The tiny coiled serpent: Part 2

The tiny coiled serpent: Part 2

My case of Tourette’s syndrome was not a severe one, and as I got older, the symptoms lessened.

I learned that if I centered my thoughts on the base of my skull where all the urges emanated from, I could contain them there if I focused calmly. The most noticeable tics disappeared one by one, and soon there were stretches where even I would forget I had the disorder.

There was only one tic that remained, and it was one that remains today. I am an avid reader, and my children noticed when they were very young that when I read a book, I placed the very center of it up to my nose and inhaled. If my nose wasn’t centered directly in the middle, I would have to do it again until it was right. The tics and urges don’t allow you to do it wrong. My kids would giggle and tell me to “stop smelling my books,” and I would smile.

I believe a child’s biggest advocate are his parents, and often it is the mother who first notices anything amiss. That’s the way of things. When my son was small, I noticed him fidgeting and rotating his neck in a repeating fashion. The coiled, small animal in the cortex of my own neck fidgeted right along with him as I took moments out of my day to watch him carefully. Moments of stress or tiredness still let me feel the anxious tics I had tucked away so many years before but that I could now control with concerted and calm effort. When he grew agitated, the fidgeting grew worse, and I knew he as well had a mild case of what I had passed on to him.

I began to pick him up when it became bad, the edges of his brain rough and ragged, and sat with him, my arms around him, on a bed or the floor. I would let him lean into me, and in a soft, soothing tone, I would tell him to feel whatever is making him anxious. Then I would tell him to focus on it, moving it to the place in his neck that it was coming from. Then I would have him visualize it becoming smaller and smaller and smaller until it was a teeny, tiny pinprick of feeling.

We would sit like that for 20 minutes until I could sense him become calm and steady. He learned to control the tics and urges young, and I never had to take him to a doctor for it. Both of us had mild cases that were controllable, and that isn’t the case for all. I always felt very fortunate to be able to say that.

It’s a misunderstood disorder, one that jokes are made readily about. Had I suffered from the more vicious case of it, which includes coprolalia (swearing uncontrollably) or loud vocal tics, it would have been a much harder load to bear. I most often don’t bring up that I have the disorder, even when breezy jokes are thrown around bearing its name. I should, but I don’t. Maybe speaking about it here is where I will do the talking, letting it out of the small box I keep it in between my shoulders.

Every so often I let it out, where it travels down my back and into my arms, the old tension electric most often during a time of busyness or worry. I’m thankful I can wrap it slowly back up, spooling it back inside my frame where it resides, dormant yet there.

It should see the light of day, just like the many other disorders that are kept in a gray area — a sunken place — afraid to be revealed. We need to bring to light this side of medicine that is disdained and kept hidden as a dirty secret. It should be treated with the care it deserves.

Today, I expose mine to the light.

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