Recently, my family had some old VHS home videos converted onto a thumb drive. Watching them together has been wonderful, but it’s also been slightly surreal. Not only do I have almost no memory of the moments captured on video, but there are absolutely no signs of my Tourette’s syndrome, something that is now, to put it lightly, quite noticeable. In the majority of cases, Tourette’s symptoms improve significantly into early adulthood. In eighth grade, however, I received the first of many warnings that I got the short end of the stick.
One afternoon in late spring, my entire eighth grade class had just finished running “The Mile,” and as we returned to the classroom, the unknown part of my body responsible for Tourette’s syndrome and the accompanying tics disagreed with the physical exertion. As a result, my body launched into what an outside observer could reasonably have guessed was a seizure. After my English teacher told me to stop making a nuisance of myself, I tearfully responded that I physically could not. My teacher frantically called the nurse and requested that I be taken away in a wheelchair. Concerned with saving myself the embarrassment of such a spectacle, I insisted that I did not need a wheelchair and could walk to the nurse on my own. Nevertheless, a team of two EMTs was called to escort me to the nurse’s office.
It’s been almost five years since that day, and my tics have slowly worsened to the point where that level of severity isn’t uncommon. Currently they involve a coordinated convulsion of most of my back muscles, involuntary stretching of my wrists and jaw, innumerable other twitches, and a myriad of vocal tics, with signs of developing coprolalia. What intensifies the symptoms can be anything from playing instruments to how I sit. However, in an attempt to not disturb my fellow classmates or make a fool of myself, I devote a great deal of attention at school to keeping my tics suppressed. Exerting this level of self control for eight hours a day during school is exhausting and distracting. Despite this challenge, I have managed to enjoy the past four years of high school.
Of all the classes I have taken, physics has captivated my interest the most. One of the most important aspects of Tourette’s is that nobody knows what exactly causes it. How and why it develops is still not fully understood, and treatments are usually only helpful on a case-by-case basis. The enigma of my tics has likely fueled my interest in physics because while I may never understand my own body, I can still hope to understand the rest of the universe. I hope to one day share my passion for physics with students as a high school teacher. As a teacher, I will be able to empathize with students whose circumstances sometimes hinder their ability to “do their best.” Despite its many challenges, Tourette’s syndrome has shaped me into the person I am today, and it will continue to shape my life far into the future.