To the Boy Who Made Fun of My Tourette Syndrome
I have Tourette Syndrome. You might not notice it right away when you meet me, but soon enough you’ll notice my eye tics. No, I’m not winking at you. No, I’m not rolling my eyes at you. And no, there is nothing wrong with me. I just have Tourette Syndrome, it’s as simple as that.
Growing up, I was used to kids making fun of me. Calling me “blinky” or “twitchy.” Pointing at me and mimicking what I do. Or someone occasionally asking why was I winking at them. I was used to it and I had gotten to the point where I didn’t let it bother me. I didn’t let any of the ignorant comments like “But if you Have Tourette’s, why aren’t you swearing?” bother me anymore.
It’s OK they didn’t understand swearing is actually one of the rarest forms of Tourette Syndrome. It’s OK they didn’t understand that no, I actually can’t control my tics, even when they tell me I should just stop. And it’s OK those kids growing up made fun of me. You really didn’t hurt me. If anything, you just hurt your own character.
It wasn’t until the summer before my sophomore year of college that someone actually genuinely hurt me — for the first and last time — about my Tourette Syndrome.
It was a hot July night. I was at a friend’s house after being at the beach all day. They decided they wanted to have some people over for a bonfire. I figured why not, even though I was insanely tired and worn out from the long day we had just gotten back from. Now for me, being tired sets my tics into overdrive. My body is exhausted, my nerves are shot and I don’t have the willpower to hold them off. I didn’t think much of it because even though I could feel myself doing my eye tics more often than usual, I had pushed it to the back of mind because I figured no one would say anything.
Well, that’s where I was wrong. Twenty or so minutes later, all of the people had showed up. One boy in particular stood out to me. Three things I could instantly tell about him were that he was arrogant, someone who didn’t have a filter and a not so nice person.
Little did I know, he was going to be the person to bring me to my breaking point. The person to finally bring me down, all because I had Tourette Syndrome. The first person in, I don’t know how many years, to actually get through my barrier and hurt me. All because I was a little different. Although this was about three or four years ago, I still remember it so clearly. We were all sitting outside by the bonfire, it was about 10 p.m. and I was growing more and more tired, which meant my tics were acting up.
I was wearing my oversized sweatshirt that made me feel protected from the world, minding my own business, watching the flames rise up from the bonfire, when I heard it.
“Hey girl over there in the hoodie, what’s wrong with your face?”
In all my years of having Tourette Syndrome since I was 7, never have I once had anyone bluntly say “what is wrong with your face?” I can’t even begin to tell you how much those words stung. I held in the hurt and said nothing, hoping by not meeting his gaze he would just forget about it. But boy, was I wrong.
“Hey I’m talking to you. Seriously, what’s going on with your face?” he said, laughing.
I played it off and said the smoke from the fire was bothering me. He arrogantly fired back, “No, you’re winking at me aren’t you? Awww how sweet, hoodie girl wants a piece of me.”
Everyone laughed. I sat there, feeling a wave of fear overwhelm me. My whole body started to tremble. Tears stung my eyes. And I tried my hardest to hold in my eye tics. But with Tourette Syndrome, you can never completely hold in your tics. The harder you try, the worse the urge gets.
I managed to whisper “I don’t want any part of you. The smoke is just irritating my eyes. Please leave me alone.” I didn’t look up at him once and I forced myself to stare at the fire. To ignore him. But all I could feel was his eyes watching me, waiting for my tic to happen again. As the urge built, I unfortunately couldn’t hold it in any longer. The urge was too much to resist and it happened. And then finally, I was brought to my breaking point.
“There it is! Again! God, would you just admit you want me? It’s clearly obvious with you winking over there at me. You want me so bad.” I didn’t say a thing, I could feel the panic start to set in and I just sat there, my hands going numb, listening to him verbally attack me.
“Well I don’t want a piece of you, not with you twitching all weird like that.”
I quietly said, “Please stop. I don’t want anything to do with you and I’m not winking at you. I have Tourette’s, OK?”
And he fired back, “Tourette’s? Ha! Well good because I knew just by looking at you there was something wrong with you and your face. Honestly, you should see how ridiculous you look.”
And the next thing I knew, I just ran. I don’t know why it hurt so bad, but it did. I got up and ran and tears were falling like crazy and my heart was hurting and I just had to escape. All the while, he yelled after me “Oh look, she’s crying like a little girl.”
And everyone laughed. To this day, that was the worst encounter I’ve ever experienced with someone making fun of me because I have Tourette Syndrome. So, to this boy, whose name I don’t even know: I realize you probably think you got the best of me, that you had the last laugh, and that you think you’re some kind of man because you made a girl cry. But you are no man to me. You are a bully. And I am so much stronger because of you. So I actually want to say thank you.
Thank you for being so cruel to me. Thank you for making me cry. If you hadn’t, I never would have had the eye-opening realization that there isn’t anything wrong with me, there was something wrong with you. I hope you don’t go through life feeling so insecure that you feel the need to bring others down. I hope you are able to understand the differences of others, just like I’m sure you would want others to understand any differences of yours. And I hope when you’re older and hopefully more mature, you think back on that night and remember what you said to me and feel bad.
But I don’t feel bad about it anymore. I’ve let it go. I’ve used that hurt to do something I had always wanted to do, but never felt I could do. I’ve finally accepted I am OK with having Tourette Syndrome and people are going to make fun of me and judge me, all because they don’t bother to understand. But I won’t let it bother me ever again because I realized that night there is nothing wrong with me, there’s only something wrong with society’s stigma of those with Tourette Syndrome.
So to that boy who made fun of my Tourette Syndrome, I really want you to know something. I love who I am, Tourette Syndrome and all.
And I don’t need your approval.
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Thinkstock photo via Ola_Tarakanova.