When I was nineteen years old I was preparing to leave the United States and spend two years in the Philippines, serving a mission for church. My mission began with nine weeks fully immersed in learning to speak Tagalog before flying across the Pacific. While I was learning the language, I began blinking very rapidly. This quickly escalated into head jerking and arm and shoulder movements. Before the nine weeks were up, I had an array of tics that freaked me out, and worried those around me. I ended up not going to the Philippines but returning home to figure out what was wrong. It took six months of seeing different doctors and therapists before a child psychologist spent just one session with me and diagnosed me with Tourette Syndrome.
Having the onset out of the blue was was really freaky to me, and made life suddenly very weird. I had these evolving tics that would come and go in frequency and magnitude. I don’t think I could have hand picked a more understanding and helpful family to get me through this time. My mother was there every step of the way, driving me around to various doctors and doing a lot of her own research online. My father and sisters were completely understanding and very supportive, even my sister who was only three years old at the time! They helped me keep the optimistic attitude I had always had in my life until that point. I began twitching in June and was finally diagnosed in December. As soon as we figured out what it was, my first questions centered on what I would be limited in doing by having this disorder. When the doctor told me it probably wouldn’t limit me at all, I set my sights back on the goals I’d had my whole life.
After a couple years, I joined the United States Air Force. I had obstacles to overcome due to having TS, but I conquered those. I was told by a few people that I could not be a good Airman with TS and that I should get out of the service. I proved them wrong by excelling in my military training, working hard to become a leader among my peers and being recognized as the Airman of the Year for my unit.
After completing active duty military service, I realized another childhood dream: I began a career as a fire fighter for the city of Little Rock, AR. Once again I worked hard, focused on training and studying, and was recognized for excelling in my training.
I have also begun a beautiful family since being diagnosed. I was initially worried about dating women when I began twitching, but quickly overcame those worries when I began dating and used my TS as a conversation starter. I met my wife and a year later we welcomed our first of two beautiful children into this world. Even though my daughter sometimes copies my tics, and laughs at me from time to time, I wouldn’t trade her or her brother in for the world.
Prior to my diagnosis, I was a goal-oriented, optimistic young man who wasn’t afraid of what the world thought. After twitching and learning to live with TS, I returned to being that same young man. Having a neurological condition is just another hurdle in the race. I use TS to educate others and I also make people laugh with it. I still set and chase goals, I am still overly optimistic and I still do what I know I can, even with TS, and I don’t let others dictate what I can and can’t do. Having TS has changed me in the fact that I more or less can’t sit still anymore, but that’s the only way. Life threw me a curve ball and I hit it out of the park.
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