During elementary school, I was a “C” student and school was very difficult. Homework frequently took several hours. After a battery of tests, I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, ADD and being gifted. I did not care about being gifted. I was afraid I would start blurting out words. I wondered if my world was going to crash.

But the opposite occurred. After being placed on medication for Tourette’s and ADD, the fog lifted. I woke up to an entirely different world. I realized how much controlling my tics impacted my self-esteem and ability to concentrate. I learned that most people with Tourette’s do not blurt out words and with medication have an improvement in their tics by early adulthood. That has been the result for me.

Just as importantly, I crossed a threshold and became an active learner. Instead of struggling to deal with my tics, suddenly, I could concentrate. I was able to get my homework done quickly. I became one of the top performers, especially in math. By junior high, my grades improved to A’s & B’s.

I developed more confidence and curiosity that fueled a strong appetite to learn as much as I could. I loved discovering how things work. I took apart any electrical items my parents gave me, like old computers, keyboards, and televisions. I also taught myself how to perform slight-of-hand card tricks by studying illusion and magic books. Then I practiced and practiced.

Although my tics significantly improved, I still had verbal and non-verbal tics in public speaking and other kids criticized me about the tics. I tackled this problem head-on and enrolled in a public speaking class. It was a very shaky start to say the least. When I became nervous, as I often was, I would fill the empty gap with too many “uhms” and fits and starts. The first presentations were not the greatest. But I discovered that public speaking is a learned skill and the more I practiced, the better I became. So, as with magic, I practiced and practiced. While I still have a ways to go to become a great public speaker, I did well in the class and received an A.

There have been times that I wished I did not have Tourette’s. At the same time, this is who I am. Overcoming the challenges of my conditions have not been easy, but being diagnosed and effectively dealing with them changed the trajectory of my life. I could have fallen through the cracks and always struggled with learning. But I didn’t. I understand that the opportunity to learn is extraordinary and a blessing. Learning should never be taken for granted. I have an insatiable desire to learn and push myself to discover as much as I can. I hope that I can make a difference to others.