With my college graduation coming up in three days, this seemed like a good time to share a couple stories. Now, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted for a week, but that’s because I was getting ready for this week’s post and of course GRADUATION. Yay!
Going through college with Tourette Syndrome has definitely made for an interesting ride. All the hard work I have put into my college career has paid off, but it hasn’t always been easy. I won’t say it hasn’t been without its rewards, though.
When I first started college, like most students, as freshman at West Liberty University I was living in the dorms just trying to acclimate to my new life. I had been going through a couple years of suppression where I had worked so hard to disguise my tics, that I couldn’t tic if my life depended on it.
This was all due to feeling humiliated at anyone seeing me tic, as many of them can be unsettling or distracting. It was as if that part of my brain had temporarily gone somewhat dormant to the point that if I did feel the need to tic, it felt alien and I almost couldn’t. (I don’t recommend this)
So, the most I experienced were facial grimaces, crossing of the eyes, and scrunching up my facial muscles. I made a few friends, even met my first real boyfriend, and did pretty well in my classes.
During my sophomore year, I had begun to dislike dorm life and wasn’t doing as well in school as I needed or wanted to. I missed my family (pets included) and I didn’t like being away from everything, so I began to explore the idea of switching schools.
I knew this would mean a longer ride and with choosing Wheeling Jesuit I would become a commuter, an idea that I was actually kind of excited about. When I entered WJU in spring of 2010, things began to look up, but it was only the beginning of one of the biggest challenges of my life.
In the spring of 2011, something got triggered in my brain and my tics came back in full force. It was was like I was that kid again who looked like they were constantly hyped up on sugar and caffeine. I began seeing a therapist to help me cope because ticcing in front of people, let alone in a small classroom, was no easier than it had been in high school.
In March of 2012 I attended the National Tourette Syndrome Association conference in Arlington, VA. I met people of all ages who dealt with the same things I did. I wasn’t alone in my TS anymore and that felt good. Long story short, I was inspired to do a TS Awareness Campaign for my undergrad senior project. It wasn’t readily accepted, but I stuck to it and was met with success; even won a couple awards!
It was a long, arduous process to be able to tic comfortably in public. I took baby steps and LOTS of them, but today I can tic just about anywhere and as soon as it’s over I resume “normal” activity as if nothing happened. I’ve noticed it seems to make most people more comfortable to see that it doesn’t bother me or at least doesn’t appear to bother me.
There are still times when I struggle to tic in public. I have to remind myself everyday (especially if someone looks at me weird or is obviously startled by my tics) that it’s not about them, it doesn’t matter what they think, and without that part of me, the TS part, I would be a totally different person then the one I am today. So, take it from a very soon to be college GRAD:
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Read more from me on my Tourettisms blog!