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Tourette: Suffering From Uncontainable Muscle Spasms

Can you imagine not having control over your body? For the past 13 years. Jasmine has been suffering from uncontainable muscle spasms. She opens up about her battle with Tourette's Syndrome. The doctor diagnosed me with Tourette's Syndrome when I was nine years old. I didn't understand fully what it meant.

All I was told was that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain so it would be necessary to take medication for the rest of my life to control the tics. These tics are actually uncontrollable muscle spasms that cause me to make incoherent sounds or make my hands shake wildly. When they kicked in, people threw me bewildered glares. Even my family would say things like, "You're sick in the head."

They didn't understand that it was something I didn't have control over nor did they know how to respond to it. Growing up, I was constantly mocked in school. When the teacher wasn't around, one of my classmates would stand up and imitate me by quivering her voice and jerking her limbs about. Her friends would join in the taunt and laugh along. I couldn't do anything but look away.

I felt embarrassed and harassed. I refused to give in so I held back my tears as best as I could. It didn't always work. My condition got worse after the diagnosis. It got so bad that my parents had to take me to the doctor's house for a private appointment and he advised them not to send me to school anymore. Nights later, I staggered into my parents' room in a daze and saw my mum sitting in a chair, looking lost.

After all the psychiatrists and all the doctors, I wasn't getting any better. When she laid her eyes on me, she cried. Even though I felt numb and disconnected from the reality of it all, I started sobbing and told her that I did not mean for her and my dad to worry so much about me. I remember her telling me, "You're our child and you'll never ever be a burden to us."

Another time, my dad walked into our kitchen and when he saw me, he just started crying. He looked so tired and worn out. There wasn't anything I could do but wipe away his tears. It pained me to see my parents so vulnerable like that. But facing reality was the most difficult part. I couldn't accept the fact that I was not "normal". I had esteem issues and I felt misunderstood by on-lookers.

The manner in which the media depicts Tourette's Syndrome doesn't help either. I think films and TV shows reinforce stereotypical views by portraying only the outrageous aspects to the illness, like showing someone with Tourette's barking like a dog or cursing like a madman. Do they actually think they're shedding light on the condition or is that simply what they consider comedy? Perhaps that's why many people don't understand its true nature.

Having Tourette's felt like a disability - that is, until my high school tutor changed my perspective. One day, she sat me down and told me that what I had was just an "inconvenience". I kept her words in mind. I kept telling myself I did not have a disability, simply an "inconvenience".

Over the years, I have gained more control over my condition. The medication I've been taking has diluted my tics. I also suppress my tics, especially when I'm out with my parents in a public place, by repeatedly reminding my body to remain calm. I do my best to control them up to hours at a time, but this only leads to a stronger outburst after.

On the other hand, I still have difficulty making friends - even at 22. Thankfully, I've met some very understanding and caring people with whom I have been friends with for a few years now. They have helped me believe in myself. Occasionally, I still have down days where I feel aimless and scarred by all the humiliation I've had to go through but I hope the pain will heal and that I will find inner peace someday.

What Exactly Is Tourette's Syndrome?

It's a "neuro-psychiatric disorder that presents in childhood", explains Dr. John Walkup of the Johns Hopkins University School Of Medicine. "Kids don't start to have tics until six or seven and it is very unusual for the tics to start after age 16 or 17. The tics include motor tics like eye blinking or rolling your eyes to the side, others experience head-shaking and shoulder shrugs. Vocal tics include grunts. They say words or phrases. It's very rare for kids to utter racial or swear words, which is the most popular symptoms people think of when it come to Tourette's."

If A Friend Has It, You Can Help By...

  • Telling her she doesn't have to control her tics in front of you.
  • Showing concern. Ask how she's doing (high or low tic day?) and if she wants to grab a drink at the cafe to chill out.
  • Rubbing her back when she's having tics. This will help calm her down. Ask her how else she would like you to help her in an attack.
  • Standing up for her whenever someone throws a snide and thoughtless remark about her condition. She needs you on her side!

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