This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome for their 2012 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it! And here is my profile on the NJCTS website.
I sat in my second-grade classroom during quiet reading time when an overwhelming urge took over my mind to release tension in the only way I knew how. I involuntarily forced myself to complete several body movements to satisfy myself for just a small amount of time, until the next compulsion returned.
I was born with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder that is characterized by expressions of unwanted noises and body movements. this was my most significant experience because it changed the way I live my life.
Although I do not display the loud vocal tics that are normally associated with this disorder, I had had more than a dozen tics throughout my lifetime. Several of the motor tics include neck jerking, jaw stretching and cracking, and abdominal tensing. Throat clearing was one of the vocal tics I have displayed.
My Tourette was significantly worse when I was younger, and my teachers and peers noticed and frequently commented. Realizing that I was different from my peers was frustrating, and it made me wish I was “normal.”
People in my classes would often joke about my disorder. They did not understand why I was moving my body in those unusual ways. My confidence suffered, and I dreaded the school day. Fearing ridicule at school resulted in more prominent tics.
During middle school, I developed close friendships with a few girls who not only stuck up for me, but also taught me how to defend myself. I was accepted by these girls, and as a result I learned to accept myself.
With this new acceptance, I now feel that openly speaking and joking about my disorder would help other people to understand what I was going through. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I was able to begin molding myself into the type of person I wanted to be. I did not want to hide behind this syndrome, so I became a confident and outgoing teenager.
One of my greatest accomplishments was that I was able to accept the fact that Tourette Syndrome is part of my life forever. Being afraid of what other people say no longer bothers me. I look back and realize that without the struggle I faced dealing with my Tourette, I would be a different person.
I am proud of the strength and confidence I have gained as a result of dealing with this disorder. This courage has helped diminish the severity of my current tics. Living with Tourette Syndrome has developed the values by which I live my life.
I have never met another person with this disease. I would hope that if I do come across another person, I would be able to tell them my story and perhaps help them deal with their insecurities as I have done. Ironically, this mysterious neurological disorder helped transform a self-conscious second-grade girl into a confident teenager with a promising future!