Monday, May 30, 2011

OCD and TS: A Daily Struggle

Wake up. Put on slippers. Don’t touch the floor with my feet. Not even my socks. Close the bathroom door behind me. Pick up the soap. Start washing my hands. Not enough soap. Not enough. Not enough. Rub harder. Keep rubbing. Sing Happy Birthday four times. No less. I think I missed one. I can’t be sure that I didn’t skip one time. Start over. Start over. This time I can’t lose count. I won’t. I absolutely won’t. Sing Happy Birthday four times. Just four. No doubles. No starting over. Come on, Come on. Don’t give in. Finally, done. Take out retainers. Brush my teeth. Keep Brushing. Just a little longer. Don’t drop my toothbrush. Be careful, Be careful. Spit in the sink. Get a drink of water. Don’t touch the faucet with my mouth, don’t touch it with my hands, don’t touch the sink, don’t touch anything. Careful, careful, I can’t mess up. Use the toilet. Wash my hands again. Try not to lose count this time. I can’t lose count this time. Sing four Happy Birthday’s. Shit, I might have skipped one. I didn’t skip one, I know I didn’t skip one. Come on, you don’t have to do it again. Listen fucking brain, dam it just listen. I don’t have to wash my hands again. Yes I do. Yes I do. I have to wash again; I have to start over. I can’t lose count again, please don’t let me lose count. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear someone, happy birthday to you. Four times, just four times. No more, no less and then I’ll be done. Finished. Step out of the bathroom. Get dressed carefully. Don’t touch my socks, don’t touch my feet, don’t drop anything on the ground. I can’t drop anything on the ground. My socks aren’t clean enough. Put on new ones. Careful, careful, don’t touch my feet. Brush my hair, put on my glasses, walk down stairs. Cereal. Don’t touch the inside of my bowl, pour the cereal, get out the milk, check the expiration date. Check the newspaper. It’s not expired. Check again. Check again. It’s not expired. Pour the milk. Eat. The tiger begins to chew, at the corners of my eyes, at my mouth, at my shoulders, at my throat, at my arms. Have to tic. Have to tic. My eyes roll up, my neck jerks up, to the right, to the left. I pop my solders in and out. Wiggle my mouth. Pull my arms in hard, again and again and again and again. I start squeaking, yes like a mouse. Yes, this is my morning. Yes this is how I start my day, not just once a week, not just twice a week, but every single day of every single week of every single month. This is not me, this is my faulty neurotransmitters, and every day I declare war against it. I tic, I obsess, and yes the things I do look pretty funny sometimes, but even though Tourette's and OCD can sometime control my mind and my body, I don’t let them control me. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Childhood with Undiagnosed Tourette's Syndrome

When did I fist realize that I was a little different than the rest? I don't know that there was one eye opening moment, or one day that I remember realizing it. It was a realization that came with time, that came with looking into myself and figuring out what made me the person I am. My parents knew I was different from the beginning, but pretended not to. They pretended there was nothing they couldn't fix with a little discipline and preaching of "self-control", a word which I had heard many more times than I could even come close to counting during my childhood. It was always "get your hair out of your mouth...stop picking your lips....take your hands off your face....stop sniffling....If you don't stop sniffling right now I am going to stop the car....stop licking your lips.....stop cracking your knuckles.....stop doing that with your hands....don't do that.....stop skipping....your too old for that......don't you realize how silly you look?.....don't you realize how unacceptable for a girl your age to do that?....just tell yourself to stop......your such a pretty girl.....just tell yourself no....just use your self control." My parents just didn't quite get it, they didn't quite get that no amount of self control could stop me from doing these things. And as if I wasn't a handful enough for my parents to deal with, with all my "habits" which they seemed to be called, there were other aspects of my life that also seemed to enter this kind of strange realm of myself which I could not seem to control. It seemed as if there was a only a very thin and delicate barrier between what I should do and what I shouldn't do, and more times than not I couldn't really seem to keep myself from breaking this barrier before I had time to catch myself. I found my ten year old self filled with these strange urges to do things that I knew I shouldn't. I found myself being thrust past the thin barrier as if someone much stronger than myself was standing behind me, with their hands on my back, and pushing me forward with all their might. These urges that held such force behind them made me do things I would never want to do, things like pulling on my friend's hair or things hitting a dog in the face with my palm or things like scratching my brother and occasionally the unsuspecting babysitter with my nails so hard that it could draw blood. Every day it was something new, and in my parents eyes, I just needed to use a little more self control. How was I supposed to tell them that I didn't want to do these things? How was I supposed to tell them that my self control didn't seem to work as easily as everyone else's? The kids my schools didn't quite seem to understand either. Why would they understand? Their self control worked just fine and they probably couldn't even imagine it any other way. I never seemed to say the right things with them, and most of the time the things that I knew would make me seem so different were the things that always came out of my mouth. I switched schools three times before fourth grade because I never could make friends. The result was the same at each school though. I was the kid who said weird things and did things they shouldn't. I was the kid who couldn't stop sniffling, picking their lips, and grabbing their crotch area. The children spread rumors that I grew up in a trailer park, and that my parents never taught me it was wrong to do these things. I wished I could have told them that I couldn't help it, that I didn't mean to do these things, and that no matter how hard I tried or how much "self-control" I used , I couldn't stop myself from doing these things. Maybe it would have made a difference to have a name for it at the time, something to call all these strange behaviors, but then again maybe it would have simply ostracized me more among children who would no more understand the word "Tourette's Syndrome" than they could understand the fact that I didn't have the same kind of control over these things that they might imagine.

Being a child with Tourette's Syndrome: