I haven't written about this on my blog yet, because truthfully I was unable to. It was a year ago that it happened, but I haven't felt secure enough to write about it until now. It was too painful and made me too upset to even think about writing about. But it's been a full year and I feel like I have enough distance from it now and strength to let let it hurt me anymore.
A year ago, I was a sophmore in college who had come back to school after break. Coming back to school I was more confident, but still fragile. Other people still greatly affected how I felt about myself. Of course I was coming back to incredibly accepting friends.
On campus this year, I met another person with Tourette's. This was the the first person I had met at my college who also has Tourette's. The girl was a year older than me and I was so excited to meet another person with TS on campus! I told her I have TS too!
She was the first (and still the only) person on campus I had met who also had TS. I saw the potential of having a friend on campus who truly understood what I was going through, who was older, and who I could look up to. I saw the potential of having someone on campus that I could have a strong relationship similar to the relationships I had made at camp. Of course I had amazing friends at school already, but the potential of having a friend on campus who also knew what it was really like to have TS was something that I felt could be really special.
I started telling her about myself and about my experiences with TS, but after about a minute she became very standoffish and distant. I was being nothing but kind and warm to her after she had opened up to me, and I was confused. After only a minute or two of me opening up to her, she suddenly said she had to go and walked away. Had I said something wrong? Now that I had opened my mouth did she think for some reason that I was just a really lame person who she didn't want to be friends with? No, I thought. I tried to reassure myself that she must have really needed to go. She probably needed to study or meet up with someone. I tried to convince myself it had nothing to do with me, but after being rejected by so many people in my past because I was different, it was hard for me to truly convince myself of this. Deep down I thought it was something I had said, something that gave me away to be a nerd or someone who was not as "cool" as she is.
Later on, I decided to send her a message. This message was kind and nothing intrusive at all about TS or anything else. It was just a friendly message. Even though she had seen the message though, she never responded. When I saw her on campus, she looked the other way, and she never talked to me again. Instead she purposefully avoided me. I had been rejected for the first time since middle school and not by just anyone, by someone else who has Tourette's. It reminded me of all the rejection I had faced when I was young because I was "different". It reminded me of the girls at sleep away camp in middle school who had bullied me and made fun of me. It was very hurtful to feel these feelings again. When I told my friends, they tried to comfort me and tell me that the girl I had met was the one who was missing out. They told me I was a great friend and that it was her loss that she didn't want to get to know me. Even with their comforting words, I still felt so hurt. To be rejected by someone who knows what it's like to be different and who knows what it's like to have TS was hard.
This year, I have seen her on campus a few times already. I feel different about it though this year. There's a building on campus where I like to get food, but it's one of the buildings where she has a lot of classes and i've seen her there twice. A year ago, I would have stopped going there to get lunch just so I didn't have to see her. I wanted to hide from her. Now though, I'm not going to give her that kind of power over me. I went to get food in that building today anyway even though I knew I might see her there. I did in fact see her from a distance, but it didn't stop me or make me feel as if I was "less" because she had rejected me.
I am confident in who I am. I have so many friends with and without TS who love me, care about me, and value my friendship. They like me for who I am. They spend time with me because they enjoy my company, like my personality, and they don't mind my tics either. They see me for who I am and don't find anything wrong with that. One person, regardless of if they have Tourette's or not, is not going to have the power over me to make me feel bad about myself because i'm not going to let them.
Today I had a thought that I had never thought of before. When I saw this girl from afar I thought "Thank god it was me who she rejected, and not one of my campers". I know how strong my campers are and how resilient and beautiful they are, but it still made me want to cry thinking of them being rejected by this girl like I was. I thought of each of them and how I would never do something like that to one of them or any other child who had Tourette's or was "different" in some way. Thank god it was me and not one of my girls is all I could think. It would hurt me to much to think of them being rejected by someone else with Tourette's. I know many of them have been through what I have and have been bullied or not included by their peers at some point in their life. To think of them having to go through this and then later on as mature young adults to have all those feelings brought back by someone like them who also has Tourette's and has also felt rejection made me very emotional. I never want this to happen to them. I can only hope it never does.