By Olivia Roman
This is a thank you letter. Yes, you read it correctly — a thank you letter. I want to thank you for making fun of me when I couldn’t control my body from moving uncontrollably. I want to express how grateful I am for the times you mimicked me behind my back to your friends and would throw small objects at me while sitting on the bus. For the times you would whisper and laugh aloud to others while staring at me. Due to these experiences, you helped build my confidence, made me stronger, gave me courage. I may sound delusional, but I am speaking from my heart. That is something I can honestly say I can control.
You see, at the age of 6 years old, I was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements called tics. But you already know this, and yet you still decided to entertain your friends at my expense. Your lack of knowledge and insensitivity made me who I am today at the age of 13. Who am I, you ask? I am a young girl, who at 11 years old had the confidence and determination to speak and provide insight to 50 college and medical students at Yale University. You gave me the strength to face strangers and bullies and educate them about what it is like to live with Tourette syndrome and with co-occurring disorders. You also contributed to the bond my family and I have today. My mother also thanks you for making her more proactive in assisting her special education students to become self-assured and positive individuals who can make a difference just by believing in themselves. My sister (who does not have Tourette syndrome) and I became youth ambassadors for the Tourette Association of America. We had the opportunity to participate at the Capitol’s National Advocacy Day and spoke to our senators and representatives. My sister and I continue to bring awareness and education to students and staff members at local schools and camps.
Well, I really can’t give you all the credit. You were a contributor, but it’s Tourette syndrome that has created the self-reliant girl I am today. With support from teachers, doctors, my family and friends, I am who I am. As I come to the end of my letter, I want to assure you I am not upset with you, I am grateful. For me, you have given more meaning to the quote, “I have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s doesn’t have me.” So thank you, thank you very much.