Ever Wonder What Tourette Syndrome Is Really Like?
on 7/18/2006 (2)
Ever wonder what Tourette Syndrome is really like? I think most of us have some vauge notion as Tourette's as the "swearing disease" with little more detail or understanding of the condition.
I spent 5 months working in a small room with a guy with Tourette Syndrome, and was both intrigued, amused, repulsed and deeply compassionate toward his condition, and wish to describe what the disorder is all about.
First off, you know how we all have an "inner voice" in our heads, what we would call "stream of consciousness" thought, that rambles incessantly throughout our day, but we manage to keep "quiet"?
What I mean is, if you walk past a girl with big breasts, your mind blurts out "nice tits!", but it is "internalized." Your mouth does not verbalize and utter your thoughts. Normal people have control, or stops, over what they think, and what they say.
Some Tourette Syndrome patients do not.
When I was with my friend, whom I'll call "Tom", he was perfectly incapable of internalizing his thoughts, and as is so often the case with Tourette patients, it is the vulgar, obscene mental inflections that often bubble to the surface, in what are called "verbal ticks".
If a large breasted female walked passed Tom, he would invariably blurt out "Titter!" and "Nipple licker!" and (my favorite) "show me some of dem' boobies!", leaving the passer-by in a shocked state of wide-mouthed awe. Of course, since this was a workplace, Tom and I were cordoned off in a small office where contact with others was kept at a minimum. (I had a dad with dementia and Alzheimers, and was quite understanding and accepting of Tom's disorder, and did so voluntarily).
To better understand these Tourette "ticks", they are often compared to an extreme itch that you are desperately trying to prevent yourself from scratching, like a fierce mosquito bite, but cannot. You must make a concerted, fantastically focused mental effort not to scratch. Same with the ticks. Some days are better than others; the "itch" is not as overwhelming, and the Tourette patient is basically quiet, focused, and indistinguishable from any other worker. But more often than not, certain stimuli set off ticks, often obscene, with relentless, uncontrollable, staccato abandon. (This is why Tourette sufferers like it quiet, to avoid hearing stimuli in the form of certain words that will instigate the ticks.) Tom would often blurt out inane phrases like "Here dude!" in a sing song voice like he was calling a dog named Dude, (very pleasant and amusing, in fact), and nonsense words, like "Kooma Thai!" which had no obvious meaning or apparent precedent.
Most of the verbal ticks were also accompanied by facial ticks as well, grotesque facial contortions that lasted 10-15 seconds or so, before they faded, and he returned to normal. What amazed me about Tom was his intelligence, and his ability to solve even the most complex problems at work "in between" ticks. He was very educated and capable. Most days were perfectly sane. Some days, were really, really bad, however.
On some days, the ticks were madly out of control. Every woman who walked by Tom was greeted by "Get under my desk and suck my cock, you whore!" or "So-and-so is my back-door bitch!", and so on. The sexual taunts were often homo-erotic as well, with "Fag!" and "Dicklicker!" being tossed out at male employees without discretion or reason.
What a mess, you might say, and indeed it often was.
The employees fell into 2 camps, those who knew Tom, understood his condition, and brushed it off with good humor, or those -especially women who were new hires- would race to the Human Resource department and file an immediate complaint of sexual harassment, until the nature of Tom's condition was explained to them.
Some people got used to it, some did not, at least not easily. Tourette's in the workplace tends to create a free-fo
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