I wish I could say that it’s been an easy and fun journey to get where I am today, but if only this were true. The night my first vocal tic occurred; I was scared out of my mind. I had no idea what Tourette’s was or why I was constantly blurting out the word ‘dot’ again and again. This was on the night before my twelfth birthday. A few weeks go by, and eventually a confirmed diagnosis comes through.
It’s not necessary for me to write out my entire struggle, the years of not being able to go to school, how my throat would bleed because of how severe and loud my vocal tics were, or how I would snap the skin off my thumbs until they were raw and bleeding. These are only portions of it, however, the journey certainly turned me into the man I am today. Living with TS taught me that giving up is the easiest option I’ll ever have, but it’s the option that leads nowhere.
So throughout high school as my tics became worse, I pushed myself harder than I ever have. I ignored the bullying and ostracization and found friends who truly appreciated me for who I was and didn’t see me for the noises and movements I made. I took AP classes to prepare for college because my parents never had a lot of money, and even got a few jobs where I was forced to hide my TS in fear of being fired or not even getting the job. Now, after years of struggling and not giving up, I managed to make it to the University of Tennessee studying foreign languages and criminal justice.
Throughout all this, the friends I have made have been invaluable. One of these friends, Sam, has given me one moment that I can never where I was constantly worried about how others would see my Tourette’s. She said to me, “You are who you are, you are not perfect, you are not awful, you just are. The people who only see your tics are not perfect either. They either just don’t know, and if so that’s ok, teach them. If they do know, then there’s nothing you can do but keep walking.” This meaningful moment taught me more than any other that it’s okay to be who I am and accept that I am different. For years anytime when I am down or struggling with my TS, that conversation is what I think back to, and I remember that having TS isn’t so bad after all.