Living with Tourette’s

How a student ventures life with a debilitating disability.


Isabel Henderson

Isabel with her pin that says “Hello, I have Tourette’s”. It is a helpful tool for when she is in public to avoid any stares or judgement from people who do not know she has Tourette’s.

Isabel Henderson, Staff Writer

As of 2020, 1 out of every 162 kids have Tourette’s Syndrome. I happen to be one of them. I didn’t always have it, as it is a disorder that can be developed. While I haven’t had it for long, it still has impacted my life greatly. 

Growing up, I was always thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. My heart was set on becoming an airplane pilot. However, one cannot fly a plane with Tourette’s. I did my proper research and found out that you can fly a plane and have tics, but only if they are not bad. The tics I have are exactly what people define by “bad.” So, I have to find something new. Which is very hard to do, considering all things I have shown interest in would never work as long as I have these tics (having a strong interest in performing arts, too). 

My tics consist of a variety of things, motor (physical) and verbal. The motor ones include neck spasms, hand gestures, winking, punching things, and more. My verbal tics consist of swear words, clicking, blowing raspberries, and yelling. I’ve hit myself, my brother, and my mom because of my tics. 

Going out in public is always scary and worrisome. I’m always thinking about if I’ll accidentally hit someone, or end up screaming loud and being embarrassed. It has happened multiple times where my brother has had to wrap his arms around me so I could calm down. Stress and anxiety can make tics worse, so naturally I tic more in public, too. I have been laughed at, and I have been stared at. This always makes me feel worse, and more anxious, so I always end up having more tics. It’s a never ending cycle.

School is also very scary when it comes to Tourette’s. The kids of our generation can be ruthless at times and that, added onto the natural stress of education does not create a fully safe environment. I’m always worried I’ll have a bad tic day and become a laughing stock because people are so unpredictable and love to take comedy and humor out of anything. Even if that something is someone else’s struggle. Luckily with the option of doing school from Zoom, and the safety of my home, I am in a more relaxing environment.

Tourette’s syndrome is not something to take lightly, or make fun of. Everyday is another day of painful twitching and awful yelling. My neck is always sore from the aggressive jerking movements and my body is always tense. It’s very difficult to exist with this. 504 plans can only do so much on an education level. There are times I can’t even hold a pencil because my brother and I are worried I’ll stab myself with it (which I have done) or I’ll throw it across the room and hit somebody. All of this and I have control over none of it. 

If you see someone that appears to be ticcing, do not stare, just look away. Don’t laugh, and walk away unless instructed otherwise. That person is dealing with a lot of bodily and mental stress. They hate it as much as you do.