Hudson County native Theresa Borrelli may be a living testament to the American dream. Borrelli, who grew up in public housing in West New York, was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at a young age. Now the former resident has written a book detailing her experiences with overcoming adversity to become a successful teacher. Titled “I Am Myself: A Woman Growing up with Tourette Syndrome,” the book was released on Tuesday, July 5 by Strategic Book Group.
A difficult upbringing
“I’ve had Tourette’s since I was 8 years old. I was diagnosed when I was 16, after the death of my father,” said Borrelli.
Tourette’s Syndrome is an incurable neurological disorder in which sufferers make sounds or movements they cannot control. According to Borrelli, her symptoms worsen when in crowds or stressful situations. “I have all types, except cursing,” said Borrelli, who added that the type of Tourette’s involving cursing, called coprolalia, is rare.
“I came through acceptance of myself and I realized other people’s insecurities are not mine.” – Theresa Borrelli
Borrelli described how at a young age, she was very defensive and critical of the doctors who diagnosed her. She would often adjust her lifestyle to fit into a crowd.
“I always tried to fit in,” said Borrelli, “and I couldn’t. I would do anything to fit in a crowd.”
Borrelli also added, “My tics and stuff didn’t really both anyone else [at the projects]. It was pretty much well hidden.”
“I had to take public transportation. I wasn’t allowed to drive because of Tourette’s,” said Borrelli. “I went through stages where I would cry on busses, I would cry on trains....”
She added, “People were making fun of me and laughing at me and I was just a problem child.”
Cast her problems aside
But Borrelli found something in which she could take her mind off her hardships: sports.
“I lost myself in sports,” said Borrelli, who was a softball pitcher. “I went to Memorial High School and was a standout athlete.”
According to Borrelli, as she aged, she was able to acknowledge and reconcile her disorder.
“I came through acceptance of myself and I realized that other people’s insecurities are not mine,” she added.
After finding her niche within her high school, Borrelli graduated and went on to Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and then to receive a Master’s in Criminal Justice at Jersey City University.
The next step of her career
After graduating from Jersey City University, Borrelli moved on to become a teacher and author. She has since taught at the Hoboken Charter School, as well as the Essex County College, where she served as a professor of Criminal Justice.
“When I get in front of my students, I tell them I have a disorder,” said Borrelli, who indicated that her book is dedicated to her students, who have always been very accepting.
In fact, her main objective when writing her book is to promote tolerance about all out of the ordinary conditions and disorders.
“Everybody goes through struggles and obstacles and has their own troubles,” said Borrelli. “Always know that there is an end, and that you can get through it with motivation, determination, and fate.”
Borrelli currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where she plans on continuing her career as an author. She is working on a collection of poetry and a children’s book.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.