When I was 8 years old, my parents began to notice odd movements in me. A turn of the chin, or a flex of my neck muscles accompanied by a grimace on my face. They became more frequent, and I was taken to a neurologist who diagnosed me with TS. We learned that it commonly fit with my other diagnosis of OCD, those symptoms including excessive hand-washing and cleanliness. Fortunately, I was only having a few minor physical tics, so we chose to wait and see how it progressed.
From the way the adults talked about them, I got the sense that these tics were not a good thing. Soon after this, I remember going to school thinking I needed to hide my new “secret.” I tried so hard to not let them slip, but was left frustrated and defeated after this proved impossible. It felt like I was standing out, and this didn’t boost my social confidence. Along with other reasons, I struggled socially throughout school, always desperate to fit in with other kids.
I am very grateful that my tics changed throughout my adolescence. They became overall less noticeable, and caused me less anxiety. They’ve changed to things like flexing my legs and arms rather than my neck and face. Some still cause issues, like my tic of endless head nodding that has caused some people to think I’m being sarcastic. Or when someone asks what I’m looking at because I’m darting my eyes around and making patterns with them. Or my tic of puffing out air, and sometimes not being able to breathe which is very distracting.
Whatever issues may arise for me, my mindset allows me to overcome them. I view adversity as a gift, because it gives me the opportunity to overcome, adapt, and become stronger. I remain grateful because I know there are people who have it worse than me. I also find gratitude in viewing my tics as teachers. They’ve taught me about being ok with sharing all parts of myself, good and bad. I’m comfortable opening up about my tics to others, or even cracking jokes about them. Another thing I’ve learned through reflecting on my friendships is that my true friends were the ones who accepted all parts of me. I was taken advantage of in middle school and asked to do embarrassing things to gain acceptance. Real friends want to see the best in you thrive. Real friends love you with or without tics. This realization caused me to be more accepting of others as well.
My tics have often felt like a shadow, always following me. Fortunately, I have found healthy ways to deal with them, and I hope others can as well. Fitness has allowed me to build confidence in myself, and I majored in Exercise Science because of this. I can help others build confidence through fitness, especially those with TS. With the help of this scholarship, I can pursue my education and ambitions.