About five years ago I sat down across from a neurologist who quickly told me I have Tourette’s. He added that millions of people have this condition. I sat there for a second and said, “I never knew”. He said, it may have been in remission. Then he got up and left the room. For a while I was put off by his abrupt retreat but after thinking about the conversation and reflecting on the Doctor, he too has Tourette’s and my tics agitated his ticking. And just like that I had an answer to a lifelong question, What’s wrong with me?
Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s there were few descriptors for “nonregular” people. People displaying Tourette’s were always depicted as swearing/cussing uncontrollably and I certainly mastered control of my finely tuned potty mouth. My mother was told by a medical professional that her little one just had a nervous disposition. Keep your child stress free and it will be fine!
Back then autism was unknown to us and to put them together, autism and Tourette’s was an entirely different train. We had crazy, retarded and my favorite “special” were the descriptors for people such as myself. I heard crazy so much I believed it. I’d answer to it as if it were my name crazy Lee or you know Lee is crazy. You might think a barrage of crazy does wonders for a self esteem and you’d be correct.
Learning disabilities were clumped under the ugly word, retarded. The 70’s one way of teaching, left many children including me behind, displaced or forgotten. Being a child and reading out loud in class brough so much stress that I became a top-notch reader. The trick was to read ahead of the class to make sense of the words that appeared backwards or just didn’t belong. So, I was fast and ready and therefore didn’t fit the label of retardation. However, recess was a nightmare. The recess battlefield is where I fined tuned my cussing abilities. Turns out I was a natural throwing out six word zingers followed up with your momma. Now, let’s be clear, a momma joke or reference was like tapping a boxing bell. I was no bully in fact I preferred to be alone and wielded my weapon when needed.
Tics are exacerbated with stress and my tics are visible and facial. When I was little it was uncontrolled head shaking along with the facial tics. As a child I really detested being stared at and I would ask my mother, why are people starring? And she would simply say, because you’re so beautiful. My mother kept me clean and looking cute. But not understanding myself and the unwanted stares I would lash out at strangers by quickly sticking out my tongue when my mother wasn’t looking or crossing my eyes to make people stop starring at me.
Of all the things that accompany my condition, I struggle with OCD and I think because it’s unconscious. An example is how many times I must stroke the deodorant stick under my arms, the answer, 4. Four times the fact that I know this is slightly disturbing. I stopped fighting it and accept all of my quirks but what else should come with age but confidence in self.