Hi. I'm Katie. Katie Danis / Via youtube.com I'm a 19-year-old university student in North Carolina. I'm a daughter, granddaughter, sister, and friend. I'm a marathon runner and music video producer. I know that Die Hard is the greatest holiday classic ever put to film. (Fight me, Frank Capra.) And I have Tourette Syndrome. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com Tourette Syndrome is a hereditary neurological condition characterized by tics, repetitive and involuntary movements or vocalizations. Common tics include blinking, touching the floor, head-banging, throat-clearing, and more (NHS). Although it is incurable, many people with Tourette Syndrome find ways to manage their symptoms. For me, that way is running. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com Since I joined my middle school cross-country team at age 13, I have found solace and salvation in the outdoors. In fact, my condition gave me certain advantages in academics and athletics, cultivating an appreciation for the life and health with which I am blessed. After years of reflection, I'm finally ready to talk about it. So, without further ado, here are 10 things that my Tourette Syndrome taught me about running. Here's the video version, if you'd prefer. View this video on YouTube youtube.com Being "in my head" isn't all bad. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com Living with Tourette Syndrome means that I spend hours locked in my mind, paralyzed by compulsive motion and obsessive thought cycles. But when I'm on a thirteen-mile run, my rich psychological tapestry gives me an advantage. I've spent so much time wrestling with my own mind that being alone with my thoughts feels natural. The voice in my head keeps me company during those long miles. I can take control of my body. Katie Danis When I tic, it feels like my body is moving of its own accord. It's frustrating (and at times frightening) to feel as though my own mind has turned against me and stripped me of my agency. Running allows me to regain a measure of control over this body. For me, long periods of exertion are not only spiritually freeing but physically necessary. Tried does not equal true. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com Coaches have slammed me with all kinds of pro tips to run faster: running with music, running without music, counting my steps, timing my breaths, using my watch, leaving my watch, negative splits, consistent splits, doing splits (yikes). However, years of pounding the pavement have shown me that my peak performance comes when I run according to my rules, even if conventional wisdom says otherwise. Years of ticcing and training forced me to reckon with my body and mind, assessing and reassessing which practices most improved my health. I had to realize that what works for other people may not work for me, and vice versa. My way is no better than someone else's, nor is it worse. It's just different. And different is okay. There is no right way to be. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com The DSM-V classifies Tourette’s as a tic “disorder,” a problem that requires treatment. Something broken. Something not-quite-right. Yet this reservoir of nervous energy makes me a better athlete. This neurological abnormality gave me the fortitude to run 26.2 miles. This built-in brain gremlin is just another thread in my identity, like my love of running or my devotion to Justin's chocolate hazelnut butter. "Disorder" implies "wrong," but there is no right way to be. When in doubt, reroute. Know Your Meme / Via knowyourmeme.com I get lost often. Sometimes in the woods, sometimes in my head. When your brain tries to throw you off, you develop ways to deal with it. You treat it. And if the treatment doesn't work, you try something else. In this regard, neurological and psychiatric conditions are like any other illness. I can take this experience and run with it. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com After I wrote my college essay on my experience with TS, I realized it was the most honest thing I had written in my years as a competitive essayist. I narrated my own story with humor and hope. For the first time, I allowed myself to be truly vulnerable. I wondered if other people might read the piece and feel as liberated as I did telling it, so I decided to publish my work. Two years of revision and decision later, "Create it Away" has been published in three countries, two continents, and seven anthologies (and counting!). As honored as I feel to have my work decorated by publishers and read by international audiences, the greatest honor has been to share this deeply personal piece with the friends and family who encouraged me to take my ideas and run with them. Treatment is a marathon. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com During my first marathon in November 2017, I had to stop and bandage my feet at mile18 because they were bleeding through my shoes. I had a respiratory disease, a pulled hamstring, and a barrage of blisters. But I had also promised myself that I would finish. Now when I experience neurological symptoms, I remember that moment. I didn't finish the race because I was an incredible athlete with elite training. I finished because I kept going, and I apply that same theory in my treatment. My family and doctors help me seek long-term management strategies for my symptoms, so when I have that "mile 18" feeling, I know that I can keep on keeping on. I can put my gifts to use. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com If I have an incurable condition, I may as well do something with it. I learned to channel my reservoir of nervous energy into productive tasks. Without TS, I might not have as strong a drive to run or create because I engage in these activities to relieve my symptoms. My condition also gives me compassion and instills in me an unfettered desire to improve public health standards. My first marathon was a fundraiser in support of WISER, a women’s health and education initiative run out of rural Kenya. I am a buddy in I Run 4 Michael, a nonprofit that fosters a community of compassion and inclusivity by pairing runners and people with special needs who then communicate with each other as digital pen pals (shoutout to Sean!). I applied the same passion to produce “The Gyno Rap” (a musical PSA about gynecology) and to launch a YouTube channel about public health and reproductive rights. After years of resenting my body and mind, I am learning to fall in love with myself. Katie Danis Recording "The Gyno Rap." View this video on YouTube youtube.com The Vagilantes' channel trailer! I cannot outrun my demons. BuzzFeed Video / Via youtube.com Exercising my body and mind will not exorcise the voice in my head. I could sprint from Greensboro to Galilee and Ol’ Faithful Azazel would be waiting for me at the finish line. I will never outrun my demons. However, I’ve realized that the mutation which condemns me to glitch like an infected Lenovo ThinkPad also instills in me insatiable curiosity and an obsessive drive to improve the world. It makes me a better runner, a better writer, a better student, a better person. It gives me compassion. I cannot outrun my biochemistry, but I can run with it. I run better on a team. Katie Danis I used to think that I had to bear my curse alone. I pushed my family away because I convinced myself that nobody could understand the spirals in my head, even though my condition directly affected the people closest to me. To truly improve my psychiatric and neurological health, I had to allow myself a measure of vulnerability. I had to join a team. I had to talk to friends. I had to realize that everyone's fighting something and that nobody should endure that something alone. Suffering silently does not signify strength or maturity; asking for help does. Thanks for listening. For more information on TS, check out the NIH and CDC fact sheets. You can contact me through YouTube, my blog, the comments on this post, or by carrier pigeon.