The Mighty Logo

My Conditions Don't Make Me Who I Am

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“Why do you twitch?”

This is a common question that I receive almost all the time. A few other iterations include, “What’s wrong?” Or, “Why are your arms moving?” Or, lately, “Why are you shivering? Are you cold?”

I’ve had Tourette‘s disorder — or, as some call it, Tourette syndrome — as long as I can remember. From squeezing my leg muscles together under the desks in elementary school, to a classmate’s judgmental stares in response to my scrunched-up face in middle school, to my ex-friend’s little brother asking why I was making loud vocal noises at such frequency during a hangout at their house in high school, to the occasional college acquaintance or new friend asking about my “shivering.” I’ve never been free from the scrutiny of those who do not understand.

It isn’t that they aren’t sympathetic or caring. In fact, most of them are surprised more often than not. “Tourette’s? Like in South Park?”

Yes, Tourette’s “like in South Park.” But also, Tourette’s as in, “I need to move my shoulders right now and I don’t know why.” Tourette’s as in, “No, I don’t know why I suddenly have to halt my walking and quickly yank up my pelvis to ensure my muscles are all still working.” Tourette’s as in, “I don’t really think about it, it just happens.”

Tourette’s as in, “It’s a disorder in my brain that I was born with and that will never, ever leave me or stop making me feel out every muscle in my body with frequent movements just to figure out why it works the way it does and what its limits are.”

Tourette’s as in, “My body feels like a weird vessel in which I must flex, move shake or fidget, often not of my own doing or control, because humans are weird and maybe I’m actually an alien in disguise.”

Or something like that, at least.

It’s enough to know that you have one thing “up” with you, this condition that causes you to twitch uncontrollably, that without a medicinal system-depressive inhibitor can cause an inability to calm down enough to function. You’d think it’d be enough, right?

That is, until you find out your body essentially hates you and makes you want to lie down and sleep forever, and maybe even cease to exist at times (despite your intolerance to pain and dislike of feeling any version of sick), because of other disorders present in that already “messed-up” brain of yours.

You have bipolar disorder on top of having Tourette’s. You have borderline personality disorder alongside having Tourette’s; you’re heavily depressed and anxious not just because of having Tourette’s.

You may even be on the autism spectrum and have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) while also having Tourette’s.


Because life can be really damn hard. You didn’t get to actually choose any of your conditions, but you’re expected to live with it. You didn’t decide to inhabit this body and choose to have these mental illnesses, one on top of the other, within yourself. It just happened and you’re stuck with the result, and that makes up who you are.

The thing is, though, while you are not only your illnesses and conditions, they are a large part of your personal identity and they won’t go away just because you wish they would or you try to “be positive.” They’re still going to exist within you and at the end of the day — hell, at the end of this conversation — you’re still going to have to live with them, adhere to them and try to make peace with them, just like you do with going to the bathroom, showering or eating.

Tourette’s is a part of me, but it doesn’t make up the entirety of who I am as a person. So is my depression, anxiety, bipolarity, borderline personality, ADHD brain and autism, yet those are still only several small parts of me.

ME. Who I am as an individual in this world, with thoughts, feelings, goals, ups and downs, with tragedies, laughter, friends and isolationistic tendencies. With a writer’s brain and an artist’s heart. Those things are what truly make up who I actually am, perhaps even in spite of what I have to face every day just to live my peaceful existence as a part-time college student with practically no life outside of my home, my mom, my cats (who are pretty much my surrogate adoptive chosen “daughters”) and my words.

So, I’m using those words in order to tell you that my conditions are not in charge of my life; they shape it and in turn, I bear them and take care of them, be it through better or worse.

Follow this journey on Swirls’ Delights.

Painting by Winter Hart

Originally published: November 28, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home