Throughout my life, I have received the same question from both acquaintances and close friends: why do you do that? As long as I can remember my tics have always been fairly blatant as well as attention grabbing; ranging between small vocal tics and large motor tics. When I was young, I usually did not know when I had tics unless somebody pointed it out. Presently, my motor tics are so large that I can’t help but notice them; especially when they cause aches and pain.
Living with Tourette’s Syndrome has been a challenge, partially due to the distractions my tics create during school. They not only distract me, but also my peers. This has resulted in a self-consciousness surrounding my tics in public and oftentimes leads to me missing important parts of a lesson because I struggle to suppress them. One particular moment involving my Tourette’s, that I will never forget, happened early in my elementary school career. At the end of every year in grade school we took an aptitude test known as the End of Grade Test or EOG’s. During this time of year, in fourth grade, I had developed a vocal tic that was usually undetectable, however, in the incredibly silent test setting it was fairly noticeable. About half-way through the math portion of the test, the proctor confronted me, she made me look her in the eyes and then sternly said “stop it.”
More recently, I have been faced with the challenge of suddenly moving to a 100% online curriculum, including labs in physical chemistry and biology. This has been particularly difficult for me because, due to my motor tics, I have always had trouble using computers. It is difficult for me to type on a keyboard or use a trackpad. This has always led me to do things like handwrite and scan assignments, or dictate entire lab reports using voice to text. The move to online classes has resulted in unprecedented difficulty navigating my courses. I have been working with my professors, and most are very understanding, but it is embarrassing to have to email them and explain why I cannot do something that is generally ascribed to my generation.
Living with Tourette’s Syndrome has not been easy. It has been repetitive. I am now twenty years old and I am still explaining myself to peers, professors, coworkers, and friends. Yet, Tourette’s is a part of what makes me who I am. It presents new challenges each day and I learn new ways to live with it each day. I am lucky enough to have been born into a family that cares and understands, and I am very thankful for that.