Despite her young age, 18-year-old Billie Eilish is an artist with a lot of experience and talent. She’s also a role model for rocking out in the face of health struggles - but she doesn’t want it to be the whole story. On November 27th of 2018, the then 16-year-old singer Billie Eilish confirmed that she has Tourette Syndrome and that she was diagnosed with the disorder when she was a child. While the Tourette Syndrome may cause a person to have involuntary physical or verbal tics, Eilish exhibits physical tics, but not verbal. She never mentioned the syndrome on the internet or social media because she did not want everyone to associate her with tourettes. However, instead of taking offense to her tics compilation videos online, she let it roll off her back, and claimed the videos were actually pretty funny. Aside from opening up on Instagram, she also brought up her Tourette Syndrome on the well-known Ellen Show. She said that revealing her disorder inspired many of her fans that also live with Tourette’s, which in turn has helped her connect with them better.
The response went from jokes about her tics to expressions of support and gratitude for her bravery. Eilish has achieved her success at such a young age by being an authentically weird alternative to the more generic pop acts being directed at teenagers. Her unusual acts and deep lyrics connected with fans before her diagnosis was ever revealed. She also explained that those close to her have always known about her Tourette’s, as it affects her daily life. She went on to outline the strategies she has developed for helping to deal with the disorder in public, such as timing her tics so she won’t be on cameras in interviews. She has learned that a lot of her fans also have it, which made her feel kind of more at home with saying it. She believes that we never have to struggle in silence, and we never have to hide who we are, or what got us to where we are now. Eilish and her fans have a lot of reasons to be proud! People living with Tourette Syndrome may face discrimination for their condition that can be difficult to challenge, despite the protections by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to the Tourette Association of America. Although the ADA provides people with disabilities the same rights as every other citizen, many people with Tourette’s have had problems asserting their ADA rights because they have to prove their condition “substantially limits one or major life activities.” Some people have debated over what constitutes “major life activities,” using a narrow definition that considers only very basic functions, such as eating, using the restroom, or walking. No one should ever be defined with what medical condition they live with, and Billie Eilish is showing her fans exactly how to live that truth. She might live with Tourette’s, but it isn’t who she is, and that’s a story that can help everyone - no matter what they might be going through.
Written by Jeffrey Yu