10 Things About Job Hunting with Asperger’s and Tourette’s

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  1. It’s not always necessary to suppress your tics. If you’re effing, blinding, jerking and grimacing your way through an interview, it certainly makes you memorable. And if the employer has a problem with your tics, then you probably don’t want to be employed by them anyway. They’re not good employers.
  2. Sometimes it’s necessary to suppress your tics, because people are not always kind. One potential employer told me that she didn’t think I could be hired on the basis of my Tourette’s. She said it would impinge on the duty of care they had to the customer. This person was wrong, and her implication was discriminatory.
  3. People are curious about Tourette’s and will ask you questions about your condition during the interview. The usual ones: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said? When did you get it? Do you ever say a curse and then pretend it was your Tourette’s? These questions are tiresome.
  4. Interviewers expect you to lie. To the classic question: what’s your weakness? I used to honestly respond stress, noisy environments, overwhelming workloads. Not a great response when every employer expects you to handle your stress, work flow and to not give a damn about the constant noise in the background.
  5. One-word answers are not acceptable even when one-word answers answer the actual question. I got a random “What do you think of Netflix?” once. To which I responded: “Good.” I didn’t get the job.
  6. People are more understanding than you think. I was terrified of coming out as autistic at my last job. Refreshingly, they didn’t give a shit.
  7. People are less understanding than you think. Whilst bartending between contracts, my colleague howled with laughter when I told her I was cursing because of my Tourette’s. “But how can you be a bartender with Tourette’s?” she asked. This was a stupid question. You can of course me anything with Tourette’s. Sure, I broke a few glasses and threw a few chairs, but I knew how to make a damn good margarita.
  8. Talk lots. My usual way of handling awkward situations is to provide brief responses, explain nothing and then move on with my life as quickly as possible. They don’t like this in interviews. They like words to come out of your mouth.
  9. Don’t talk too much. Waffling and rambling can be a side effect of nerves but quash that shit.
  10. A colleague once told me I handled my Tourette’s with “a chuckle and a shrug”. There’s not much you can do about having Tourette’s. It’s chronic and incurable. So, you might as well handle the ups and downs, the offers and the rejections, with a chuckle and a shrug.

It’s OK to Hate Being Chronically Ill

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There are a lot of disability advocates out there promoting how disability and neurodiversity can be an excellent addition to the world, enrich our lives and be a boon to society.

This is, in my opinion an excellent conversation to be having.

After all, there is so much negative language surrounding disabilities and neurodiversity. We talk about people being “confined” to a wheelchair when they might as well see themselves as being liberated by their wheelchair. We talk about people “suffering” from autism when, I for one, do no such thing.

I don’t see my autism as an illness, it’s a condition I happen to have and it makes me who I am – the good bits and the bad.

But the same doesn’t go for my Tourette’s. I see my Tourette’s as an illness. It’s a chronic and incurable pain in the arse. I hate it. It’s done me no good. It’s made it hard to find work and keep work when I’ve got work. It’s made life awkward, embarrassing and oftentimes physically painful. It cost me one relationship when an ex decided to tell me she thought I was “putting on” my tics because I’d read about Tourette’s somewhere.

Opinions differ across the community. Some people with Tourette’s wouldn’t want to do away with it at all, saying it makes them who they are. Other people go through extensive treatments and therapies to try to rid themselves of their most problematic tics.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s all right to embrace one aspect of your neurodiversity and dislike another aspect of your neurodiversity. It’s all right to hate being chronically ill. It’s all right to love and hate your difference at the same time.

Being neurodiverse in a neurotypical world is difficult. All opinions and feelings are valid.

How Not To Meet Someone with Tourette’s

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  • Ask they why they’re not swearing (only a minority do)
  • Ask why they haven’t ticced yet (people with Tourette’s don’t tic every second of every day)
  • Say they don’t look like someone with Tourette’s (what does a person with Tourette’s look like?)
  • Ask if their condition is quite mild (Tourette’s waxes and wanes, can be quite severe for several months and then quite mild for the next few)
  • Copy their tics (this won’t make them less embarrassed, it will just make them self-conscious)
  • React to all their tics (this is just excessive)
  • Back away from them (if you’re embarrassed by the tics, well, just don’t be embarrassed by the tics)
  • Tell them to “say the bad word in their head” instead of saying it out loud (this is not how Tourette’s works)
  • Laugh when they haven’t ticced anything funny (Tourette’s is a medical condition, not a punchline)

Things People Actually Have Said to Me About My OCD, Autism, Tourette’s and Depression

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  • That a vitamin could cure my depression
  • That I couldn’t be autistic because I was in a relationship
  • That I couldn’t be autistic because I used to work in a bar
  • That I couldn’t have Tourette’s because I used to work in a bar
  • That I was ‘putting on’ my Tourette’s because I had read about it somewhere and was imitating its symptoms
  • That my OCD was a ‘good thing’
  • That everyone is a little bit OCD
  • That everyone is a little bit autistic
  • That everyone gets depression
  • That if I really understood my Tourette’s I would be able to control it
  • That I should just “think the bad word in my head” instead of saying it out loud
  • That I should just ‘calm down’ when having a literal tic attack
  • That my depression was ‘all in my head’
  • That I didn’t deserve my depression 

Most People Don’t Swear but I Do

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Whenever I meet new people and I have to explain that I have Tourette’s, I make sure to explain that I am an anomaly.

Firstly, I’m a woman and Tourette’s normally affects males.

Secondly, I got Tourette’s in my twenties and most people get it when they are aged six to seven.

Thirdly, most people with Tourette’s don’t experience coprolalia – the compulsion to swear – and I sure as hell do.

In this sense, I am a walking, talking, yelling stereotype of the condition, because most people with the condition just equate Tourette’s with yelling out curse words. And I yell out curse words. A lot.

In some ways, I feel I’m letting the Tourette’s “community” down (hate that word – it’s not like we’re all in the same WhatsApp group or anything) for being so sweary. A lot of people with the condition have it quite badly and don’t ever utter an expletive involuntarily, and they have to live their lives explains that only 10 to 25 percent of Touretters swear involuntarily.

It’s a statistic I make sure to repeat as often as I can, because I don’t want to be purporting the myth that all Touretters swear involuntarily as I walk around swearing involuntarily.

In some ways, because I fit the media stereotype of Tourette’s, my life is easier. I don’t have to explain what I’m doing because my Tourettic symptoms align with people’s preconceptions. Instead, I just choose too, deciding to explain Tourette’s as thoroughly as I can, from the blissfully ignorant strangers I meet in bars to the people “whose cousin has Tourette’s too”. (Seriously, I’ve heard that sentence so much, I’ve come to believe everyone has a cousin with Tourette’s.)

I guess it’s my way of “doing my bit”. I’ve got this thing, and I’ve got it forever. I might as well tell the world about it.

No, Tourette’s is Not Necessarily Indicative of a Touretter’s Emotional State

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This. Is. So. Annoying.

So often, whenever I’m ticcing, people will ask me/automatically assume that I’m ticcing because I’m:

  1. Anxious
  2. Stressed
  3. Somehow distressed

In some ways, this is a natural assumption, as if I am yelling “FUCK!”, “I HATE YOU AND YOUR EYEBROWS!” or “MOVE IT, LADY!”, it would be natural to assume I am not in the best of moods.

And it cues a barrage of questions: “What’s up?”, “You OK?”, “What’s the matter?”.

Yes, they’re just being nice and concerned and I’m just being grumpy about it, but nevertheless…This. Is. So. Annoying.

People with Tourette’s tic every day. They tic when they’re happy, sad, jealous, envious, excited, relaxing, stressing, washing, sleeping, eating. It’s the condition that doesn’t stop.

Yes, certain people with Tourette’s find that certain moods will cause them to tic more frequently than normal.

For instance, sometimes, if I’m tired or relaxing, I’ll find myself letting my tics loose. Occasionally, when I’m overwhelmed by a busy environment, I’ll find myself ticcing a little more. But that’s about it. Mostly, whenever I’m ticcing, I’m, well, fine? I can be in the best of moods, at peace with the world, on top of the world, and be ticcing like a clock.

Tourette’s is so fucking complicated. No one really knows what causes it. No one really knows what makes people tic. No one really knows why the medications used to treat it actually work.

Ticcing isn’t indicative of someone’s emotional state. All it is indicative of is that they have Tourette’s. So, if you ask me when I’m ticcing when I’m ticcing, I’ll say it’s because I have Tourette’s. It’s as simple, or, rather, as complicated, as that.

Annoying and Nice Things People Do Around People Who Have Tourette’s

The Annoying

  1. Stare
    Staring is something you have to get used to when you have Tourette’s, but if you’re curious as to what I’m doing, just ask me what’s up, and I’ll be happy to explain. Don’t just stare.
  2. Usher their children away
    Tourette’s doesn’t mean you’re drunk, high or crazy. Tourette’s does not harm children. Do not usher them away.
  3. Tell me to calm down
    Telling a person with Tourette’s to calm down is like telling a depressed person to cheer up. You just don’t do it.
  4. Imitate the tics
    Just rude. And annoying. And makes me feel self-conscious.
  5. Ignore the tics so much you that ignore the person
    So often when I am ticcing a lot, people ignore me entirely, not including me in the conversation. Just because I’m yelling “boobs” all the time doesn’t mean I don’t have anything valuable to contribute.

The Nice

  1. Ask questions
    I’m happy to answer anyone’s questions on Tourette’s. I’ve become a bit of a walking Tourette’s encyclopaedia. I might as well be. This thing is chronic and incurable: I’m having it forever.
  2. Open up about their own health struggles
    This is just so sweet and happens quite often. Once, I spoke to someone about my Tourette’s and she immediately opened up about her deafness. It breaks the ice.
  3. Laugh with me
    My tics can be hilarious. Laugh with me.
  4. Treat me no differently
    I love it when people don’t patronise, point, or stare at me, when they just treat me as a person who tics, because, guess what? I’m just a person who tics.
  5. Massage my shoulders
    Why this calms me down, I have no idea. But it works and I love it. To be fair, it’d be a bit odd if a random person off the street started massaging my shoulders, but friends and family? Sure.