‘Live and let live:’ Eliot discusses struggle with Tourette’s syndrome

Marc Eliot has always known what it feels like to be different. Eliot was born with hardly any intestines and at age nine he developed Tourette’s syndrome, a widely known but highly misunderstood neurological disorder.

“My whole life in certain situations, people have made assumptions about who I was as a person, without really knowing who I was,” Eliot said. “But then they turned those assumptions, which are baseless, to dictate actions in the way they treated me.”

Eliot, a native of St. Louis, presented his motivational message titled “What Makes You Tic?” at the Illini Union. The presentation was part of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Relations iUnite event, which aims to bring together members of the University community to embrace differences and celebrate diversity on campus.

“Whether I’m speaking to a high school audience or a college audience, my message is live and let live,” Eliot said. “Also, my message is a refresher that even though we are told about tolerance and taught about acceptance, we can always be reminded that compassion is infinite.”

During the presentation, Eliot explained that having Tourette’s — what he called a “crazy, crazy disorder” — means that he has chemicals in his brain that are unusual.

“They cause there to be this energy in my body, an extreme discomfort and the only way to get rid of this is to tic,” he said.

Tics are involuntary movements or utterances. Eliot compares them to itches, which he must scratch in order to function. But unlike when an itch is scratched, this kind of itch immediately returns, he said.

Before Eliot began his presentation, Eliot handed out notes with specific words on it and a time during the presentation to yell it out. He does this in order to give everyone a “chance to have Tourette’s,” but reminded the audience that this is the way he lives every single day.

Audience member Brittany Kawa, sophomore in Education, said that she attended the event because she has always heard of Tourette’s Syndrome, but didn’t know much about its effects.

“My best advice for someone who feels different is that people feel that sometimes there is nobody else out there, and what happens is we keep all of these challenges in life to ourselves,” Eliot said. “One thing that has helped me the most is to feel open and knowing that there are always people out there to help you on your journey or struggle.”