Some of the Funniest Tics I’ve Had:
Some of the Least Funny Tics I’ve Had:
As of a few weeks ago, I am again a student. This time, though, instead of studying modern languages, I am studying a law conversion course – an intense nine months which essentially condenses a three-year law degree into just one academic year.
Challenges abound. It’s a new campus, a new subject matter and a new cohort of classmates. It’s also an entirely new experience for me, because, as I developed Tourette’s at the age of twenty-one (at the very end of my undergraduate degree) I’ve never really been a student with Tourette’s.
Consequently, I’m starting to find out what I had always supposed: being a student with Tourette’s is tough. There are three main problematic areas:
On top of this, there is the stress of an unrelenting workload, the anxiety that a near constant barrage of exams brings, and the awkwardness of coming out as having Tourette’s to a bunch of new people,
There are a few things I’ve done to make things better though:
Whatever happens, it’s going to be an interesting nine months. But as to how I am going to be a lawyer with Tourette’s, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
The early twentieth century gave us psychoanalysis, the late twentieth century gave us cognitive behavioural therapy, and then came mindfulness. Stemming from the meditative practices of Buddhist monks – a demographic who experience very little depression or anxiety – mindfulness has been lauded as a treatment for myriad conditions, including but not limited to: depression, anxiety, insomnia, ADHD, chronic pain, and yes, Tourette’s.
As someone who’s prone to mental health wobblies, professionals have been advising me to take up mindfulness for years, initially with my depression in mind.
Please believe me when I say I tried. I downloaded the apps and even paid for subscriptions. I put up with Headspace’s Andrew telling me to have a “nice soft gaze” for the umpteenth time. I sat down at the same time every day, trying to be aware as possible of my breathing.
Through it all, my friends, dizzied by their recent mindfulness epiphanies, raved about the benefits to me: mindfulness increases concentration and focus, decreases stress, eliminates anxiety.
And I’m sure they’re right. I sure they did feel more focused, less stressed and less anxious, because there is concrete evidence that mindfulness is the way forward for treating depression, anxiety and its related symptoms.
But whatever it is, mindfulness isn’t a panacea. As someone with Tourette’s, it is so hard it’s basically impossible. After all, a requirement of the practice is sitting still and shutting up: a challenge for someone with a condition that makes you speak and move randomly.
Much to my dismay, when I did try mindfulness, I actually found that meditating actually exacerbated my tics instead of alleviating them. I would writhe, twitch and yell when I was supposed to be quiet and still.
Thankfully, I have found plenty of things which have helped my depression which aren’t mindfulness, and a couple of things which have even helped my Tourette’s too.
Things that have helped my depression which aren’t mindfulness:
Things that have helped my Tourette’s which aren’t mindfulness:
Of course, none of these things have cured my depression or Tourette’s, but that said, they have helped a bit, which is more than I can say for mindfulness. I think the truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to treating these conditions. After all, each person’s brain is different, and just like some people respond to certain medications but not others, it’s only logical that some people are going to respond to some therapies and not others. And that, I would suggest, is quite alright.
Firstly, only 10 to 25 percent of people with Tourette’s experience coprolalia. Secondly, I tic lots of nice words (“Lemon”, “Botticelli”, “woo hoo”). Thirdly, no one really knows why certain words become tics and not others.
If, hypothetically, you didn’t know any swear words, then you would tic other rude things. For instance, yelling “you’re fat” to someone who’s chubby, “get hair” to someone who’s bald, or “I hate you” to someone who may or may not inspire in you such a feeling.
Sometimes people ask me what I’m doing in a rather irritated way, but I just explain I have Tourette’s and then they’ve always been fine with it. I think it helps to be a woman in these circumstances.
My tics vastly reduce when I’m asleep, so I have no problems with insomnia due to Tourette’s. However, getting to sleep can sometimes be tough. Often, I’ll tic while I’m half-asleep and wake myself up. This is annoying.
Yes – antipsychotics are used even though psychosis has nothing to do with Tourette’s. These aren’t for everyone as many people suffer quite badly with the side-effects which are sometimes worse than the tics themselves. Also, the drugs don’t work for everyone. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition and even if medication is helpful for some people, it’s not going to get rid of the tics entirely.
When people ask this, I assume they think Tourette’s is like a mental illness caused by a stressful life event. This isn’t really the case. Tourette’s is neurological – it happens because there is something wrong with your basal ganglia. It’s often inherited but not always, and is more likely to occur if you have things like ADHD and OCD running in your family. As such, nothing triggered my Tourette’s. It just happened.
Like this. But also like you’re a puppet being controlled by some hyperactive and rude five-year old child, and also a bit like you’re possessed.
I thought I’d had all the bad tics.
After all, I’ve punched windows, slapped friends, thrown a glass at my manager, shouted out the f-word, c-word and s-word, yelled “pigs” at police officers, and hit my head repeatedly against a wall.
I was wrong. It turns that things could get worse. Now, regrettably, my Tourette’s is coming out with racial slurs: an unfortunate but rare facet of coprolalia.
This is obviously awkward, to say the least. Now, it seems I’m going to be offending a lot more people, at a much deeper level.
At a loss as to what to do, I asked the internet for advice, and this is what everyone said:
It’s early days – I only started ticcing racial slurs a few days ago – but I’ve since found that tic-switching and finding a rhyming word really works for me.
As general rule, I find that tics come and go. I can’t wait for this one to go away, but for now I’m putting the internet’s advice into practice, and taking each tic as it comes.
The other day – I had a catch up with someone I used to know. We hadn’t seen each other in almost a year. During our meeting. I told him about what I’d been up to, the jobs I’d been working, and the books I’d been reading. I also told him about the months where my Tourette’s had been pretty bad.
“I even had trouble walking,” I said.
“How?” he asked.
“I would just keep falling over,” I said.
My former friend then took this opportunity to laugh as if not being able to walk were the funniest thing in the world.
“I’m sorry,” he said, not sounding sorry at all. “It’s just so funny.”
I was little bit confused. I didn’t remember not being able walk as being funny at all. It was, at the time, incredibly frustrating not being able to get from A to B without staggering all over the place.
But the encounter, and my acquaintance’s reaction, got me thinking. Is Tourette’s funny? In my experience, people certainly seem to think so. Sometimes, I only have to tell people I have Tourette’s and they laugh.
This can be annoying, especially when my Tourette’s is playing up. I have had, in no particular order, tics in my legs which have impaired my walking, tics in my eyes which have impaired my sight, tics in my lungs which have impaired my breathing, tics in my arms which have made me punch walls, tics in my arms which have made me punch windows, tics in my arms which have made me punch mirrors, and tics in my arms which have made me punch my face. None of these have been particularly humorous.
Most of the time, though, people don’t think of these kinds of tics when they think of Tourette’s. When they think of Tourette’s, they think of one thing: coprolalia – the compulsion to utter expletives and other socially inappropriate phrases, something which affects only 10 to 25 percent of people with Tourette’s.
Admittedly, a condition which makes you do something bizarre as swear compulsively does sound quite funny. The problem is, though, that is although it sometimes has a humorous side, coprolalia is more often than not embarrassing, isolating, and downright awkward. Indeed, it would be fair to say that most of coprolalia isn’t funny at all.
Despite all the un-funny tics Tourette’s can throw at you, despite the fact that the condition can be a cause of social isolation, unemployment, bullying, and embarrassment, if you listen out for them, you’ll hear many jokes where Tourette’s is a punchline. For some reason, it is socially acceptable to mock Tourette’s in a way that it isn’t with other disabilities.
Although laughter might be an excellent medicine, the culture of poking fun at Tourette’s has had many negative effects on those with the condition. Thanks to the innumerable Tourette’s jokes out there, the struggles people with Tourette’s go through are laughed off to such an extent that some even go so far as to say they wish they had the condition.
Ultimately, the comedy surrounding Tourette’s is due to a lack of understanding, and it’s this lack of understanding which makes having the condition far more isolating than it needs to be.