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19 year old Amber talks about school, employment and finding her confidence.

Posted Thu 24th Nov 2016 at 14:07
by Amber


Growing up my family and teacher would always tell me off for making funny noises or pulling a face and I just couldn't understand why I was being yelled at.

It took a while until I was actually diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. I went to so many different doctors’ appointments where they would just tell me ‘It's just when you're feeling nervous' or 'You'll grow out of it'. 

After a few years I finally got referred to a specialist at a hospital near me to go for a brain scan and still they couldn't see anything physically wrong with me, which is when they said they thought it was TS. My first reaction was to ask how long I was going to have it for and I can remember when the doctor replied 'Forever' I felt so sick. It knocked my confidence even more than it already was.

School was really hard for me. I would try and sit at the back of the class so there was no one behind me to see me moving about. I rarely put my hand up or spoke when a teacher asked me a question. I had a good group of friends but I never spoke to them about it and tried to hold in my tics when I could.

It was when I was in year 9 that I was bullied by two year 13 girls for my tics. I had a tic where I jerked my head back and even though it would cause me pain I couldn't help it. One day, I was walking down the corridor with my friends when we walked past the girls and they started yelling about my tics and calling me names. I couldn't avoid the subject anymore so I told my friends I had Tourettes and that's why the girls were yelling at me. I was so humbled when they all told me they already knew and it didn't bother them. They asked a lot of questions which I was happy to answer and they came with me to the head teacher to report the bullying.

I think it was the support from my friends that made me realise I wasn't going to shy away or hide from who I was anymore. I decided to do an assembly, in front of my entire year to explain what Tourettes syndrome is. It was easier to tell an entire year at once then have the odd person stare or ask. It was the most frightening moment of my life, not a lot of people knew who I was. I was still incredibly shy so I didn't stay up there in front of everyone for very long but it made a huge difference. A lot of people came up to me saying well done and asking me more questions about it.

After year 11 I decided to do a performing arts course at college, not because I necessarily wanted to go into that career but it was just to mainly boost my confidence. By the end of the year I was singing a solo in the end of year performance and I can honestly say I'm a completely different person now.

I don't like looking back at those school years, I was sad, shy and thought I had to hide a big part of who I am. But when I realised it didn't bother my friends, I realised it shouldn't bother anyone else either.

I started working at Argos part time however it wasn't what I wanted to do forever. So I started looking around for a full time job which is when I saw the ad for Barclays. I thought it was a long shot but I had good experience and I had the grades. I went for an interview and I was so nervous, hoping my tics wouldn't flare up which they have a tendency to do when I'm stressed or in a situation I'm not familiar with. It went really well and I got a call a couple days later saying I had got the job!

I believe my managers words were that I came across really bubbly and confident, something I wouldn't have even imagined I would hear back in Year 9. I started working at Barclays just over 6 months ago and I'm really happy there. I have supportive colleagues and I'm in a job I enjoy but which also challenges me. I'm so proud of myself for where I am now, not just in my career but in my confidence and how I feel about myself.

There will always be people that stare at me, or ask questions, or even laugh and make a joke but it's so much better to just explain why than hide away or make up a lie.

Still to this day I have never met anyone else with Tourette syndrome, but I don't feel alone anymore or like I have to hide it because I'm so different from everyone else.

Ever since I decided to just accept myself for how I am I've never looked back.

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