Tics: Involuntary movements and vocalizations…
I sit at my desk and grit my teeth—first my molars, they squeak with friction, then my eye teeth, left then right. I press outward with my bottom teeth, until I feel movement. When I eat my apple, my jaw locks. It audibly snaps with every bite.
I probe the inside of my mouth with my tongue looking for a decade old scar where the bone once showed through. An infection after surgery ate away at my gums. I poke at that spot until it aches. I flip my tongue upside down and stretch the skin where it connects to the back of my mouth. I flap my bottom lip out beyond the top and blow air upwards across my wide-open eyes.
I lick my lips, wipe them dry with my hand and then lick them again as I take my hand away. I pause, frustrated, dry my lips on my shirt sleeve, but then lick them again.
My assistant leaves her desk, I grunt, low and long, I twist my torso to stretch the muscle just below my shoulder blade and sometimes one between my ribs. I torque my neck and simultaneously make my shoulder pop. I squeeze my eyes shut, then squeeze them harder still. I move my eyeballs right and left behind the lids to relieve the itching.
There’s more: thigh punching, pinky chewing, the compulsion to check my blog stats. Is this a tic? Sometimes I stick out my tongue. I scratch ’till I bleed. I cough sporadically, just enough to annoy those around me. I take medications for this, as much as I can, but it’s not enough. More leaves me depressed.
People catch me, they must. I try to hide it. I squish my eyes when they look away. I punch my thigh when I’m alone in a hallway. I only grunt when I’m out of earshot. No one ever mentions it. How strange to have a coworker who makes faces and sounds. Zoom is the worst. I can watch myself, see what they see. That air blowing looks weird. The eye squishing—I can’t see that—would be hard to miss. “Why does he keep wiping his mouth?”
This week, I’m talking to the psychiatrist. I might increase anxiety meds. That might reduce the tics. I worry about their affect on me, my personality. Just like depression from the Tourette medication, what’s my side effect from Prozac?
The truth of the matter: one option is to do nothing. On the Tourette spectrum, my tics are mild. I don’t fling glassware, I don’t punch windows, I don’t cuss in front of the kids I coach. I don’t injure myself. These tics affect no one but me. Susan thinks that acceptance is the key. Let it go, she says. Tic when I want, don’t give a damn about anyone else. She’s right, of course. This won’t go away; it’s been present for twenty years. And for the past eighteen months—since the start of the pandemic—worsening. I can stew about it or coexist. I’ll talk to the psychiatrist about that as well.