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'Passions' Star McKenzie Westmore Reveals She Suffers From Tourette Syndrome

McKenzie Westmore tourette syndrome
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Apr. 24 2019, Updated 4:44 p.m. ET

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Passions star McKenzie Westmore has revealed that she was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome as a child. In a new interview, she spoke candidly about her experience in order to raise awareness and break the stigma surrounding the disorder.

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McKenzie Westmore tourette syndrome
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McKenzie, 41, was diagnosed at 10 years old and she recalled how she hid her facial and verbal tics from her peers while growing up. “I make a squeaking noise, like a mouse, and I still do it to this day,” she told People. “Most people outgrow it when they’re teenagers, but I did not. Mine exhibits in vocal tics and in facial tics; I furrow my brows. I always had to lie and say that I had dust in my eyes, or if it’s the squeaking noise to try and distract people.”

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Though Tourette's is incurable, at the time, people took lithium to help alleviate some of its effects. However, that wasn’t an option for McKenzie. “That is a heavy-duty drug that my mom was not going to put a 10-year-old on,” she explained. “So I was not put on medication, and I just had to deal with it."

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McKenzie Westmore tourette syndrome
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“I was brutally made fun of in school, I was bullied, I was beaten up, and I just dealt with it,” she shared. “I had to live with it and get through it.”

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McKenzie Westmore tourette syndrome
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McKenzie used acting as a way to escape the perils of her childhood. “Being on stage is when I was able to relax,” she explained. “My tics would stop and I would be able to create these characters and ignore everything else.”

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McKenzie Westmore tourette syndrome
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Though she lived in constant fear that someone would find about out her disorder, her work on the short film Goodbye Dessa motivated her to speak out about her Tourette’s on her own terms.

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McKenzie Westmore tourette syndrome
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“The majority of our cast and our crew had disabilities,” she recalled. “And as while we were filming, I started to research it and I didn’t realize that Tourette’s syndrome is considered a disability. I looked at the Tourette’s community and saw that there was no face for this; nobody to speak on their behalf. I wanted to come out with this.”

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McKenzie Westmore tourette syndrome
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After conducting her own research and realizing Tourette’s was a vast “spectrum” and “not anything scary,” she became determined to finally accept her own diagnosis and spread awareness.

McKenzie Westmore tourette syndrome
Source: MEGA

“This was something that I had pushed aside, that I had Tourette’s,” she said. “I thought of it as this annoying thing. I’ve realized that I don’t have to hide from it any more. I don’t need to stay quiet. I can tell people and not be embarrassed.”

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