My name is Ivette De Aguiar and I am a Rising Leader from Miami, FL diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS). It is finally back to school season which is both a nerve racking and exciting time! I am heading into my senior year at the University of Florida (UF), which means I will be off to the real world come May. I have a double major in Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics with a minor in Classical Studies. I’m hoping to either start a master’s program for speech-language pathology next year or to take a gap year to work as a speech-language pathologist assistant. My favorite classes are usually one’s that are a challenge for me. This year I am taking a class on the American healthcare system and it is totally out of my comfort zone, which I love!

I am so excited to help spread awareness this year by collecting interviews by those with TS in order to compile them into a resource that everyone can use. I also plan on working with the UF Motor Disorders Clinic and the local TS chapter near me. My TS has become mild in adulthood, leaving me with mostly simple motor tics. However, my anxiety has skyrocketed to a whole new level. Anxiety is a common co-occurring condition with TS, so I know many others are dealing with the same feelings as they head back to school. These are some tips that have helped me deal with anxiety:

  1. Create some headspace! Find an activity that allows you to clear your mind and find peace in the moment. Whether that is a physical activity, playing an instrument, or meditating all that matters is that it works for you. Personally, I use the app “Headspace” to meditate which has helped me tremendously.
  2. Be open about how you feel. Keeping thoughts of anxiety to yourself can make them seem scarier than they actually are and cause you to isolate yourself. Instead, find a trusted friend or family member and tell them what you are feeling. Saying those “scary” thoughts out loud can lessen the severity of how those thoughts make you feel.
  3. Consider seeing a professional. I was nervous about seeing a therapist for a long time, but after my anxiety brought me to an all-time low, I decided to start seeing a professional. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made! It has helped me learn and practice strategies that I can use going back to school and in general. I have also recently started seeing a psychiatrist as well and have been taking Prozac for around a month now. Personally this has been a positive, life-changing experience. However, everyone is different so just be open to possible resources that can help your anxiety but ultimately you know what’s best for you!

Having access to mental health resources is especially important when you or someone you know is being bullied. Bullying is never ok, and it is always important to stand up for yourself in those situations. If people try to make fun of your tics, it is probably because they don’t understand the condition. It is your job to be the bigger person and explain to them what the condition is so that they can get a better understanding. If that doesn’t work, I recommend reaching out to a teacher you trust to let them know that someone is bullying you. I wish I had reached out to a teacher in high school when I was being bullied, but instead I tried to deal with it on my own. With those tips and thoughts in mind, I hope everyone has a great start to their school year!