Hannah Rusinko

Hannah Rusinko

Picture a silent classroom with students taking a test. Loud noises begin to echo from the back of the room.  Sweat begins dripping down her face, her muscles aching from the constant movement and tic suppression.  The room feels empty as does she; stripped of all emotion and passion.  Her shaky hand slowly elevates in the air; she asks a question with a quiet mumble.  As the teacher responds, a voice resonates from across the room, “Shut up and keep twitching”.  Laughter booms throughout the classroom as tears well up in her eyes. The other students laugh and mock her for something she cannot control.  This continues every day.  As each new day comes, the girl breaks down a little bit more.  She knows why she is twitching, but she wouldn’t dare tell anyone in the fear of judgment.    Burying her face into her hands, she desperately tries to become invisible.

Step into her shoes for a moment.  I have.  It is my story.

Growing up, it was extremely difficult to cope.  I didn’t know anyone else with the disorder, and I felt like no one could understand what I was going through.  Most of my teachers and classmates had never heard of TS.  Every day I woke up dreading going to school.  I knew there would be six relentless hours of mocking ahead of me.  As the tics got worse, the people I thought were my friends slowly began drifting away.  I was no longer the girl everyone loved to talk to.  I was the girl who no one would dare to be seen with.

As a freshman, I was selected to represent Pennsylvania as a Tourette Syndrome Youth Ambassador at a conference in Washington, DC.  I was trained to be an advocate for TS.  I was able to speak with Senators Casey and Toomey and Representative Murphy to help obtain funding for research.  I go throughout the community giving presentations to teachers, students, and other organizations in the hopes of spreading awareness.   I learned that educating others about TS brought wider acceptance.

My goal is to become a Pediatric Neurologist and a researcher.  I hope to one day be the person I wish I could have talked to when I was first diagnosed.  I want to find a treatment and cure for TS so no one has to endure what I did.

As a senior in high school, I wish I knew back then that TS would be a blessing and not a burden.  It has taught me that I can overcome anything.   Perseverance is a quality that has helped shape the person I am today.  I learned that if you spend your whole life worrying about what others think about you, you will never truly be happy.

I may have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s doesn’t have me.