By Hayley Gripp
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 10 until I turned 16, 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.
I was being badly bullied due to my tics, which forced me to learn a technique that helped me control them and ultimately accept that I had Tourette syndrome. The technique is simply replacing a tic with a more socially acceptable tic, but it takes months of training to accomplish. With this self-acceptance, my life got better and I began to make friends. At 16, I began going around to schools, rotary clubs, doctor’s offices and police departments to share my story, and spread awareness about bullying.
By last year, at 19, my tics were non-existent. A friend who is a model suggested I also start modeling. She said I would probably book because I have a very unique shade of natural red hair. For about six months I was very successful at print modeling and 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. So 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.
Standing Up to Bullying
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 believe that 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.
One thing that many people do not realize is that if you have been bullied before, it is never too late to say, “I’m sorry” and start over. Another thing that many people do not fully comprehend is, what does it mean 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 “cyberbullying” on social networks, but simply posting a negative comment on someone’s Facebook status, whether or not it is actually bullying, is very hurtful. Another common, lesser-known way to hurt someone often happens among girls. It is called “the backhanded 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 cyberbullied or said a backhanded compliment, but now that we are aware, it is up to us to change for the better.
I still do speeches on anti-bullying to tell my story, have teamed up with the “No Bull Guys” this November to do an anti-bullying presentation in Ohio, and am currently co-writing/starring in a movie on bullying. Bullying is often a chain reaction. Once you break that chain, nothing is impossible.
For more info on Hayley Gripp please visit her official website: hayleyelizabethgripp.com or follow her on twitter: @HayleyGripp