by Danny Accardi, photographer for the NYC Chapter
My name is Dan, I am 22 years old, and for the past eleven years I have suffered from Tourette Syndrome. I have been mocked, I have been made fun of, and I have been laughed at. Words cannot describe the pain and suffering I have been through over the past several years.
It all started in the third grade. I began to make noises, strange noises, little barking sounds. I didn’t know what was going on, and my teachers looked at me weirdly and just sent me to the nurse a lot. In fourth grade, I was diagnosed with TS, and the noises got worse. I was making loud barking sounds, and I was yelling out foul words, words that offended people. It really made me so mad, sad, angry, and confused. There were so many ignorant students saying I was dumb, stupid, and retarded, but there were also many students who appreciated me as well.
When I moved on to junior high school, things changed for the better. I made so many good friends, and that made me so happy that I forgot I had Tourette Syndrome. My friends told that they remembered years when my TS was so bad but now they were saying it was so much better. There were still people who made fun of me, but I wasn’t about to let that ruin my life. I joined the track team, and in eighth grade I made even more friends.
However, high school was the worst, for one simple reason: ignorant kids. I never felt more tormented in all my life. There were excellent teachers, counselors, and staff. It was the ignorant people who would bother me. There were days that I went home crying because I had been teased so badly. There were times when I couldn’t go to class.
What kept me going were my real friends, friends who were there for me, friends who cared and understood. Here’s an example of a good friend watching out for me. I have encountered people who I could swear were my friends, people I thought liked me, people I thought cared about me. But as soon as I would leave or turn my back, they would start making fun of my TS. How did I know? There were always a few people in my crowd who were disgusted with what these so-called friends were doing. So one of them called me and said, “Look, these people are not your friends, they are lying to you. These are not the kind of people you should be with.” That person, looking out for me and making sure that I wasn’t going to hang with people who would hurt me, was a true friend.
As of this moment on, I feel as if my main goal in life is to make people understand exactly what Tourette Syndrome is. People need to be educated. In every class that I have taken in college, I have stood up in the beginning of the semester and introduced myself and told them what I suffer from. And if for some reason I was unable to introduce myself, the professors would tell the students for me. Over the past three years, I have also taken the liberty of posting flyers all around campus on just about every bulletin board, hoping that students would read it and understand what it is I’m going through rather than look at me in a weird way, thinking, “What’s wrong with him?” As I said, I feel my goal is to make people understand TS.