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.

22 thoughts on “Tourette

  1. I bet if you followed your very intelligent wife’s advice, you wouldn’t feel as much stress to hide the tics and they’d reduce.

    I may be wrong, I’m definitely no expert on Tourette, but doesn’t stress make it worse? I’m sure it would be very difficult to talk about it, but telling your coworkers would ultimately educate them, and relieve you of the stress of having to hide it, or would you worry they were watching you more, trying to catch you?

    I tend to make fun of myself before anyone else can. I used to be terrified of doing something embarrassing, but I fall, or walk into stuff, or have other public accidents often enough that I just started laughing at myself and not caring whether people thought I was weird or not.🤷🏼‍♀️

    I was wrong about the spam comments, so you can just ignore me and do what your chip tells you🤣🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been pretty open about having TS. It’s just something I have a hard time being comfortable with. I try not to tic around my family, that’s how bad it is. I think in general, my tics make others uncomfortable too. My microchip tells me to pay attention to my wife, because she’s usually right. It’s a process, man, a process.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s nice to have such a supportive wife. It must be tough to know when you are going through these motions, but there is nothing you can do to stop them.

    so COVID strikes again; it may not be a direct hit all the time, but it often leaves its mark.

    good luck meeting with your psychiatrist…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds exhausting, but no doubt it’s more exhausting to suppress the tic. Let’em fly.
    As someone who’s watched people tic, and sometimes badly, the only ones that have ever made me uncomfortable are the ones that really surprise me, like loud yells or barks, because then I have to pretend like it didn’t just scare the bejeezus out of me, as the person tic-ing then feels really bad. I’m pretty sure no one is made uncomfortable by face scrunches and grunts. Just a thought.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Distracting is a better word than exhausting. Sometimes they just happen and I’m largely unaware, sometimes I dwell on them and it’s hard to concentrate. I feel fortunate to have loud disrupting tics to others. But I also knock wood because they are fluid and could change in that direction at some point. I have no doubt that you already do this, but please treat your TS patients with empathy. I constantly read in my FB group about neurologists who belittle and doubt patients who come in with symptoms. We’re already so insecure about it, it doesn’t help when the specialist makes us feel like an idiot. Mine never has.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is so sad to hear, that the person who should be most empathic is making it worse. 😦 I’m glad that’s not been the case for you. I’ve always been taught that all symptoms are real until proven otherwise, and even if they’re not organic or pathologic in the traditional medical sense of the word, they’re real to the person experiencing them.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It’s all that time she spends meditating, I gives her clarity of thought… an unfair advantage. I’m interested in the conversation with the doctor. It’s an avenue of thought we haven’t explored before.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m in awe of your honesty, perception, and willingness to share your Tourette’s journey publicly.

    Susan might be a rock star (and I’m pretty sure she is), but I’m betting it’s because she realizes the value and brilliance of her partner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a nice comment, thank you Rebecca. I feel like I’m at a crossroad this week. My appointment is tomorrow and I hope I come away from it with some clear direction. I had possibly my ticciest day ever on Tuesday and was left so anxious on Wednesday that I missed work. It’s a good reminder that even if I’m not stressing about the tics, they are still painful and disruptive. Things are definitely heading the wrong way right now.


  5. What an amazing article. Very powerful. When I catch up with someone’s blog I start at the oldest and work my way to the present. After reading this, I reversed my path to try to find out what happened at the doctor. Personal stories are the best way to spread understanding an awareness.


    • So I just reread this. All of these tics are still present but maybe less prevalent. Still I feel awesome. Is it the medicine that makes me feel better or do I just have a good attitude right now. Too soon to tell. It’s a freaking rollercoaster I tell you.

      Liked by 1 person

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