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.
Why are you doing that?
Stop making that noise, it’s really annoying.
What do you mean you can’t help it?
Those were the words that made my heart drop to my stomach and feel sick. These words would make me go into a state of panic that the whole world was judging me. I was only 10 years old, what was I supposed to say?
“Oh, sorry, I have a neurological disorder characterized by multiple physical and vocal tics that I can’t control.”
Instead, I would hang my head and just mumble, “Oh, sorry.”
The comments about my Tourette Syndrome made me uncomfortable, but the names were even worse. This one boy in middle school would call me Twitchy all the time. I was so scared to walk past him in the hallway, in fear that he would call me out in front of my friends.
Only a select few of them knew about my Tourette, and I intended to keep it that way. I was humiliated and ashamed that I had something about me that made me stick out. Not only that, but this specific disorder makes it hard to hide.
Over the years, I came up with solutions, though:
- A grunt was just me clearing my throat.
- A shake of the head was just me getting the hair out of my face.
- A shoulder jerk was just me stretching my arm.
I tried desperately to hide it.
It’s been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed with this disorder, and it only took me that long to realize that I shouldn’t have to hide it. Here I am, almost 10 years later, and my tics are barely noticeable to my friends. When brought up in conversation, I’ll hear, “What?I couldn’t even tell!” This is because as I got older, my serious tics became mild, and I’ve learned to control them.
Looking back, I realize I’ve made one huge mistake: When people would ask why I would make such silly movements or odd sounds, I should have said, “I have Tourette,” instead of saying, “I’m sorry.”
Can you imagine? I was apologizing for something I couldn’t help. I was asking for forgiveneess from people who wondered why I had something that made me different. They would question the one thing that I was the most insecure about — the one thing I couldn’t change about myself. At least now I know that I say sorry for a lot of things, but I won’t say sorry for who I am.