Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Family That Tics Together Stays Together

My husband, son, and I all have Tourette Syndrome. We are quirky, fun, and often frustrating.
This is our journey through the struggles with tics, medication, and the rest of the world.
Our story begins with me and John. We met in 1999 when he and my best friend attended the same college. John was shy and adorable, and I instantly knew he was my mate. When we first began dating, he sat me down and got this intensely serious look on his face - you know that look that makes women terrified that the guy they're dating is either married with 3 kids, a member of a cult, or a militant vegetarian. When he told me that he had Tourette's, I almost laughed and just said, "Me too."
That was the first time in my life that I felt someone actually understood who I was, right down to the way my brain works. It was the happiest day of my life. I was no longer alone, always wondering if what I was feeling or thinking was normal or if I truly was a freak.
Our life together isn't always sunshine and rainbows. Two people living together with TS can be extremely challenging. We often share tics, and stress can worsen them substantially. If John is having a hard week at work, his tics will bleed into mine. We both have OCD but have different obsessions. I have spent 13 years trying to convince John that the world would implode if he left his socks on the floor, and he has spent 13 years trying to convince me that those socks are holding the universe together. I have a mood disorder which makes me somewhat unpredictable and overemotional. John could teach Cylons how to be more stoic.
And then came Perrin. While neurotypical people worry about their kids having 10 fingers and toes, we were having hours long discussions of whether or not we should have a child whose body would constantly betray him. Was it fair to bring a child into this world knowing he would be different, stared at, ridiculed? Who would struggle to write his name or tie his shoes because his brain had a very different idea of what he was supposed to be doing with his hands?
In the end we realized that our son would have the supreme advantage of always knowing his parents understand him. He will never be alone. When he is having a rough day with his tics, he will always know that Mom and Dad KNOW what he's going through. Empathy can be a powerful thing, and knowing that John feels what I feel has made living with this condition much easier. We still get depressed when kids pick on Perrin or exclude him because he's different. We still get depressed when we see how much Perrin struggles with school. But every life is a journey through pain as well as joy. It's about navigating through the obstacles that the world will throw at you and embracing the things that make you unique and even a little bit weird. John, Perrin, and I are on this journey together, and with the love that we have for each other, I have no doubt that we, as well as anyone else out there with TS, can accomplish great things.

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