Note: These are not in any particular order! I just wrote them down as I thought of them.These are the top 5 moments that relate to Tourette's that happened during the camp twitch and shout counselor reunion weekend.
1. I have a tic where I say the word "No" forcefully. My friends at college usually just ignore my tics which sometimes I certainty like, but other times I like it when people joke with me about my tics. So on the reunion one of my fellow counselors at camp who does not have Tourette's herself and who is super sweet and who I got to know a lot better this weekend, would say something funny to make light of the situation when I did my "No" tic. I loved this! It took all the pressure off and let me know that she accepted me tics and all. A lot of times my "No" tic comes at funny times, like right after someone asks a question or right after someone says something, so it sounds like i'm disagreeing with them very strongly! In reality, thoguh it's just a tic ! The first time I did my "No" tic around her it came at a funny moment in the conversation. In response, she laughed and exclaimed "I love Tourette's" Then many other times she would say "yes!" right after I did the tic or say something else like "but we do have to turn this way!". This made me feel really comfortable around her because not only did I know she accepted me for who I am, but I also got a kick out of the fact that my "No" tic was amusing to her.
2. On Saturday night the same counselor who would respond to my "No" tic decided to make dinner for all of us since she likes to cook. So we all went to the grocery store to get the ingredients. On the way to the grocery store the music in the car accidentally got turned up really loud. One of the other counselors we were with who does have Tourette's is very sensitive to loud noise because it always sets his tics off. So as soon as the music got turned up he started ticcing pretty severely. When we parked in the grocery store parking lot he was still ticcing a lot so we waited a few minutes before going in. He started to insist that we not wait in the car for him though so we went in together and he was still ticcing a lot. It was so sweet how one of the other counselors (the one who does not have Tourette's who would make light of my "No" tic) said "Tell me what I can do" to him to try to help in any way she could. She is so incredibly caring. She doesn't have Tourette's, had no idea what Tourette's even was before she came to camp 5 years ago, and she is such a strong Tourette's advocate. She has two bumper stickers on the back of her car, one says "Tourette's Syndrome Awareness" and the other says "Camp Twitch and Shout" and she even has a Tourette's tattoo. Anyway back to the story, when we went into the grocery store the other counselor was still ticcing badly which made me start ticcing badly too. The other people in the grocery store didn't say anything but both of us were going up and down the isles jerking and making noises like crazy! I was doing a high pitched noise that kind of sounds like a squeak or something like that while at the same time stomping my foot on the ground really hard. They could probably tell I was nervous about being in the grocery store so two of them, the guy who was originally ticcing and the girl who makes comments after my "No" tic made me feel better by saying that I looked like I was throwing the most adorable little temper tantrum and that my tics were so cute. I would usually be so nervous ticcing this much in a grocery store, but surrounded by these amazing people from camp I felt so safe and accepted.
3. On the last day when we were getting ready to leave, I was doing by stomping tic a lot. The same person who comments after my "No" tic asked me if I live in the dorms in college. I told her that I do and described how I live in a suite with three of my closest friends in college. Then she asked if I live on the second floor. I said I do. She then said "I was asking because of that tic (she was referring to my stomping tic)" and then said something like I must be friends with the people who live under me. I told her I actually don't know the people who live under me! The stomping tic was more frequent on the trip than it really has ever been at school. It will be interesting to see what happens if the tic will stick around and be as frequent when I go back to school..... Anyway the reason this is #3 is because she was curious about my tic and how it affected me at school and she just asked me so casually which is something that may seem so small to other people but in reality it is not for me! My friends from school or other people hardly ever do this. If they are curious about my tics or any other things that relate to my Tourette's they are to worried that asking would offend me somehow even though I tell people to ask me questions if they want to know anything. I wish people in the regular world were able to just ask me when they are curious about my Tourette's. It makes me so much more relaxed when other people are able to ask questions, it makes me feel like its not this huge elephant in the room.
After the grocery store we went back to the hotel/ suite and we all ate a home cooked meal together at the table like a family. It was so sweet and special :)
4. Another highlight of my tic was spending time with my co-counselor from camp. Two of my co-counselors from my cabin ended up coming on the trip and I love both of them! The one that I am especially close to is the one who has Tourette's, I'll give her the pen name of Tasha for my blog. Tasha's tics aren’t very noticeable but they're there. She also has bad anxiety and OCD like me. Tasha and I had the best conversations together this weekend! Of course we had great regular conversations talking about things like our dogs, things we did as little kids that got us in trouble, and talking about boys or jobs or school, but we also had a lot of great conversations about Tourette's, OCD, and anxiety. What I love is that we talk about it like its so normal, like we're talking about anything else that's a part of our life. We talk about it like it's normal because it's normal for us. I feel like I have so much in common with her and she is certainly the closest thing I've had to an big sister. I told her about my OCD and how I'm so embarrassed by it. She is the only person who is not a therapist who I have told specifics to about my OCD and I told her this. She asked why and I told her that it's because it just feels so embarrassing for me. Her response was she doesn't think it's embarrassing because she has such similar things. That really made me feel comfortable. I feel so comfortable around her and tell her things about myself that I never ever tell other people. She is also an incredibly open person and shared so much about her tics, OCD, and anxiety with me over the course of the weekend. And of course when I tic she treats it like its 100% normal because ticcing is so normal for her. We bonded even more than we had previously bonded at camp as co-counselors and she told me many times that she was so glad I came. We got to spend a lot of 1 on 1 time together since we got to hang out at the airport together during my layover and since we got to ride on the second plane together. When we were at the airport she painted my nails. I never let anyone paint my nails because of my sensory issues, but I wanted her to paint my nails so I put up with the bad smell of the nail polish and the initial discomfort of the polish on my nails. I felt like this was special.
5.At the end of the trip on Sunday I was scheduled to fly back home. My plane was canceled though due to weather. Luckily though the airport I flew into to make my connection is where Tasha lives! This meant that my trip got to be extended and that I got to spend more time with Tasha. My anxiety went crazy though with having the flight canceled. When my flight was canceled and when I was alone in the airport before Tasha came to pick me up, I was shaking, having major obsessive thoughts, and panicking. My anxiety is pretty irrational but it takes over my body and mind when it hits and it can be pretty brutal. I called my mom and cried, but as soon as Tasha came to pick me up I calmed down pretty much immediately. I feel safe with her. So ultimately even though I had some bad anxiety and got pretty upset, I got to spend more 1 on 1 time with her. It was like a big sleepover! I went back with her to her apartment and she introduced me to her dog. Her dog is a Chihuahua dachshund mix and is so sweet! She is such a lap dog and will sit in your lap and sleep with her. She has such a personality and loves to play too! She also understands English and listens to her owner better than any other dog I've met. So we went out to dinner to a really nice restaurant talked and then when we got back we layed in bed and watched two great movies together, Untraceable and the Butterfly effect. Kind of like how I let Tasha do my nails even though it bothered my sensory processing disorder, she watched two semi-scary movies with me even though it bothered her OCD and anxiety. The movies were psychological thriller movies which are pretty much my favorite types of movies and she really liked them even though they were scary and wanted to share them with me. We had a great time watching the movies together. Afterwards she was a little scared, but she said because I was there with her she was okay. My flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 10:00pm on Monday night so that meant we got to spend the whole day together the next day too. We slept in late, ate lunch, and then watched the movie Date Night. Then we had dinner where we talked more too and had more good conversations! She drove me to the airport and we hugged and said goodbye! She told me that she really enjoyed our time together. I often worry and obsess about what other people think of me but when I'm with Tasha and the other counselors from camp I know they accept me, always. I don't have to worry that they think I'm weird or that they don't accept my differences. They know my differences personally because they live with them every day, to them stomping your feet on the ground, twitching your face, hitting yourself, and making noises is normal. To them going into panic/anxiety mode because your flight was canceled or having to avoid touching certain things because you think touching them will make you sick is normal. It's incredible to be understood on this level. Being at camp and being with the people from camp is the most understood I have ever felt in my life. I feel like they are all living my life. Even though we don’t have the same tics, same obsessions, or same things that trigger our anxiety it doesn’t matter; we get it and we get each other.