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Justin Bachman Chooses to ‘Live Loud’ and Teach Others About Tolerance

Justin poses with the tattoo that you got for his twentieth birthday, representing the cross country bib that was taken away from him in 2010. (c) (c) 2017, Janel Semonasky

Click the play button above to learn how Justin Bachman continues to ‘Live Loud’ and teach others around him about tolerance.

Audio Transcript: Justin Bachman Chooses to ‘Live Loud’ and Teach Others About Tolerance

By Alexandra Jennerjahn SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — 20-year-old Justin Bachman has known for his entire life that he’s not like everyone else. He found his life to be difficult because of this, and his differences eventually led him to do the unthinkable.

“I attempted suicide three times before I was 11 years old,” Bachman said.

He survived and said he was finally able to make sense of it when at the age of 12, doctors diagnosed him with Tourette’s Syndrome.

“Tourette’s Syndrome is a neurological condition that causes me to make strange noises, involuntary movements, and say words that I cannot control, called tics,” Bachman said.

Bachman said after he received his diagnoses, he felt like a weight was lifted off his shoulders because he finally had an explanation for who he was and why his body had been fighting against itself for so long. He learned to embrace his condition.

However, a few years after his diagnoses, Bachman learned that it wouldn’t always be easy to get others to embrace it.

“September 18, 2010. It’s a day that’s burned in my mind. I will never ever forget it, no matter what happens,” Bachman said. “I was disqualified from a cross-country meet because of my Tourette’s Syndrome. The officials refused to believe that I had this condition that was making me make all these noises. They thought that I was just trying to be a rude 13-year-old kid.”

Despite his teammates’ efforts to stick up for and defend him, race officials took Bachman’s race bib away that day.

“After a certain point, if I’m still making noise while I’m crying and trying to say I can’t control this, maybe something’s going on. And it was a day that devastated me. It was the first time since I had been diagnosed that my bubble of ‘Everyone’s just gonna be OK with who I am’ was really popped. And I never wanted to experience that again, but I also knew I wasn’t the only person who would be experiencing things like that,” Bachman said.

Soon after this experience, Bachman decided to start a nonprofit called “Different Like You.” It gave him a chance to teach others about tolerance, not just for Tourette’s, but for people with all sorts of differences.

“No matter what it is, everyone has something that makes them different than the person sitting next to them on the bus. And those things that make us who we are, often times, unfortunately, are the things that get us ridiculed, that get us outcasted, that cause us to face injustice. That was what I wanted to fight against,” Bachman said. “I wanted to show people that these differences are actually the things that make us who we are and make us amazing for it.”

Bachman began taking his one-man show to tolerance fairs and various other events around the country. At his first event, his list of 15 charities grew to be 48, and 1,000 people attended when only 50 were expected.

“It blew my mind just how much of a need for it there was in the community, and that was why we kept doing it,” Bachman said.

Bachman made the decision to end his “Different Like You” campaign last January, but his mission to inspire others did not stop. He now travels the country delivering a speech called “Living Loud.” He has visited more than 160 schools in 15 different states.

“‘Living Loud’ has not always been what it is today,” Bachman said. “One of the things I added was a new introduction. It was the first time I had ever intentionally, with a plan, going in, talked about my suicide attempts on stage. It’s the first thing I start my speech with now.”

Bachman said he wasn’t sure how the change would be received. Revisiting his suicidal years was intense and emotional for him. However, the change ended up being extremely powerful, and after the first time of delivering the new speech Bachman was able to see how his story was impacting others.

“A girl came up to me after the presentation; she waited until everyone left the auditorium. It was just me, her, and one of her friends. She had said that she had planned on committing suicide later that night. But after hearing my story, knowing that I had faced my darkest times and come out alive and on top, she knew she could too and she wanted to live. That has happened 22 times.”

Bachman said he’s worked with professionals to help prepare him for similar situations, but dealing with it is different for everyone.

“The biggest thing we say is that you deserve to get help. You deserve to be alive. You deserve to be happy,” Bachman said.

Bachman said he can’t put into words what it feels like to help kids that faced the horrible times that he did when he was younger.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling knowing that you have the power to save someone’s life. It’s something you never ever expect. It’s something that I will never, ever take for granted,” Bachman said.

Currently, Bachman is majoring in Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University. He said he doesn’t want to give up speaking and hopes to continue to be a storyteller and shed light on kids who are like him. But for now, he is continuing with “Living Loud.”

Oh, and remember the cross-country bib that race officials took away from him during his junior high school cross-country meet? Bachman was finally able to get it back. Now he’ll have the number “5033” with him forever – in permanent ink.

“For my 20 birthday I went with my father, and on the right side of my chest I got the racing bib. The number is now forever mine. It was something that was taken away from me, and I finally was able to take it back”