When contemporary Christian singer Jamie Grace was nine, she knew she was different, but couldn't describe how. Two years later, she got her answer when she was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, OCD, ADHD, and anxiety.
Over the years the 26-year-old Atlanta native found a way to not just cope with her diagnosis, but to thrive too. Now, she's in love and headed down the aisle.
In April, the singer-songwriter and YouTuber will wed her fiancé, Aaron Collins, and she talked to ESSENCE about her experience dating with Tourette Syndrome, their Christian courtship and why she's inviting the public to her wedding (that's right, you can RSVP here).
Grace says she was clear on what she needed early on. "I always felt like I was kind of in a limbo when it came to dating and telling guys that I had Tourettes because it wasn't something life-threatening, and it wasn't something that I, in a dating relationship, really needed them to do anything," Jamie shared. "But I did need understanding, and I did need the freedom to be able to twitch so that I'm not sitting at dinner for two or three hours, and holding in a huge part of who I am and then getting sick later because I was trying to suppress everything."
Finding a love that worked for her, was a challenge. "It was really difficult trying to find that balance," she said. "Because of what I do for a living, so much of my life is public, and so I never really told any guy that I went on a date with that I had Tourette Syndrome because they typically knew."
Their reactions varied and were at times difficult for Grace. "The frustrating thing was guys saying 'you don't really have [any] ticks' because it wasn't as severe, or maybe I was having a good day, or maybe I was just insecure about it that day, and so I was hiding it," Grace admitted. "And, so that was really difficult, and I dealt with that, a lot of guys just being like they wanted me to prove it to them almost, or they thought it was funny and they thought I was just gonna cuss and suddenly it would turn into a joke."
All the things she was looking for in a relationship--understanding, compassion, and patience--Grace found in her Collins, who proposed in January, on her birthday.
But their relationship isn't quite conventional. In fact, it's more of what Grace calls a "1940s love story". They "courted" each other, just as her older sister successfully did.
"We started this whole situation in November, and now we're engaged to be married in April," says Grace. "In a good way, we have been able to share a lot of things early on. He already knew that I had Tourette Syndrome and there was one conversation in the first few weeks when we were just on the phone because we were long-distance, and he asked me, 'Is there anything else you want to tell me about yourself?' And I kind of mentioned the Tourette Syndrome thing [and] I mentioned it out of the fear of him getting uncomfortable or him being like, 'I can't deal with that' or something. He was so nonchalant about it, it made me even more nervous. I was like, 'Wait, he didn't ask me a bunch of questions, he wasn't invasive, he didn't...why is he so comfortable? Why is he so relaxed right now?'"
Collins' reacting to Jamie Grace sharing such a big part of herself translated into mutual acceptance, compassion understanding and most importantly, love.
On April 14th, the couple plans to tie the knot in Lawrenceville, Georgia, right outside of her hometown of Atlanta, and she's inviting literally everyone--no really, everyone!
"I'm from metro Atlanta and just most of my career has been spent sharing my story and singlehood and why I'm waiting for the right guy and how sometimes it's difficult and frustrating and annoying, but it's worth it. And I'm still confident in being single and all this stuff. And that's just been, literally, I'd say, 80% of my career and my Youtube videos and everything. And so when I realized that for some crazy reason I was able to be a role model to some young women and an example to them. I really think it's all Gods grace. When I realized that was kinda happening, I was like, "I want to have a public wedding," because whenever this guy shows up, I want him to know that he is so prayed for, and so appreciated, and not just by me but by all my fans and all my family and my whole community.
She added, "I'm gonna recommend this to all of my friends, it's the easiest because no one can get offended if they didn't get an invitation because everyone's invited, and you don't have to worry about, "Oh, this person, they said they wanted to sit there, or they didn't know when it was, or they missed the info." No, everyone's invited, bring all your friends, it's totally fine!"
You can RSVP for Jamie Grace and Aaron's wedding, via #PartyLikeACollins or click here.