#TSDAY Today June 7, is Tourette’s Syndrome Day.
You might know somebody or can probably think of a time in your life when you’ve seen (or think you’ve seen) someone with Tourette’s. They may have exhibited clear outward signs of the syndrome, like rapid eye blinking or loud grunting. You may have noticed a subtle tic, like a repetitive shoulder shrug, or maybe you noticed them clearing their throat repetitively. Most people now days know that these tics, whether they are motor (physical) or vocal (spoken), are involuntary, but not everyone knows the science behind them and not too long ago people had no idea what Tourettes was.
Tourette’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder that is characterized by various repeated (and involuntary) tics. The syndrome, which is named after Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, was first discovered in 1885, over 130 years ago. Most people are diagnosed with Tourette’s when they are between the ages of three and nine. While people from all different ethnicities can be diagnosed with Tourette’s, there are usually more males than females with the syndrome.
Tics can be simply, characterized by brief or sudden movements or utterances. They can also be complex, involving many muscle groups or multiple words or phrases. Many people have heard of Tourette’s patients that suddenly yell out socially inappropriate things, like swearing, but in truth, only a small number of patients (up to 15%) actually do this. Other types of tics are much more commonly seen.
Most people that are diagnosed with Tourette’s Sydrome report having worse symptoms when they are teenagers. Living with Tourette’s can be a challenge, but people with TS can work with their doctors to design a plan that prevents the syndrome from affecting their major life functions. For some people, treatment plans include neuroleptics, which can help to suppress tics, but for others, the side effects of these medications pose other problems.
As someone with Tourette’s Syndrome, I fully understand that there is a lot of stigma behind this diagnosis. Even though about 1 in every 100 people in the USA is diagnosed with Tourette’s there are a lot of misconceptions about the syndrome. Aside from thinking that I’m going to yell out swears at any given moment, lots of people think that patients with Tourette’s Syndrome are mentally challenged. While TS is neurological, it is not something that affects my IQ or my ability to go about my life in a safe, productive way.
As a handyman, I have to complete many tasks that require fine motor function; my TS does not prevent me from doing those things. Often times I can thread a needle or shoot a target right on faster than someone who does not have Tourettes. Tourette’s is not debilitating. In fact, most people with Tourette’s Syndrome go on to do great things. Just Google Dr. Morton Doran – he has TS, and he became a successful surgeon and teacher. Although TS causes us to do things that are involuntary, it doesn’t mean that we are mentally ill in any way. People with TS can live normal lives like anyone else.
When I was a teenager first diagnosed with Tourettes the world knew little about it and experimented on me using all kinds of medicines that left me feeling weird and I decided right then and there I would just deal with it and never try medicines again. I never use it as an excuse to get out of anything. I want to be treated like I don’t have it then I need to act like I don’t have it. I am not in denial and if someone is curious I am more than happy to explain. I would much rather them talk to me and outright ask. And while I know they have significantly improved medicine and the treatment of Tourettes I still just live my life as if I don’t have Tourettes. I never let it keep me down. I don’t pay attention as to whether people are laughing or pointing anymore. And although I do get tired quickly because of all the twitching and sometimes it can be challenging to have tics, especially in times when life is particularly stressful, I keep putting along, just like you. And, of course, if I’m working on a project and accidentally hit my thumb with my hammer, I might blurt out something less than polite, but hey, wouldn’t you?
Today is Tourettes awareness campaign called the #TSelfie. To join this campaign take a selfie with one eye blinking (a common tic) and post your TSelfie on your social media account on the 7th June using #TSelfie.
Your HandyMan with a twitch 🙂