Each morning in middle school before I opened my eyes for the day, I would tell myself, “OK, just don’t start. Just don’t start blinking.” But to my dismay — and with a feeling of personal failure — the blinking would begin.

This blinking wasn’t the normal, graceful bashing of the eyelashes, though. This blinking was aggressive, obsessive and compulsory. Every few seconds, I would forcefully shut my eyes, open them and then forcefully shut them again.

It was embarrassing.

I had no idea what the cause of it was.

As a 12-year-old, I diagnosed myself with excessively dry eyeballs, a brain tumor, an eye tumor and glaucoma.

While I was both dubious and hopeful that none of these diseases were the actual reason, the blinking and the humiliation persisted.

Middle school is the paradigm for awkwardness and unwarranted cruel and immature behavior.

So this new identifying characteristic that I had acquired only gave every student more of a reason to poke fun.

After weeks of concerned comments from both my teachers and friends, I saw a neurologist.

There was absolutely nothing physically wrong with me. No tumors or blood clots. What I had was tics, a less serious form of Tourette’s Syndrome (TS).

TS is, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “a neurologic illness that begins in childhood or adolescence. The essential feature of TS is tics — multiple movements or vocalizations that are sudden, rapid and purposeless.”

I am certain that when most people hear the word “Tourette’s,” they think of someone uncontrollably shouting out profanity in a large auditorium.

Sadly, some severe cases of Tourette’s do manifest themselves in that way, but more than 60 percent do not.

I am also certain that most of us have either made fun of, or have been around someone who has made fun of, a person with Tourette’s.

It’s understandable; the noises and actions can catch people off-guard, and sometimes you just have to laugh.

But that is where the stigma that surrounds the illness comes from and why it is so taboo.

Nearly one in 200 children are diagnosed with TS, and 25 percent of children develop the common tic.

Though it is not definite what the cause of TS and tics is, it is clear that they both progress more rapidly with the onset of anxiety.

Mental illness and anxiety can present itself in many ways.

With the 27th annual National Eating Disorder Awareness Week in full swing, I wanted to take this opportunity to hopefully reduce some of the shame surrounding mental illness in all of its forms.

Those who suffer from eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette’s or other general anxiety disorders don’t do so willingly. We can’t allow the ignominy of mental illness to continue so that those who suffer feel ashamed.

Active Minds is an organization that was created for this very purpose. Its objective is to “remove the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, and create a comfortable environment for an open conversation about mental health issues on campuses nationwide.”

Binghamton University proudly has its own chapter.

I encourage everyone to check it out and actively think about the way in which they view mental illness.