Living with a hidden disability


Running from who you are is hard. First handedly, I can confirm this statement. If you were to pass me in the hallway, your overall impression would be that I am a normal kid living a normal life, which is a fair evaluation, I will give you that, but to an extent, it is also a false evaluation.

When I think of a normal kid, I think of what my early years of elementary school were like, filled with upstanding times and no obstacles to overcome. I think of being able to talk to my friends without the fear of ruining my intended outcome. I think of a time where I can go through my day hassle-free. Sadly, things aren’t meant for everyone, so I guess I just got unlucky…or that is what I thought…but not anymore. Before I discuss my disability and the impacts it has had on my life, something I have never got the opportunity to do before, I want you all to look at the lives you are living and cherish every last thing about them, because things could be different, and different isn’t always a good thing, trust me.

My preschool days were a blur. The only things I can recollect include nap time and eating different types of apples – two things I cannot wait to share with my kids (sarcasm in case you missed it). Also, I can remember being the friendly one in the group, going out of my way to improve my image and whatnot. Things weren’t always this way, though. Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade were acceptable, as things were the same, but then I moved schools. Now I know what you are thinking…here is the part where he goes on about how making friends in a new school is a difficult task…well you aren’t wrong, but that wasn’t my biggest challenge. I was in the third grade when something called Tourette’s Syndrome entered my life. Man, what a setback.

Instantaneously, I went from being the kid with a lot of friends to a kid struggling to make new ones, not only because I was new but because I couldn’t complete a sentence without stuttering, tensing my arms, snapping, blinking excessively, humming, you name it. I felt like I was scaring people away, and being a third grader at the time, it was very discouraging.

Discouraging situations stay with you until you learn to let go and get it off your chest, which is exactly what I did NOT do. Throughout the rest of my elementary school years, I minimalized how often I communicated with my classmates. I said I was cold when my arms twitched. I pretended that something was in my eyes when I blinked too many times in a row. All to do what…impress my peers? At the time, yes, I did think I was improving my relationships with my classmates, but I was neglecting something much more important: improving the relationship with myself.

Middle school was the same way…full of lies and deceit. One day “my fingers itched,” causing me to snap my fingers. Another day “I forgot what I was going to say,” causing me to repeat the same word ten plus times. I got a few laughs out of it, but at home I got even more tears. I never truly understood why I was doing this to myself, but it seemed to improve my social life so I went along with it, acting like it was normal.

High school has been better, but not by much. The majority of my ticks (side effects) are gone, besides the one I hate the most, being my repetition of the easiest words to pronounce. Honestly, is it that hard to say ‘Friday’? My sophomore year was the year my interest in business and surprisingly public speaking, skyrocketed. My passion for these two areas were both there, but so was my Tourette’s, making things not as simple as I had imagined. Business was easier to handle, as my speaking responsibilities were limited, but I am assuming you could infer that Public Speaking, an elective I recommend by the way, was a whole other story. If I can recall, my first speech was revolved around my disability. No, I was not seeking sympathy. In my mind, this was the best way to provide myself a painless rest of the semester.

My experience with both business classes and my public speaking class pushed me towards my FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) career, which has been the best decision of my life. Once I joined as a sophomore and won a state office position, it hit me. Why am I doing this to myself? To be honest, I still don’t know how to answer that to this day, but one thing is for sure, I needed to do something about it. From that point on, when I was asked why I hesitated when speaking, I told them what I am telling the world today – the truth – and it felt great.

Having gone through all of this (lying, holding myself back, etc), I have come to the realization that disabilities, in the end, are only there to enable someone to do great things. If it weren’t for my Tourette’s Syndrome, I don’t think I would have ever became the State President of an organization with over 12,000 members. I don’t think I would have ever been able to comfortably speak in front 5,000+ people, even having to memorize numerous lines and speeches. Overall, I don’t think I would have been as successful. On that note, I wish there was a way to let my disability know that it has failed its purpose. I won’t argue that things have been tough at times, but at the end, I came on top.

If you have this thing called a “disability,” know this:

“Disabilities are articulated as a struggle, an unnecessary burden that one must overcome to the soundtrack of a string crescendo. But disabled lives are multi-faceted – brimming with personality, pride, ambition, love, empathy, and wit.” – Sinead Burke

Now go on, live your life to the fullest, because sooner or later you will understand that it will be the best decision you will ever make.