We often empathize with people with who have it rough, but what many of us consider ‘rough’ is usually something like a terminal illness or homelessness. Things easily understandable. But what happens when a close friend or family member is diagnosed with something that isn’t easily understandable?
Tourette Syndrome is the source of much misunderstanding and quite a few myths are associated with it. “Isn’t that the cussing thing,” many ask when some Touretters tell others that they have it. But when your someone close to you tells you, it can take some adjustment, especially if you don’t know all that much about it other than what you’ve seen on TV and comedy movies.
To help you understand, sometimes the best thing to do is just listen and observe. You may have seen them tic before and wrote it off as a quirk or a nervous tic (ironic, right?) and thought nothing of it since then. Maybe you’ve never seen them tic at all because their particular type is benign and not as severe as you may have seen in documentaries like ‘Twitch and Shout’. But when confronted with the fact that this person who you care for needs your support, what do you do? Listen and observe. Listen to what they are saying, because by listening, you allow them to impart to you everything they wanted to tell you and you get an education on what they may go through and feel. The thoughts racing through their minds may be all the more positive because instead of not listening to their words, you opened up to their experiences and feelings in a way, perhaps, most others have not.
By observing, you learn what is embarrassing for them in a public setting and can attempt to put them at ease that, because they’re with you, they can tic without fear of sideways glances and fear. By observing, you learn what may trigger a stream of tics and can help alleviate it. By observing, you see them… the real them. The person that not everyone sees.
Admittedly, dating a person with Tourette is not always an easy thing, regardless of severity of their TS. Education is always the first thing I say when going into it with someone with TS. And listening and observing is equally important. It isn’t the burden you may imagine. Unlike, say, being with someone who has constant foot-in-mouth disease.
Tourette’s is something that tests who is truly your friend. As a Touretter, I can say that revealing my illness to certain people has been met with incredulity, disbelief, dirty looks, laughs and outright dismissal. But then, there are those times where I was met with open arms, genuine smiles, understanding and empathy. In the end, I felt not as alone because of that.
As a friend, relative or loved one, please keep an open mind, listen, observe and learn as much as you can. The more you allow them to be comfortable ticcing and being themselves around you, the more your relationship will grow!
To learn as much as you can, follow these links about Tourette Syndrome to get you started: