"The only thing that made me feel better was music because when I sang I didn't tic," Guevara tells PEOPLE

By Patrick Gomez
Updated September 19, 2013 12:05 PM
Credit: Richard Ellis/FOX

Last year, there were days Carlos Guevara could barely make it through a full day of classes because of his Tourette syndrome, but thanks to his love of music, the X Factor contestant is ready to take center stage.

“At the beginning of my freshman year I was on the football team and was elected vice president of the entire school. It seemed like my life was perfect but then all of a sudden it was like a storm,” says Guevara, 16, who was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder when he was 12, but did not show major symptoms of verbal outbursts or physical tics until later.

“On bad days, I looked like a broken robot. I didn’t have command of my own body.”

Because of the disruptive nature of his outbursts brought on by Tourette’s, Guevara was eventually asked to leave his high school and no longer attended Sunday services at the church where his father is a pastor. But those setbacks did not deter the freshman from setting new goals outside of academics – auditioning for X Factor.

“I was on a horrible roller coaster ride. The only thing that made me feel better was music because it was the only thing that didn’t make me tic,” the Lexington, S.C. student says.

“I made it my goal to audition so I worked from December up until May on getting myself better finding the right medicines and taking time to make sure that everything was okay in my life and just practicing and learning all the music I could.”

Singing “Gravity” by John Mayer, Guevara received a glowing reception from the panel of Kelly Rowland, Paulina Rubio, Demi Lovato and Simon Cowell, who commended the latest of the show’s inspirational contestants for not being a “victim” and having a “great voice.”

“The audition day was terrifying because you are going up in front of four superstars,” Guevara says. “But I felt like my music experience was really born out of struggle and out of pure love of music.”

Sailing through the initial audition, Guevara will now face the pressure of continuing through the competition as he continues to deal with the effects of his condition.

“I think a lot about how things could get [bad],” he says of his potential outbursts or physical tics during the live shows. “But this is what I love to do so I’m willing to tell my Tourette’s to shut up and stand behind me. I’m finally stepping out into the light at the end of the tunnel.”