I am very fortunate that my symptoms are mild. This is why I am able to fool colleagues into thinking I am much more focused than I am, living with this condition relatively undetected by anyone other than family and close friends. Intensity comes in waves, usually at times of stress or around people that I don’t want to know of the condition. The irony.
Surprisingly, I was stress free during the date at the local restaurant. This was helped by chugging a beer before I jumped into the taxi, taking the edge off things. This was also the second date, the first was a brief coffee chat and although caffeine can send me off the rails, it was a brief encounter was short enough to suppress any urges. I have been on dates and catch ups with friends in the past when in a much more depressed state of mind. It is perfectly possible to be in a bar full of people, having an intimate chat with someone and feel like I am here.
Tourette’s is a very strange condition. It is also highly misunderstood. Thanks to television and stereotypes the first question I get asked when someone learns I have the condition is ‘so why don’t you swear?’. Only a portion of sufferers have verbal tics and only a portion of those let out obscenities, roughly 10%. More responses to such myths can be viewed over at Tourettes Hero. For this reason, I have had conversations with people that poke fun at the condition, failing to realise that I have the illness that they are joking about, right in my face. Despite being able to suppress tics, they build up every few seconds or so on a bad day. A good day, maybe every few minutes. Some create enough pressure for me to have to let them out, usually in a minor head movement, blink or vocal grunt disguised as a cough.
So, back to the date. We were sitting, a few bites into our main course when we got onto the topic of interesting television documentaries, those with Louis Theroux in particular. If you haven’t watched any of his, I recommend them. His cool and calm persona whilst in some of the weirdest situations with the wackiest people is hilarious. She then told me of a documentary that she watched, consisting of Tourette’s sufferers swearing and saying the most offensive of things in the most inappropriate of places. I understand why the stereotype holds up. I would be boring on such a television programme. Who doesn’t want to hear people shouting that they have a bomb whilst in an airport? Or shouting the ‘N’ word in a largely black community? This is what you get when being educated on TS on TV.
‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! It is so awkward to watch!’ At least she is willing to empathise with those burdened with the symptoms it seemed. She wasn’t being patronising or condescending either, making the chat a little more bearable. It lasted a couple of minutes before moving on to the next topic, however hearing the condition I have had for a lifetime being condensed into a two minute bunch of laughs will always stay with me a little longer, whenever this may be. What I have to remember is that I do the exact same thing. I don’t know when or with what person. Which is why it is impossible to not offend no matter how hard we all try. I will make a joke about something that will no doubt have a big impact on someone, whether it be a myth that I haven’t been corrected on or a condition that I know nothing about.
For that reason, it’s cool. I won’t get wound up about it. As long as that person isn’t doing so intentionally to offend me or being misled by, lets say ‘alternative facts’ that we are hearing so much about. I am just about to get ready before heading to a gig later with the same girl. I am looking forward to it. Maybe I will do something that gives away the condition, maybe I will tell her that I have it. Maybe she will tell me that she has a condition that I embarrassingly mocked during our last date. What I do know is that she isn’t going to intentionally insult me. It is important to know the difference between those that offend intentionally and those that do so out of ignorance. The latter should be held in a higher regard as we all do it, every single one of us. If you don’t think so, you are wrong. Those that are hurt by our statements are probably used to hiding it very well, it is our duty to understand that as best we can.