Monday, July 25, 2011

To my mom

"Stop doing that!
"You're only trying to get attention!"
 "You're making too much noise!"
"Be still!"

Most kids with Tourette's have heard these phrases more times than they can count. People without TS simply cannot understand. You can say, "I can't help it" a hundred times, but unless someone actually has TS, they usually don't believe you.
I knew something was different about me when I was 6 years old. I had what my mom used to refer to as "bunny nose," where I'd twitch my nose like a rabbit. I think everyone thought it was cute at first, but over time, I'm pretty sure it drove my folks nuts. I do remember them telling me to stop doing it and accusing me of trying to get attention away from my little sister. I tried to explain that I couldn't stop, but no one believed me at first. That tic eventually evolved, and I began to stick my shoulder blades out as far as they would go. I used this to impress the neighborhood kids, who ooed and aahed over this freakish trick of mine. I must have been exhausting.
At no point in my childhood did I get a diagnosis. I learned to suppress my tics until I was alone in my room, and the depression and OCD that came along with just made me appear bookish and a good studier. I was a miserable child, always feeling misunderstood and mostly alone.
And here is where my mom comes in. She treated me like I was perfect. I was no different, no better, no worse than my two younger sisters. We were all unique and very different from each other, and she treated us as the special little snowflakes she thought we were. I was more artistic and free spirited, Jen was serious and brilliant, and Steph was athletic and funny. She encouraged me to write, to sing, to dance, to be who I was. There was no judgment, no criticism, just unending and unconditional support. Her only expectation for me was for me to be happy. That's all she cared about. "Do something that brings you joy," she told me over and over again. When I was bullied, when I was sad, when it felt like the world would collapse around me, she always said, "This too shall pass." And it always did.
She allowed me to dye my hair when I was 14 because she believed in self expression.
She allowed me to paint my bedroom this insanely bright yellow because it cheered me up.
She allowed me to dress however I wanted as long as I was following the school dress code.
She taught me that being weird or different or strange was not only okay but far superior to being what someone else considered normal.
She came to school and screamed at my teacher because she was treating me unfairly.
She was a warrior for me, and I have never gone a single day of my entire life not feeling loved.
And she never knew I had Tourette's.
So thank you, Mom, for having the patience, compassion, and humor to navigate the minefield that was me. If I'm half the mother you have been to me, I will consider that a success.

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