Olivia Vander Tuin

“Stop that honey,” my mom said to me as I incessantly dragged and tapped my right foot along the ground. I shrugged my shoulders, looked up at my mom, and said, “I can’t help it.” We continued to walk through the grocery store, and I continued to drag my foot. Although browsing for groceries is pretty routine, I will never forget that incident, because it was the first time that I realized that I could not control certain impulses. Not long after that experience, my mom set up an appointment with a neurologist, and I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Being diagnosed with Tourette’s was actually a great relief to my 10 year old self. I finally had an explanation for my foot dragging, eye blinking, throat clearing, and other miscellaneous tics that I picked up along the way.

Although I was relieved to put a name to the issue, it was still a difficult pill to swallow. I am a triplet, and I have an identical sister. So it was really tough for me to wrap my head around how I ended up with Tourette’s but my sister did not. I also struggled with accepting Tourette’s, and for awhile I felt sort of isolated and different because I did not know anyone else with it. Even though I went to doctor appointments and worked on managing my Tourette’s, it was still challenging to broach the subject with friends, family, and teachers. For the first year or so I treated my tics like a secret. It was difficult because my tics were rather obvious, but I felt uncomfortable when they were brought up. On numerous occasions classmates, friends, and extended family would ask me why I blink my eyes so much. I would always change the subject or quickly say that I had allergies or some other semi-believable excuse.

Fortunately I have long since moved past that stage, and I now am very open about my Tourette’s, and I even embrace it to some extent. My tics have gotten better, but still reach their peak when I am feeling stressed about school or when life gets busy. Although I would never wish Tourette’s on anyone, my experience has made me a more empathetic person in terms of relating to other people who deal with neurological or even addiction issues. It is easy to judge someone and frustrating to wonder why someone doesn’t just stop whatever their issue is. From my experience in dealing with Tourette’s I can better understand that some issues are much more complicated than what meets the eye, and a little bit of empathy can go a long way in helping others. Through the years I have realized that I am not defined by Tourette’s, however I accept it as an aspect of myself that is unique and helps me to grow and thrive no matter what challenge I face.