Elyse was a NJCTS 2019 Scholarship Award Winner.
This is the essay she submitted with her application.
When I was in elementary school I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). At the time my tics tended to be more physical and less vocal. My OCD really wasn’t an issue. I can remember my mom telling me that she was going to send an email to my teachers and classmates letting them know that I had TS and explaining what it was. I was so upset because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was different. I didn’t understand at the time the whole reason she was sending the email was so other people could understand what I was going through
and to avoid teasing from peers. I had developed quite a few ticks that I wasn’t able to control. Some included eye blinking, hand twitching, throat clearing, and coughing. They were quite obvious and very embarrassing for me. I even had some that were extremely painful. There was one tic that stands out in my mind. I would hit my ribs with my elbow, so much so that I would bruise. It looked like I was violently flapping my arms like a chicken. There was no way I could hide this one or tell classmates that I was dancing or just being silly.
I tried ignoring my condition for the most part. Over the next next few years many of my physical tics subsided so I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone I had TS as I could control it better. Most of the time I could suppress or disguise my tics. As I entered high school, however, my tics became more vocal than before, my OCD was amplified, and I developed anxiety. I found it harder to perform in school, but I didn’t want to acknowledge my condition. I was using so much of my energy just trying to conceal my Tourette’s. I was worried that my increasing amount of vocal tics was becoming a distraction to myself and others.
It wasn’t until I was having trouble focusing in school that I finally asked for help. With encouragement from my guidance counselor and family, I applied for and was accepted into the 504 plan. With these accommodations, it was easier for me to focus on and complete my work. It was also at this time that I began to research other people with TS. I found so many people with very severe Tourette’s Syndrome. Despite this, they were all very transparent about it and unbothered. Watching their Youtube videos and seeing how severe their tics were flipped my perspective completely. Seeing them so comfortable with themselves inspired me. They had Tourette’s but it didn’t have them. I have now accepted this frame of mind and no longer try to hide my tics.
Now if someone asks me why I’m making a weird sound or saying a random word, I I tell them, “Yeah, it’s just my Tourette’s.” It makes me who I am and I’m not ashamed of it anymore. I’ve learned to embrace what makes me different.