Jeremiah Zimmerman

Since attending Dakota State University, one specific aspect of my life has always been able to bring joy to others. How I handle life with Tourette Syndrome has been an inspiration to others. On a daily basis, many people ask me what I am doing or why I keep making noise. When I tell them I have Tourette Syndrome, the most common reaction is for others is to feel bad. They are usually worried that I have been offended by their questions or laughter. I am quick to let others know that it is okay. It is not common for people to make random noises during a conversation, so the confusion is understandable.

To combat the awkward feelings, I have found that humor is a great way to make others feel comfortable. Sometimes in life, it is better to make the best of a situation rather than dread in it. One of my teammates on the baseball team last year has indirectly encouraged me through humor. Every time I made a vocal tic, he would shush me. At first, he did not know I had Tourette Syndrome. When he eventually found out, he felt terrible and was worried that he had offended me. I told him that I found it somewhat humorous. When he would shush me, it would make me laugh. When he did this in class, our professor did not understand at first, as she misunderstood my teammate’s humor for bullying. I explained what was happening to my professor, and she understood. This specific situation started more conversations about Tourette’s within my class.

The self-humor I found in my Tourette’s actually opened up more conversations with professors, classmates, and teammates. Whenever I am able to laugh at myself, it helps break down the stereotypes regarding people living with Tourette Syndrome. Laughing at the situation instead of feeling uptight helps to eliminate the stigma that people with disabilities are different than everyone else. Tourette Syndrome can make me feel awkward in a quiet room, but I have learned to embrace the challenge. I must work harder in school and in life than most people, because it is harder for me to focus. This has been a blessing in disguise for me. Without Tourette’s, I am not sure that I would have the work ethic that I do now. I am so blessed to be in my current circumstance at Dakota State University. A lot of little things in life have led me where I am, and Tourette Syndrome is one of them.