I remember the first time I noticed my tics like it was yesterday. I remember being a little scared—having this weird urge to contract my stomach muscles. I remember thinking if I just did it, it would go away and I’d be fine… but that was not the case.

Fast forward to a year later, when I was 7-years-old. I received my diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome and my body has never truly been “mine” ever since. You would think that would make this a sad story, but that’s not the case at all. Although some days end in exhaustion and a lot of tears, most days are pretty good, tics and all.

Growing up with Tourette Syndrome has had its ups and downs. I had days that I had to come home from school because it became too much. I remember crying to my mom while thinking

“I just want to stop moving for two seconds, is that too much to ask?”

Those thoughts have re-entered my mind on the bad days. But my family, friends, and my husband have helped me get by. My parents are the reason for my positive outlook and for the confidence I have in myself, even with my tics. They taught me that I was just as strong and just as good as everyone else and if anything that growing up with Tourette Syndrome made me that much stronger. It made me a little different, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t capable of absolutely anything.

I am normal, for whatever normal may be. I have a full-time job in an office setting and I’m even a part-time personal trainer and fitness instructor. Exercise has become a passion of mine and it has helped me manage my Tourette Syndrome over the years. I found that when I exercise, my tics disappear and the elect lasts throughout the day. I found ways to help myself and most importantly, I found a way to take control back even if for just an hour or two.

I am fiercely proud and love the person I have become and, most importantly, unashamed of my Tourettes. Having Tourette Syndrome isn’t easy; I hate when my emotions, even happy ones, put my tics into overdrive. People staring isn’t always easy to deal with either but, it’s who I am and there is nothing I can do to change it. The way I see it is, if I don’t accept it, how can I ever expect anyone else to do the same? Yeah, my body does weird things, I make weird noises that often sound like a squirrel, but that’s okay because it’s me.

“TS is a huge part of my life and who I am, but that’s not ALL that I am. It made me strong, independent, and empathetic.”

And although I’d love to wake up tomorrow and never tic again, there will NEVER be a day where I wish I never had it to begin with.