Real Stories from People Living with Tourette Syndrome: Mike

Mike's Story

Photo: Mike Higgins

“My name is Mike Higgins and I am a father, a pastor, a husband, a dean of students of a seminary, a minister, a full colonel in the United States Army, and I have Tourette syndrome.

“The first time I heard the word, ‘Tourette syndrome,’ from the doctor I had no idea what he was talking about. I had never heard of it. I didn’t know anybody who had ever heard of it before. There were a lot of days as a 12 year-old when I would lay in bed and think about what was happening to me that I could not control. It caused me to wonder, ‘Why was I born like this?’

“I think that I was not diagnosed until I was 28 years old because our family doctors didn’t know about Tourette syndrome. I had been training for three weeks in Death Valley, California, and I was really hot, really dirty, really tired, and my tics were all over the place. My battalion commander noticed and ordered me to get checked out. Finally, I met a neurologist who asked me if anybody in my family had ever had this. I told him that my grandfather did. And he said, ‘I think I know what you have.’

“I didn’t think that I was ever going to be married because it seemed like it was hard enough to just be single with Tourette syndrome. But in my family life now, it’s just who I am. I think that my wife Renee is such a spiritually mature woman and I still look up to her because she’s been my champion in all of this, helping me along, and has really been there by my side. She has never treated me as a victim and refuses to let me be a victim.

“The churches that I’ve been in have very celebratory worship styles. When I’m preaching, I don’t tic a lot; sometimes not at all. It seems like there’s a grace period I get when I’m focused on something that I’m passionate about. If we can educate the ministers, pastors, and religious leaders about Tourette’s, then they can go on to educate folks in their congregations, families of children with Tourette’s, and also folks who don’t understand Tourette’s.

“I don’t think Tourette’s takes away your dreams. I just think that it may put an extra wall or two between you and accomplishing your dreams. But you can get over the walls. As I say, ‘You may have Tourette syndrome, but it doesn’t have to have you.’”

Watch Mike’s story on video »external icon

CDC would like to thank Mike Higgins and the Tourette Association of Americaexternal icon for sharing this personal story.

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