A CHILDHOOD spent receiving unwanted attention left Tourette’s sufferer and former Peebles High School pupil Jack O’Hara with severe anxiety and depression.

As the son of a retired police officer and a bank cashier, his life would be relatively normal without Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder which affects around one in 100 children and young people in the UK.

Now a first-year Scottish history student at the University of Edinburgh, Jack's memories of growing up with Tourette syndrome are still agonisingly fresh.

Speaking to the Peeblesshire News, 19-year-old Jack said: “My earliest memory of facing adversity was in primary two, when I had a problematic teacher.

“She didn’t believe that I had Tourette’s – she thought I was acting up for attention.”

The memories of being ridiculed at such a young age evidently still haunt Jack today.

He said: “I remember the teacher showing me up and making me look like a fool in front of the class.

"When the teacher laughed, my classmates laughed too.”

As a youngster, Jack also exhibited bursts of impulsive behaviours – on occasions, he would run out onto the middle of the road towards oncoming traffic.

After countless visits to his GP, and being wrongly diagnosed with ADHD and autism, he was eventually confirmed as having Tourette’s at the age of seven.

Nearly 86 per cent of people who seek treatment for Tourette’s will be diagnosed with a second psychiatric disorder during their lifetimes, according to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Due to the complicated nature of the syndrome, misdiagnoses are common, and the process of finding a correct diagnosis for Jack took several years.

And although the rest of his school days were slightly easier and his school was cooperative, Jack faced other issues.

Undertaking a series of drug trials from the ages of eight to 11, he lost three stone in a year – making him dangerously underweight.

“The medication made me feel so low and lethargic all the time and came with horrendous side effects," he said.

“I had no personality and was reduced to skin and bone.

"One gave me breasts, and one made me drool all the time.”

A 2017 study in Biological Psychiatry revealed that Tourette’s sufferers are four times more likely than the general population to die by suicide, with mental health problems having a “severe impact” on their daily lives.

With the constant attention being directed towards him due to his physical and vocal tics, Jack’s own mental health took a turn for the worse during secondary school.

When using public transport, Jack would always sit at the back to avoid all eyes being on him.

Most of his tics are quite physical, which meant his anxiety would sky-rocket when he was out in public.

After being diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and depression, even leaving the house became too much at times.

“Tourette’s infiltrates every part of your life,” Jack said.

“It got to the stage that every time I left the house, I would come back crying because of bullying or horrible comments.

“My main problems aren’t because of my tics. They’re because of public reaction and public perception of Tourette’s.

“The fact that I’m ticking doesn’t make me depressed and it doesn’t make me anxious.

"It’s how other people react. It’s only such a huge part of my life because of other people.

“It’s instinctive for people to turn around and look, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it makes me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed over something that I cannot control.”

It was not only the tics that made Jack stand out from the crowd during childhood.

As a gay teenager, he says he struggled to make any male friends because of his sexuality, which he has never hidden.

And the struggles, although manifesting in different forms, have continued into young adult life.

As a result of years of relentless twitching and involuntary leg movements, Jack is battling chronic muscle pain and nausea.

Cognitive behaviour therapy; reiki; reflexology – Jack has tried everything to relieve the pain but to little avail.

He is prescribed strong painkillers, and at times has had to keep his neck in a brace because of his tics.

When attempting to enter bars or nightclubs, bouncers sometimes reject him because they believe he is under the influence of illegal drugs.

Alcohol consumption can trigger his tics, making them more prominent and frequent.

Even in university lectures, he sometimes must call out people for continually turning around and staring at him, despite knowing his condition.

Jack insists that suffering from Tourette syndrome has given him a “thick skin".

He has always felt fully supported by his parents but has chosen to be independent from a young age, refusing to let his condition prevent him from doing the things he wants to achieve.

Attending doctor's appointments on his own from the age of 12, Jack preferred to handle everything by himself.

In his third year at Peebles High School, Jack ran a public campaign and was successfully elected as a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) for the region.

He said: “I ran because I’ve always been interested in social issues and wanted to meet like-minded people, which I sometimes felt starved of growing up.

“I think I would be a really confident, extroverted guy without my tics – they are the one thing holding me back.”

Since his darkest days battling anxiety and depression, Jack has made friends and had part-time jobs in bars in Peebles and Edinburgh.

Mental health struggles may have stolen parts of Jack's childhood – and he continues to live in the spotlight of Tourette’s – but it hasn’t stopped him embracing student life.