Below the Surface

Hey Jeff, I didn’t realize there was an exclusivity of using the tag “tourettes”. This is news to me. I won’t be taking up your kind offer to read your post. But thanks!

I’ve had only one snarky encounter in WordPress. It was a fight that I picked. That was the response.

Like many WordPress users, I query tags to find interesting content. In general, the tags I use are fluid—ever changing with my moods, with my obsession du jour. Running, alcoholism, writing, OCD, injuries at six flags, etc. The one tag that I created and never deleted is “tourettes.” I’ll search tourettes every couple of weeks and read the new posts.

I’m an adult with Tourette Syndrome. Therefore, I’m unusual and misunderstood. Tourettes is a disorder that most people age out of as they become adults. I did, until it came back in my thirties. Because of its relative rareness, only its most egregious symptom is popularly known. You know, the uncontrolled cussing.

I don’t cuss, few of us do. I grunt. I roll my eyes, I scratch my skin raw, I click and grind my teeth, I repeat inoffensive phrases over and over, I punch my legs, click my pen, generally I don’t sit still.

Tourettes is a pain in the ass. It affects every aspect of my being. It’s always present, near the front of my thoughts. So I query tourettes, I read the blog posts, and I interact with the bloggers—I feel that I have a lot to offer… and a lot to learn.

Recently, a post titled “F*#k You All” appeared in my tourettes list. It started with: Disclaimer:  This is a light-hearted post not intended to offend anyone who suffers from Tourettes. The author then went on to joke about people who cuss uncontrollably on Facebook—She called that Cyber-Tourettes. To me, this strategy seemed a lot like telling a sexist or racist joke, but feeling like it’s okay because you’ve already said “no offense.”

All in all, it probably wasn’t a huge deal, but it got me pissed. My comment on her blog:

Now I challenge you to write a post describing how inaccurate a portrayal this is of a person who actually has Tourettes. I also posted the other day with the tag “tourettes”. My post is called “drugs” – I think you should read it.

So, why so much anger? Why not just let it go? Might incongruous cussing actually be funny once in a while?

icebergHere’s my thinking: Tourettes isn’t a joke. It’s a debilitating disorder. It keeps people under-employed and unemployed. It leaves people home-bound. Or medicated zombies. The cussing is a symptom. Evidence of a serious underlying problem. It’s the tip of the iceberg. Making fun of the cussing is like making fun of a cancer patient’s bald head.

This graphic, published by Tourette Association of America, shows the unseen associated disorders that accompany Tourettes. Yes, my tics are disruptive and embarrassing, but it’s the anxiety that ruins my days. It’s the OCD that keeps me up at night. It’s the depression that sends me back to bed some mornings. It’s the years of substance abuse that leave me wondering if my life has been productive enough. When someone makes fun of Tourettes, they are making fun of the pain that people like me live with every day.

The world has changed a lot over the last fifteen or twenty years. There’s not much left that we can politely make fun of. I was recently chastised for calling some (of my own) music “Redneck Music.” I was accused of classism. For some reason, Tourettes seems to be exempt from these new rules of decorum. Tics, especially vocal tics, are still open game for ridicule. I can’t think of another disease or disorder that a blogger would feel comfortable mocking like this.

I understand that it’s simply a matter of education. Once people understand the severity of Tourettes, they won’t make fun of it. But when I tried to enlighten one blogger, she responded sarcastically. She didn’t want to know the details. She didn’t want to see below the surface. She didn’t want me to take away the one last group of weird individuals she’s permitted to mock.


24 thoughts on “Below the Surface

  1. Pingback: Symptom – Daily Prompt | Ladyleemanila

    • Also, I’ve somewhat struggled with a similar instance. It isn’t mockery of a disease, but rather, when people use rape as a joke. We see it on tv, hear it in music, and read about it on social media. People don’t realize that rape survivors like myself, aren’t too keen on joking about the topic in any form. In fact, its rather uncomfortable and quite alarming.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Great post, Jeff. I am so sorry that that blogger chose to react in such a decidedly immature way. I imagine she either truly does not care about the feelings of others (which is horrible!), or she does care but had too much pride to swallow in order to admit to your point.

    Either way, it does baffle the mind that in today’s era of political correctness, some topics are still deemed OK to make fun of. Mental disorders and the like, in my opinion, are simply not fair game as fodder for humor. In my mind, if someone chooses to make jokes about, say, Tourette’s or OCD or bipolar disorder, then that choice is a direct reflection on their lack of creativity as a humor writer. This world is full of endlessly funny situations and things – so much so that we don’t need to use diseases and disorders as fodder for comedy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks – if nothing else, my exchange prompted me to write an awareness piece–something I’ve been wanting to do for months. It also got me thinking about the role of wordpress in my life. So a long bout of introspection. A blogger’s dream. I should probably thank her.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I agree, mocking disabilities is generally unfunny. Clearly immature and uneducated writer. His response to you is equally as compelling as his blog. (not)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah yes, the classic, “I can make fun of your disorder because it’s the cursing disorder.” My favorite. Thanks for talking about this. Been meaning to post about this myself within the next month or so; thank you for the inspiration to continue to find my voice! –KMJ

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey, Jeff – I can relate to this so much. I don’t have Tourette’s, but I do have Lupus and it’s a daily struggle to try to make others understand the depth of my limitations because I “look” normal.

    The graphic you shared really spoke to me because you can only see the tip of the iceberg of my illness, as well. But, beneath the surface, there is terrible destruction going on that taxes me greatly. I put on my game-face and muscle through my public days, but on the days I’m not working at the hospital, it’s a totally different story.

    It’s a shame that we judge others like we do, but I’ve definitely learned that what we see in someone sure doesn’t tell their whole story. Keep on writing. What you’re saying is important.

    Liked by 2 people

    • One of my favorite phrases is “Everyone’s got something” We’re all dealing with our own Tourettes or Lupus, and everyone only sees that tip. My wife is constantly reminding me to give peace to others. When my boss snaps at me, it’s because she’s upset with herself, not me. This is probably going to turn into a blog post.

      Liked by 1 person

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