In Tourette Syndrome, there are many symptoms that do not apply to everyone who has it.
Some may have echolalia (repeating of another person’s sounds or words) but may not and instead have palilalia (repeating of one’s own words or sounds) like myself. There are so many symptom groups of Tourette’s that it can sometimes seem overwhelming.
As far as the different tics go, none are more embarrassing than coprolalia and/or copropraxia tics. These involve the obscene and socially unacceptable words, sound and gestures uttered or performed by a Touretter. It can range from a derogatory phrase to a curse word to a racial epithet (coprolalia) or from a finger in your nose to THE finger to grabbing your or someone else’s body part (copropraxia).
If you’re introverted, these two symptom groups can be a nightmare if you’re out and about around other people. Imagine being at a house party and while talking with the cute friend of a friend, you yell out “Suck my clitoris!” Or yawning and while stretching, you grab your groin and squeeze it a couple of times. Embarrassment City, right?
Over time, I have learned to consciously turn whatever word I’m about to expel into another word or tap my thigh when I’m yawning and stretching. Many people with one (or both) of these symptom groups have learned to camouflage their tics to be not as offensive as they could have been. Just like many others can camouflage ‘normal’ tics into something else so as not to arouse someone’s curiosity or panic.
Sometimes it just isn’t possible to camouflage your tics and they just come out as is. In those times, you just have to explain when you’re able that you have Tourette’s and that you can’t help it… nor did you mean any of the words you said or gestures you made. You don’t have complete control over your body and voice and that if they can’t understand that, then that’s OK and you hope they do a Google search to learn more and not to judge anyone else for something they can’t control.
As Touretters, we have a stigma attached to us, thanks to movies and TV shows where our illness is characterized as a “cussing disease” or a mental illness. Each tic, no matter how embarrassing can become a teaching moment where that stigma breaks down bit by bit.
“In life, risk is part of the equation…”