I’m going to share thirty minutes of my day through the reactions I’ve encountered along the way.
3.00pm: I popped to the shops during my lunch break to pick up some plasters to protect the my knuckles from the wear and tear they’re currently suffering from the tic that means that I bang my chest. While I was in Boots browsing the plasters, I squawked. There were two young women next to me and one asked the other “Was that you?” I looked round at her and said, “No it was me, I have Tourettes.” She smiled and said, “So has she,” nodding in the direction of her friend. This wasn’t the response I was expecting. We chatted for a minute and then got on with our shopping.
3.15pm: I was walking back to work, cheerfully enjoying the sunshine, when I saw a middle-aged man coming towards me. I squeaked once as I got near him and when we drew level he shouted a similar noise to the one I’d just made, quite threateningly. I turned and asked, “Why did you do that?” He responded aggressively “I was copying you.” I told him I had Tourettes and that the noise wasn’t directed at him. “I don’t care, you can fuck off,” he said. He walked off shouting offensive things at me all the way down the street. I got back to work feeling angry.
3.30pm: After I’d had a brief chat with my colleagues about what had happened, I returned to the children I work with, who were playing on the computers and dashing in and out of the building. As I was putting the plasters on my knuckles a few boys aged between 7 and 9 asked me what I was doing. I explained that I was protecting the skin on my hand because it was getting sore from where I banged my chest. One of the boys asked, “Why do you bang your chest?” The youngest boy who I’d met for the first time a couple of days before, answered, “Her brain makes her do it, it controls her arm.” He paused briefly, and then added, “and her mouth.” When I started my new job I’d explained to the children and young people why I sometimes make unusual noises and movements. It’s great when they start to answer each other’s questions in their own words, and hearing this child explain it so straightforwardly reassured me that my answers to their questions had been clear enough and fully understood.
These accounts are illustrative of the varied reactions that my tics provoke. I never know how people will react. There’s not one group or type of person that seems to react more positively or negatively than any other. The thing about Tourettes is that I know when I leave my house in the morning other people will react, and their reactions will be a mixed bag. I’m sure this isn’t unique to Tourettes, but is something that’s experienced by people with other conditions that make them stand out.