Meet Anilee List. You may recognize this bright young star from this season of American Idol! While her current ambitions are amazing by their own measure, her Brain Story begins long before her appearance on the show. She sat down with UBA to discuss her life with Tourette’s and ADHD, both equally challenging disorders individually, but together, they have led her on what she refers to as her beautiful journey. Join us for Anilee List’s Brain Story, and as this awe-inspiring young singer tells us about her struggles growing up and the challenges and support she’s found along the way.. 

Life With Tourette’s- Early Diagnosis

In one of our previous Brain Stories featuring Collin Krzyzaniak, we learned that Tourette’s is typically diagnosed during childhood. While some children are diagnosed as early as 2 years of age, it is more common for clear physical and vocal tics to present between the ages of 7 and 10. While most children outgrow their tics as they near adulthood, there are still some individuals who continue to suffer from severe vocal and physical tics into adulthood.

When it comes to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD, hyperactive behavior can usually be seen in youngsters of preschool age, but attention deficit symptoms almost always present once children are old enough to enter elementary school levels. This inability to focus comes when the level of school work necessary requires a bit more focus and attention. 

Anilee List: American Idol Star Diagnosed With Tourette Syndrome From Talent Recap

Anilee’s journey with Tourette’s began after a childhood slip and fall. She was playing on a homemade seesaw, slipped, fell, and hit her chin. “The morning after the accident, I had some signs of whiplash.  This was accompanied by shoulder shrugging and other visible tics such as eye blinking,” she said, but it wasn’t until a few years later that the need for further medical insight became clear. 

“When I was ten years old, I started developing vocal tics. I was at a community theater event and began yelping and displaying pronounced vocal tics. My sister reported to our parents, “Wait till you hear what Anilee’s doing today.”

It wasn’t until after her vocal tics presented that it became obvious that a diagnosis was needed. As her vocal tics progressed, Anilee’s parents helped her get into a UCLA study regarding Tourette Syndrome. In this study, Anilee underwent EEG and CAT scans, and after the study’s conclusion, it became apparent that her tics were undeniably due to Tourette’s. At that time, the cost to have Anilee medically diagnosed was extremely high. Due to this factor, and because Anilee had been accepted into the Tourrette’s study with UCLA, paying the astronomical out-of-pocket expense for her diagnosis was difficult.  Anilee’s family proceeded with other methods and therapies to combat her involuntary vocal and physical symptoms. 

living with Tourette’s

Creator: John Fleenor Credit: ABC
Copyright: © 2020 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tourrette’s, ADHD, and Anxiety – A Beautiful Storm

Anilee’s childhood struggles with her disorders didn’t hold her back then, and if you haven’t heard, she’s soaring even higher now! As an adult, her focus has been on playing music and performing live. Now, as an even greater testament to what those living with either of these disorders can do, Anilee is advancing on Season 19 of American Idol. She happens to be only the second contestant on the show with Tourette Syndrome, the first being James Durbin, the Season 10, 4th place winner.

Is there anything that Tourette Syndrome has kept you from accomplishing?

“Nothing is stopping me from doing what I want to do.  Tourette’s could have been that one thing that pushed me off the stage, but I didn’t let it.  Maybe little things like going to a movie or doing something in a small space, because of my tics.  But in terms of big goals or achieving my dreams, I would say “NO”; it just took some time to gain the courage.

Anilee tells UBA, “I experience coinciding issues of ADHD and Anxiety that take place along with my TS – it becomes a “Beautiful Storm” going on inside my head.  The conditions all work together in a fascinating way to occupy my brain space.”. While she said she struggled in her younger years, and sometimes even now, with other people’s reactions or perception of her, it’s only made her stronger. “I was having to explain myself to others while at the same time feeling that I didn’t have to explain myself.  If you see someone doing something unusual, consider that it might not be by choice.  People need to accept each other, and the label “Normal” is unfair and needs to go out the window.”.

Tourette’s Syndrome symptoms

When asked what treatments or therapies she had used throughout the years, Anilee unsurprisingly informed us that her go-to is her music, but that meditation helps center and focus her as well. “Singing and playing the piano helps.  When I listen to my favorite music, dancing and “shaking myself out” helps me find my Zone.”, she says. She let us know that since her journey on American Idol, the excitement surrounding her participation in the show has increased the severity of her tics. At this time, she is not currently using medications to control her symptoms but says she may turn to that if the severity or frequency doesn’t slow back down.

Community, Support, and Why Telling Her Story is So Important

While Anilee has an incredibly inspiring outlook on life, she understands that the challenges surrounding living with Tourette’s and ADHD can be difficult for many. She wants to encourage others like her to reach out and find strength in the overwhelmingly supportive community she’s learned to embrace. She works closely with The Tourette Association of America and has taken part in several community events to raise awareness for the cause.

Anilee List Performs “Hero” at Tourette Association’s Disneyland Marathon Luncheon 2013 – The Tourette Association of America

“TS is a “blessing in disguise.” People diagnosed should connect with the TS community: Facebook pages, groups, and forums are a great start.  There are many resources for parents and family members. You are not alone. It’s 2021, and you can be whoever you want to be; you can achieve your dreams. Take advantage of the resources that are available to you.  Let your body do what it wants to do; if you hold back, it can make things ten times worse. 

Anilee tells us that connecting with other people living with Tourette’s and helping to further educate the community brings her much joy. “I think it is so important to advocate for anyone with a disability.  It is especially important to shed light on those with hidden disabilities that may not be seen.  For me, with Tourette Syndrome, it’s more of an internal struggle.” By connecting with, and further supporting others within the Tourette’s community, she hopes to bring even more awareness to individuals like her, with her promising and exciting new platform.

Anilee List from American Idol

Are you ready to help support Anilee and her exciting new adventure on American Idol? Head to the American Idol Voting page here, and be sure to vote her on to the next round! Grab some snacks, tune in, and cheer this talented young star on! You can also follow her on Instagram @anileelist, on Twitter @AnileeL, and check out her music on Facebook, here.

Would you like to help with advancements in scientific research and the development of treatments and cures for brain disease and disorders? Your donations can help us find the answers through the United Brain Association. For news on current and upcoming research projects, events, and immediate access to more inspiring Brain Stories, new blogs, and other announcements, join our e-newsletter here. Together, we can find a cure!

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