My Life with Tourettes

The author of this essay was a winner of a 2022 NJCTS Scholarship Award. 

This was the essay that was included with their application.

I remember my first tic clearly. I was at soccer training for my 3rd‐grade travel league, and rather than paying constant attention to the ball on the ground, I would periodically glance up at the bright lights in the rafters of the sportsplex three times in a row. Over time, my tics continued to manifest, but they
weren’t really disruptive until 7th grade when the tics started becoming vocal, instead of motor. I
developed several that were incredibly loud and distracting, which brought me unwanted attention. My
peers would get annoyed by the noises, and would try to mimic me. I was in a constant state of worry at
school, striving to put my hand over my mouth in a natural way to muffle the sound of the tic. My mother
often informed those around me of my condition in an attempt to prevent any teasing, as I wasn’t always
the best at explaining what was going on. But, I finally had to step up when a substitute teacher thought
I was being disrespectful and singled me out during a lesson. After class, I nervously walked up to him and managed to describe my situation. To my immense relief, he was very understanding, and I was filled with a happiness I had not known before, blown away that I had just stuck up for myself.

The urge to tic is kind of like waking up in the morning and wanting to release all of the dormant energy
and joint stiffness acquired overnight. Except with tics, the whole body is affected and the only thing to
make the feeling go away is prolifically doing a very specific behavior that my mind has somehow concocted. The feeling is incredibly powerful, but I have learned some ways to fight the sensation. I can apply the “compete and response” method, where I replace the repetitive behavior with a safer one, or just draw upon my willpower, which I find is a better approach for me.

My vocal tics have declined, but I have one recurring tic that I’ve had to work hard to repress. I scrape my tongue against my teeth repeatedly, which results in a gash, making every subsequent scrape agony.
When a tic like this begins to increase in intensity, I summon my willpower to try to hold off its execution.
With each delay, I am able to prevent the tic from occurring for longer intervals. However, resisting this
desire to tic is very tough because it requires a lot of concentration for extended periods of time. And the
urge does not ease, but rather, builds up until I can’t hold it any longer.

Although Tourettes is a fundamental part of my life, I know it doesn’t wholly define who I am or infringe
upon my many other facets. Not only is this a realization I have come to see for myself, it is one I am now
able to express to others, as I have become more comfortable with my self‐advocacy. My Tourettes
doesn’t affect the me that laughs hysterically at my own jokes, the me that stinks at basketball but plays
it anyway, or the me who puts together fajitas from Chili’s with the precision of a surgeon. My Tourettes
doesn’t interfere with the me who disappears into the guitar solo of “Hotel California” for hours at a time,
the me who enjoys learning chess strategies from my younger brother, or the me who is motivated to
tackle the divisiveness of our country. I am undoubtedly tied to my Tourettes, but I have succeeded in
meeting its daily challenges and in learning to make room for and appreciate all the other pieces of me.



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