Things You Shouldn't Say or Do to People with Tourette's
Having Tourette's is frustrating enough. Your mind is constantly thinking about a thousand different things at a time. You tic constantly and try to keep it under control with no avail. It's a struggle to be in certain places where being silent is crucial, like movie theaters and plane rides. The list goes on and on.
Throughout all these problems, the only thing that can possibly make it worse is people doing and saying things about it when they notice it. Most of the time, people don't even realize that these things are incredibly annoying and offensive to us.
So I figured instead of correcting people anymore, I'm listing a couple of things you should never say or do to someone with Tourette's. Hopefully this will be the last time I have to explain it to anyone.
Imitating or Mocking Tics
This one should be obvious, but you'd be absolutely dumbfounded how often I encounter this. It's annoying enough when people do this without knowing I have Tourette's, but when you continue to do it, it just becomes straight disrespectful. We don't love our tics and we are completely aware that many of our tics make us look weird. You're not being funny or "playing along" by imitating our tics; you're just pissing us off.
To put it in simplest terms, we don't find it amusing when you imitate our tics. So don't do it.
Pointing Out Tics
I was going to include this with imitating tics, but I think this should be addressed on its own.
Some people with Tourette's don't mind when you mention it. But not all of us are as understanding. In fact, even if you think someone doesn't mind, just don't do it. Again, we know what we're doing, and we don't like it. It's not like pointing out a flaw, because tics aren't flaws. It's just the fact that this is something we have to deal with every day and it gets irritating, so we don't need anyone telling us what we're doing.
You can ask questions about someone's tics and their Tourette's as long as they're comfortable with it. That's totally fine. Yes, there is a difference. When you want to know more about it in order to be more understanding and sensitive, ask away. If you just want to mention our tics for the heck of it, that's where it's not okay.
"Why don't you swear?"
This one isn't really as frustrating as it is sad that so many people are misinformed about what Tourette Syndrome really is. I know that "Tourette Guy" video was viral all those years ago, but that shouldn't be your perception of Tourette's.
This condition is called Coprolalia and only 10 percent of people with Tourette's actually have it. As you might have guessed, it causes someone to vocalize explicit remarks out of nowhere. While it might be the most commonly known form of Tourette's, it certainly isn't the most common among us.
Tics can be as simple as constant shoulder shrugging or clearing of the throat. It doesn't have to be some crazy motion or outburst.
Now you know. And now you can stop asking us this question.
Thinking that Tics Are Controllable
"It's all your mind." "You're in control of it." "Just try to control it."
It's not all in our mind. We're not in control of it. Yes, we have tried many times to control it. Believe it or not, Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder. That means it's a real medical condition. Crazy, right?
Trying to hold in a tic is like trying not to blink. You can try to keep your eyes open as long as you want, but you can't hold it forever; eventually you're going to have to give in or you might lose your mind. That's what it feels like to have tics. Technically, we could try really, really hard to hold them in. But when we do, it drives us insane and even makes us feel extremely anxious. Not only that, but holding in tics will actually make them worse when they finally come out.
So rather than sitting there and suffering, we prefer to just let it out. Sure we'll probably look and sound ridiculous, but it definitely feels better than if we don't. Also, we're very much aware how we look when we tic, and a lot of us are still embarrassed to be seen that way. Do us a favor and don't make a scene. We'll take care of that part, trust me.
In short, we are trying our hardest every day to act normal and to not attract attention to ourselves. The best you can do is to let us be.
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