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How Tourette Syndrome made me the man I am today

Posted Wed 5th May 2021 at 13:13
by Keelan Mee

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"It's all about how you see yourself, not how others see you".

I'd like to dedicate this blog to my Grandad who never gave up on me. This is for you Pops.

My name is Keelan Mee, I sit here today writing this as a 24 year old man, with my own home, a beautiful fiancée, a stable job and a nice car. All this I gained by working hard, focusing on my life, the paths I take, and striving every day to become to best possible version of myself.

All of these aspects of my life came from my childhood, the experiences I had throughout, and my upbringing. From an early age, my parents noticed these movements and sounds I made, things like shaking my head and making a grunting noise from the back of my throat, almost as if I had something stuck in it. They had no clue what I was doing and would tell me to stop it, not in a bad way but because they thought I was just being a kid. My mum even cut my fringe because she thought I was trying to shake it out of my eyes. As the time passed on, the school I was in at the time began to feel interrupted by this weird kid who did these weird things. My teachers would scream at me, kick me out of the class because I was disturbing the other kids learning, and from this, I'd become frustrated and react in temper because not only did other people not know what I was doing, I didn’t know either. My head was forcing me to do these things that I couldn't stop.

By the time I was 8, I'd began to play football and realised I had a place where I did these things, and they mostly went unnoticed. Of course, I always got the looks and the stares, but I was comfortable to do these things on a football pitch and feel totally normal because it was a loud and busy event. People would scream and shout, which would cover the noises I was making. I loved it. But in school, my life was hell because I was being singled out as the 'naughty' kid, or the weird kid who always played up. They even put me in this group where we would leave the class for one hour a day and go do activities called the ‘out and about’ club. At the time I thought it was great because I was getting out of learning, but I remember my dad really didn't like the fact I was there because he wanted me to be treated the same as any other kid. It’s not wrong for him to think like that as he knew I wasn't the most normal young boy but didn't want me to be singled out.

As time passed, teachers began to really clamp down on me, not wanting me in their classrooms, and throwing me out at the first chance they got. They'd ring my parents and say “Keelan has done this or that”, and my parents would try and fight my corner, but they didn't have an answer for what I was doing. Teachers would even self-diagnose me as ADHD or any other learning difficulty, which wasn’t the case because I was still a bright young boy.

I had a knowledge of football that you wouldn't see a 40 year old man have. I could tell you anything about Manchester United at the age of 8, so there was no way on earth I could have any learning difficulty! Eventually, my parents began to realise something wasn't right here, and decided it was time to find out what they could do to help me. They both got on the internet, googling all sorts of things, and reading into all kinds of different diagnosis and conditions. Now you must remember here, I was only 8 years old. I didn't have the slightest clue what was happening so my memory is faint.

The best memory I have is sitting in front of a doctor with my mum and dad, who was asking me all kinds of questions, and talking about what I wanted to be when I grew up - (obviously I told him I wanted to be a footballer). Looking back now, I can only guess that he was trying to figure out what was going on. I think after a few more meetings with him, he found me a diagnosis, and a name for this weird thing in my head. Tourette Syndrome, also known as Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome. A neurological disorder that caused my brain to send mixed messages to my body which was forcing me to make these 'tics'.

Now, you might think it’s strange to say this, but I was grateful to finally have an answer. I was now able to stand up for myself and say I have Tourette Syndrome and people would finally understand. Well, so I thought!

Although I finally had my diagnosis, teachers and other kids would still treat me the exact same way as before. My year 6 teacher would make me apologise to others for being so disruptive and make me feel humiliated. All this went on until my parents realised what the school were doing, after I went out on lunch with my dad, who rang him to blame something on me, even though I'd been with him. So they moved me onto another local primary, where the headmaster, Mr Aske along with his teachers, made me feel welcome and accepted. So, guess what? I was happy, able to learn and moved onto secondary school with high SATs.

Out of school, I was a happy young lad. I'd play football with my friends, play Xbox and be a kid. My dad would take me up to Manchester to watch United as much as possible and we would spend some of the best days of my childhood at Old Trafford. Both him and my grandad would tell me about the legends, and I had found the (first) love of my life. My dad loved United and he passed that down to me, and I became obsessed with the club - I'd have the shirts, the merchandise, you name it, I had it! My dad was my real best friend throughout my childhood, and still is to this day. The guy really helped me get through the toughest stage of my life.

I must remember this is a blog, and even though I could ramble on about my life through my teen years, nothing really changed. But there is one subject I would like to speak about. My mum found this guy over in the US named Brad Cohen. Brad was a teacher who lives with a severe case of TS, and even has a book and film about his story with TS called 'Front of the Class'. The strangest thing I found was that it felt like me and Brad had lived the exact same life, (which I am aware that most people with TS have).

Brad's story gave me motivation from a young age to show that even though I had a neurological condition, it wouldn't impact the life I was going to live. People were always going to say something about me, but I wasn't going to take notice, and I still don't. My tics were part of me and were also my best teacher. The life I'm living now has happened because of my Tourettes, it's been my constant companion throughout life's ups and downs and helped me become the man I am today. People talk a lot about what would you tell your childhood self, so here's my message to 8 year old Keelan.

“Embrace it. This thing happening in your head isn't going to stop you being the best man you can be. It's going to be the thing that pushes you onto bigger and better things, and one day you'll reap the rewards. You have a great family around you who will support you every step of the way. Don't be scared to be the outcast of the group, just be who you are. You're going to do well in this life, it’s all down to hard work and pushing yourself further. There are better times ahead, and the things you are dealing with now are only going to benefit you in the long run to make you stronger.”

At the start of this, I told you where I am today and what I have. But what I didn’t tell you about the person I am now.
I am a caring and accepting person, who always tries to be there for others, and looks after his own. In 2016 I met my amazing partner, Megan, who has never once cared about my condition, but loved me despite it. For that, I thank her every single day for being my rock, I love you. I don't get many chances to thank others, so I best use this opportunity!

To my parents, Allison and Phil, my grandparents, Vilma and Derek and my brother, Reece. I owe you all my life, you've been the inspiration that has bought me to where I am today, thank you for never giving up on me. My best friend Ben, for never looking at me differently and always being there through school and helping me cope in the toughest of situations.

And, to three important teachers through my school life, Mr Aske who welcomed me to Heathlands with open arms and helped me gain confidence, to Mr Marshall (my secondary tutor) for teaching me that I wasn't a weird or strange kid, just that I could be anybody I wanted to be. Finally, Mr Moore, you were the coolest teacher I had in school and the biggest lesson you taught me was that I am who I am, and your guidance really made an impact on my life. I thank you all.

That's enough from me. I hope this helps anybody who is reading it and that it can help anybody, younger or older than me, find inspiration that you can live with this condition, regardless on severity.

It's all about how you see yourself, not how others see you.

Keelan Mee


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