I check the clock. It’s 11:13pm. Almost 30 minutes after I switched the lights off and decided to go to bed. But my tics have kept me up all this while— head shaking and quick grunts telling me not to relax and sleep. But I fight that urge, taking deep breaths repeatedly until my consciousness takes over and puts me to sleep. It’s been difficult having Tourette Syndrome as a teen, but I’ve found ways to make it much more manageable. Whether it’s through the help of my family to reduce my stress levels or telling myself to resist the urge for long enough, I find ways most of the time to manage my tics. Something that I’ve acknowledged is the fact that my tics won’t go away immediately, and they may not even go away after an extended period of time. However, I understand how much I can reduce them to carry on with my daily life in a more normal fashion.
After a peaceful sleep, I wake up with no tics at all to my amazement. As I drive to school, I mentally prepare myself to calm down during public situations, afraid that I will burst out into tics at any moment. Much to my surprise, I usually make it throughout the entire school day without many instances of tics. I think it’s because of the fact that I get distracted in a good way by my classes and interacting with my friends and peers, which directs my attention away from any thoughts of tics. The easiest way for me to fall into the trap of my Tourette Syndrome is by constantly thinking about my tics, even if I’m thinking about not doing those actions. On the days that I do get tics at school, I tell myself to take deep breaths during class or at lunch break. I find ways to calm myself by making jokes with my friends or talking about a cool homework problem from class. Whenever a classmate notices me doing tics, I feel extremely comfortable telling them about my condition, and they are always considerate and kind.
I know a lot of teens tend to shy away from talking about neurodevelopmental conditions, and that is reasonable. I used to be extremely shy about telling people about my condition when they noticed my behavior, as I would feel embarrassed. However, as I learnt more about my tics, I realized that, like any other neurological condition, the people around me didn’t treat me any differently because of it. After this revelation, I was much more open about my Tourette Syndrome, even writing several blogs about it like this one. I started embracing it and learning how to manage it at the same time, which I felt was an amazing balance.
One interesting thing that works for me is listening to music, whether it’s something on the radio or a calming Vivaldi song. Something about the rhythms and beats helps me calm down and tune out any thoughts of tics. Playing basketball or golf with my friends has the same effect as well. I know teens across America have different personalities, but I think everyone has some activity that can help them calm down and enjoy their daily lives.
Over the last several years with my Tourette Syndrome, I’ve learned an important lesson about myself and others with this condition— we don’t give up. The condition takes a heavy tax on our brains and body, as it requires so much energy every minute. At the end of the day, I believe nobody should be afraid or ashamed of this condition, and should try their best to find a way of relaxation to reduce their tics.
Aarav Chandra, Blogger and teen living with TS
Aarav Chandra is a high school junior in San Diego. He has been doing neuroscience research with a professor at UCSD for over two years and studies planaria to understand how the nervous systems work and react to different stimuli. He is passionate about spreading awareness of Tourette’s by sharing his own stories. He co-founded two non-profit organizations to teach under-privileged children in California and India. His non-profit corporation, Learning Spaces, works with local San Diego schools to ensure libraries are enriched with books for students to read. He also teaches children in rural India to read and write. He has seven World Championship titles in taekwondo and is now teaching it to younger children.