Today marks the beginning of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month, which runs from May 15 to June 15 each year. To start the month off, I'd like to issue a little challenge to those of you who do not have Tourette Syndrome. This is a chance to for you to get a little bit of a better understanding of what life is like for those, like Monster Man, who live with the constant tics that play such a big part in life with Tourette Syndrome.
Think of the things that we do involuntarily - breathing, blinking... even yawning. Now, I want you to concentrate really hard on holding your breath and keeping your eyes open. Do not blink. Do not take a breath. Do not yawn. No matter what, until I tell you to do otherwise, I want you to try hard to control these movements.
It's hard to do, isn't it? Now imagine that you have people fussing at you. "Stop blinking!" "Why can't you just control yourself?" "I said stop that this instant!" "If I see you blink one more time..." Can you imagine what it is like to have those around you fussing at you, even punishing you, for doing the things that you must do?
This is what life is like for those with Tourette Syndrome. Their tics come just as involuntarily as breathing, blinking, and yawning come for the rest of us. They struggle to control the need to clear their throat, shake their head, bark, etc. Sometimes, those that don't understand will tell them to stop, punish them for being 'disruptive', and ridicule them for their 'lack of control'.
Okay, now I want you to quit holding your breath. You can blink, too, if you need to. You're probably breathing heavier than usual now, trying to take in extra air. You may be blinking excessively, too, making up for the lack of blinking you did while you were controlling your movements. For those that manage to control their tics - at school, at work, in public - the release is usually similar. Once they can finally let go and tic, all those extra bottled up tics usually want to come out with a vengeance.
Please keep this in mind next time you see or hear someone doing something you might view as strange or unruly. They may not just be acting up. They might not just be trying to get attention. They might, in all actuality, be struggling to control these behaviors that come to them as involuntarily as breathing and blinking.