Makayla Schymanski

For many years I’ve been known as the tall girl, the athlete, and the girl who makes weird faces. My parents will tell you I’ve never met a stranger, it’s true; I do make friends wherever I go. I’m kind, tenderhearted, friendly and trusting. But I am more than all of this. When I entered high school, I came to the realization that what others see on the outside is not what matters. I am a friend to others, an athlete, a tall girl, but I also have Tourette’s Syndrome.

In middle school, my Tourette’s syndrome began to impact my life. Before middle school, my tics were minor sniffles or coughs and most people just figured I had allergies or a cold. The stress of middle school increased and changed my tics to ones that were more obvious. I became “the weird girl” in the eyes of others. I was bullied and struggled with figuring out how to fit in. This is typical of most middle school students. What is different about my story is how I worked to overcome all of these labels and bullying.

I began to develop a personal statement in response to questions such as “Why do you make that face?” or “Those noises you make are so annoying”. Working with my family, I practiced my responses to others. I focused on my athletics, my academics, my family, and my true friends. My move to high school was scary. The added stress of worrying about going to high school increased my tics higher than they had ever been before. I maintained my focus on my athletics and my academics and continued to practice responding to others. Over the course of the year, I told more and more people about Tourette’s. I then realized that through education I would find relief. Everyone who looked at me after I ticked was informed about my Tourette’s. With support of my friends and family, I felt stronger each time I told another person about my issue. Four years later, I feel empowered whenever others ask about my Tourette’s. I own this disorder. The more I have owned it and made it a norm, the less it impacts my daily life.

Overcoming my fear of being bullied and being called out for being different has led to increased confidence in all areas of my life. I am a leader in Choi Kwang Do and with my basketball teams. Teachers and coaches recognize that I am a person they can trust to assist others. I strive for greatness in everything I do, and refuse to accept anything less. With all the help and encouragement that I have received from the important people in my life, I feel as though I have changed for the better. I do not think of my Tourette’s as a burden anymore, but rather as a stepping-stone to push me further in the path of life.