting better. 

Life with a neurological disability can be hard. I wish I had found the right therapy and medication sooner. But I can’t change the past. I can shape my future, though. Medication might not work for you. Therapy might. Or, you might need to do both. Either way, being alone isn’t the answer. If you, dear reader, are alone, finding friends or a support network like NJCTS could really help you. It may take time, but any small change you can make to your life could be very beneficial. And if you feel like no one is there for you, I am, dear reader. I’m still finding my way. I hope you find yours.  

– Peyton

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