Looking up from my school
work, I noticed two of my classmates staring at me and laughing. I tensed
up, wondering why they were laughing at me, when suddenly, one of them
began to move his jaws back and forth, and the other blinked his eyes
incessantly and leaned his head hard to one side, then the other. Following
an intense mental burst of hatred and evil thoughts, I pondered why
they thought I was so funny. After all, this taunting had been going
on for years. Wasn't it about time for them to grow up? I timidly put
my head back down and started back in on my work. "What is wrong
with me?", I wondered to myself. "Why do I have these sudden
and seemingly uncontrollable urges to move my jaws, blink my eyes, and
pop my neck?"
Later in the week, I told
my mom about what had been happening to me at school. Showing little
or no sympathy, she told me that it was "a habit, and I needed
to break it." My dad had a similar attitude. He would tell me,
"Quit makin' those damn faces, they make ya' look stupid."
It seemed that nobody understood that these compulsions were no habit.
As bad as I wanted it to go away, and as hard as I tried to keep it
from being noticed, my problem never failed to cause me humiliation.
When I was fourteen, I went
to my local doctor for the flu bug. While there, I ask him for his opinion
on my twitching and blinking. He recommended that I go to Dr. Tellow,
a professional neurologist. Dr. Tellow asked me a few questions, watched
me for a few minutes, and told me that I had Tourette's Syndrome.
According to the Johns Hopkins
Family Health Book, Tourette's Syndrome is a motor behavioral disorder
caused by a probably genetic disturbance affecting the central nervous
system. It is one of the many tic disorders characterized by twitchy
muscular movements and involuntary utterances. I also learned from Tourettes.com
that Tourette Syndrome was discovered by a French doctor by the name
of Georges Gilles de la Tourette in 1885, and an estimated 100,000 Americans
have full-blown TS, with 1 in 200 showing partial expressions of the
disorder during their lifetimes.
When I ask about possible
treatment, Dr. Tellow informed me that "There is a medicine called
Haloperidol, or HALDOL, which has been known to moderately control the
tics." But this medicine only made me feel glum and sad. It seemed
to me that I was better off twitching and being energetic, than twitching
a little bit less, and feeling fatigued all day. Due to it's ineffectiveness,
I only took the medicine for a few months.
When I would tell someone
that I had been diagnosed with Tourettes, he or she would automatically
respond with "You liar. No you don't. You have never even yelled
out in class or anything." That was because, according to Raenna
Peiss of The Tourette Syndrome Center, the vocal tics that cause sudden
outbursts, medically known as coprolalia, are sensationalized by the
media, but actually occur in only 30% of the more severe Tourette patients.
Peiss also claimed that Tourettes is linked to several problems, including
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I know she is right,
for I have occasional impulses of OCD, and I take Adderal for ADD.
By the time I was a Freshman
in High School, my monster was once again out to ruin me. Tourette's
gets noticeably worse when a person is stressed or nervous, so imagine
the stress level of a freshman who played football, was involved in
Student Council, worked, and tried to fit in a social life whenever
possible. Everyone, from my classmates, up to the seniors and even the
coaches made fun of my Tourettes. My unequal treatment made me feel
like I was different and that I would never fit it. Being singled out
sucked, and I hated it. It was then that I decided to become emotionally
cold and not care what anyone thought about me, as long as I was happy.
If someone said something about my Tourette's, I used my sarcasm to
tear them apart. Pretty soon, people were reluctant to mention it, afraid
I would rip into them with my sarcasm. I had found a way to avoid the
humiliation. All I had to do was be mean and sarcastic, and people would
leave me alone.
At some point in my junior
year, I finally became comfortable enough with my Tourette's that I
did not care if I was the center of discussion in class, or what anyone
said about it. I had learned to live with it, and by doing so, I forced
other's to live with it as well. I even learned to enjoy having Tourettes,
often making jokes about it in public or with my friends. Even when
I would twitch pretty badly, most of my friends said that they had grown
so accustomed to it that they hardly noticed.
During the football season
of my senior year of high school, my Tourettes actually proved to be
beneficial. I was a nose-guard, so I was lined up directly over the
ball, on the defensive side. At the end of the fourth quarter, I would
slap the ball out of the center's hand and dive on it. The few times
it worked, the ref's could not tell what I had done, and my team got
the ball back. The majority of the time, however, I would get an 'off-sides'
penalty. Finally, an aggravated referee approached my team and said
to me, the captain, "Son, if you knock that ball out of the center's
hand one more time, you're off this field, got it?" Without missing
a beat, I lied back, "Sir, its not my fault, I have Tourettes."
Although the official was not impressed, my teammates and I thought
it was hilarious.
While reading in the Johns
Hopkins Family Health Book, I discovered that many people with Tourette's
suffer emotional damage and may require counseling. I can see how a
person could be traumatized by something such as Tourettes, but to think
a person in my shoes may have required counseling seems atrocious, because
in high school, I was a dominate athlete and one of the most popular
kids in school. Looking back, I thank God that I am a strong willed
person and did not let people's fear of the unknown conquer me, but
rather, I did what I had to do, and carried on with my life.