Tourette’s Disorder is a commonly misunderstood disorder. It is often referred to as the “swearing disease”, when there is so much more to Tourette’s than that very rare tic. I am very passionate about Tourette’s awareness and education about Tourette’s because I have this disorder.
I began having tics when I was 13 years old. It started out by jerking my head to one side repeatedly and occasionally making noises that seemed to come out of nowhere. I had no idea what was going on or why I was exhibiting this odd behavior, so I decided to hide it. I learned early on how to suppress my tics, so I have been able to hide my disorder from many people for several years. Suppressing a tic is difficult. When my brain is telling my body that is needs to do something, my body becomes extremely uncomfortable until my body performs the action that my brain is demanding.
Suppressing a tic is much like holding in a sneeze. It is possible to hold in a sneeze, but it is uncomfortable and may not ultimately work. When I try to suppress a tic, there is a possibility that I may fail and Tourette’s will win. Tics made social situations like church, work, and school next to impossible to get through while trying to conceal my disorder.I learned suppression for situations like these, but as the years have gone on, it has become more difficult to hide my tics. It is not uncommon for me to hide in a bathroom or broom closet to tic without having to face the public ridicule.
People often misunderstand Tourette’s because of how it is portrayed in the media. I get asked a lot if Tourette’s is the “swearing disease” or if I myself shout swear words uncontrollably (No, I do not). I have been told repeatedly to get my tics under control, and I have been scolded for faking it for attention. These are the reasons that I hid it from many people, because I did not want to hear someone else tell me that Tourette’s is fake and that I should stop it.
When I first started having tics, my neck would jerk to one side. This was fairly easy to talk away, even if it caused pain. Now my tics have grown to encompass shouting the words “meh” or “beep”, knocking on tables until my knuckles bleed, losing control of my hands, and my newest tic of slapping myself in the face three or four times in a row. These tics have become harder to explain away and much harder to hide. This has led to some awkward moments when people would stare, and I would quickly apologize by saying, “Sorry, I have Tourette’s.” Usually the other person would laugh until they realized that I wasn’t joking. They then reply with, “Wait, are you serious?”. I make it clear early on that people are fully allowed to laugh at my tics, and it is often more awkward if no one laughs. Tics make meeting new people really interesting, and I will occasionally have someone who understands my disorder explain it to people that I am about to meet, that way they have some warning before I start spazzing out in front of them.
I have decided to stop hiding my disorder. There is no reason for me to be ashamed of this thing I cannot control. Tourette’s has become a part of me, and a part of my life. This is an open invitation to ask me about Tourette’s or to laugh at my tics. I have come to love this part of me, because this is a part of what makes me unique. Yes, I have Tourette’s disorder, but I am no longer going to hide it. I want to own my disorder and speak out about it to cure the ignorance and stereotypes that surround Tourette’s Disorder.