Over the last few years as my tics have become increasingly obvious to other people, I’ve found myself on the receiving end of a lot of well-meaning advice about what I should do to help myself. Suggestions have ranged from taking various illegal substances to sniffing shoes, via experimental dentistry and acupuncture. Generally speaking I welcome advice from friends, family and strangers because I know, however odd, it’s well-intended at the very least.
What always takes me by surprise, and often upsets me, is the assertion that I’m possessed by evil spirits and in urgent need of exorcism. You may find it difficult to believe but that suggestion’s been made on several occasions (usually by cab drivers).
Whenever something new appears in the media about me I’m inundated with emails from people discovering the site for the first time. Most of these messages ask interesting questions, offer encouragement, or share thoughts and experiences. Others offer well-meaning advice about what I should do about helping myself.
The recent publication of my new book, Welcome to Biscuit Land, has offered me a chance to reach a far wider audience than usual thanks to various TV, radio and newspaper features. The response had been like it usually is, until the other day when I got an email telling me that I was in urgent need of exorcism.
I’m going to share this message with you, not because it made me particularly upset, or because I found it particularly funny, but because it perfectly captures a specific attitude towards disability – one that attributes blame and casts judgement on the person with the condition. You might find it disturbing, you might find yourself in agreement – either way, please read it with an open mind and make of it what you will. I’m presenting it exactly as it was received:
“I watched the Sunday Night program on your Sin-drome. I read part of your website, and some of the FAQ. If you want to survive and exist in denial and ignorance, this is your choice. If you don’t want to have any control over your mind, mouth, or body, this is your right. But this is not freedom, or living a life worth living. Every person with Tourettes Sin-drome is possessed by a spirit or spirits of satan, and demons of the devil. – And as soon as Jesus got out of the boat, there met Him out of the tombs a man [under the power] of an an unclean spirit, [who was possessed by demons]. See if the following has a ring of familiarity. – Night and day he was always shrieking and screaming and beating his chest and bruising and cutting himself with stones. You may not be shrieking or screaming; but do you have no control over your mouth, and are you constantly beating your chest? – Jesus was already commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man. Jesus then asked him (the unclean spirit), What is your name? And he answered Legion; for many demons had entered him. – And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits [demons] and diseases; Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had been expelled. – But when the unclean spirt has been cast out of a person, it roams through dry [arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find any. Then it says, I will go back to my house (your body) from which I was cast out. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, put in order, and decorated. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits (of satan) more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that person becomes worse than the first. So also shall it be with this wicked generation. – And people went out to see what had occurred, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right (sound) mind; and they were seized with alarm and fear. And those [also] who had seen it told them how he who had been possessed with demons was restored [to health]. Then all the people of the country surrounding the Gerasenes’ district asked Jesus to depart from them, for they were possessed [by satan’s spirits and the devil’s demons] and suffering with dread and terror. *Spirits of satan and the devil’s demons do not want to be dispossessed of the bodies they possess via Tourettes; this includes yours.*
Do you have to believe anything you have read? This is for you to decide. To anyone with cancer I have a simple question:
“Do you want to be correct your ways, and have your cancer kill you? Or, do you want to become correctable, so you can be cured?” Apply this same question to your Tourettes Sin-drome.
– And these attesting signs will accompany him who believes: In My name he will drive out demons; he will speak in new languages (tongues); he will lay his hands on the sick, and they will get well.
– Do you and every other Tourettes Sin-drome suffereer want to go to your grave, possessed and controlled by the spirits of satan and the demons of the devil, who control your mind, mouth, and body! Or, do you want to get well?
If secular psychiatrists have Tourettes cures, why haven’t they published their findings? Ignorance! You won’t cure a spiritual disease, Tourettes, using psychiatric science.”
I’d avoided looking at the entire message when it first arrived, but when Leftwing Idiot saw it he read it out with me and Poppy listening. I was worried that I’d find it too upsetting, but as it went on I felt more concern for the person who wrote it than I did for myself.
Tourettes is an emotive condition and, shocking as they may seem, reactions like this are not uncommon. Now I’ve had a chance to reflect on it, I’m not upset, because it demonstrates that my mission to change the world one tic at a time is spreading far and wide – even if there’s still a long way to go.