Imagine looking normal on the outside and being actually quite pretty. Nobody stops and notices the way the pretty girl occasionally clears her throat when she’s nervous, how she periodically sniffs when she doesn’t have a cold, or how her fingers seem to always tap against her side. Most people would think the pretty girl had cute “quirks” and wouldn’t in a million years guess she actually has Tourette syndrome, and that those quirks are actually tics that she cannot control.
Tics are uncontrollable, involuntary sudden or rapid motor or vocal involvements. The girl with Tourette’s is me, and my name is Hayley. By observing my tics and comparing them to something you have seen in the media, they probably do not seem that bad. But from the time I was diagnosed at age ten until I turned sixteen, my tics were horrendous.
Having a disability such as Tourette syndrome tends to scare off potential friends. People are scared of what society does not consider normal, but in my opinion, being normal is overrated. Currently I am twenty years old, but four years ago when I accepted that I had Tourette syndrome, everything started to get better. I learned a technique to help control my tics, which by that point were milder, and I began to make friends. I was forced to learn this technique because I was being bullied so badly due to my tics. The technique is simply replacing a tic with a more socially acceptable tic, but it takes months of training to accomplish.
At sixteen-and-a-half, I began going around to schools, rotary clubs, doctors’ offices, and police offices to share my story, and spread awareness about bullying. Right before my 19th birthday, a friend who is a model suggested I start modeling. She said I would probably book because I have a very unique shade of natural red hair. At that point my tics were non-existent, so for about six months I was very successful at print modeling. I even booked myself on an “As Seen On TV” box. Even though I found success in modeling, I truly missed acting, which is my real passion. In February 2013, I started submitting myself on casting web sites, and by September 2013 had done four commercials, been in three feature films, and had been featured on the hit television show CSI: Las Vegas. Even though my acting career is just starting to take off, one thing I have kept close to my heart is the fight to end bullying. I still continuously do speeches on anti-bullying and tell my story, am teaming up with the “No Bull Guys” in November to do an anti-bullying presentation in Ohio, and am currently co-writing/starring in a movie on bullying.
One thing that many people do not realize is that if you have bullied before, it is never too late to say I’m sorry and start over. Everybody has the choice to be nice or simply be mean. A reputation as a bully is not something that should define a person’s actions. Another thing that many people do not fully comprehend is what it means to bully. I could easily pull out a dictionary, but I feel it would be much more useful to list a few situations, which hopefully will raise awareness about bullying. Obviously many people have heard of “cyber bullying” on social networks, but simply posting a negative comment on someone’s Facebook status can be considered cyber bullying. Another common lesser-known form of bullying often happens among girls. It is called “The Back-handed Compliment.” An example of this could be saying, “Your hair looks much better than yesterday,” or “Wow, that skirt doesn’t make you look fat at all,” or even “You really don’t need all that makeup because you are so pretty.” Now, I’m sure most of the population has accidently cyber bullied or said a back-handed compliment, but now that we are aware, it is up to us if we are going to make bullying a trend or not. Bullying is often a chain reaction. One you break that chain, nothing is impossible. —Hayley Gripp
Photographed by Kristen Urlacher