I was moving about quite a lot during a ‘ticcing fit’ the other day and Zoë, who was supporting me, was struggling to keep my limbs under control. While this was going on I ticced “Whack Attack!” This is a children’s game in which little plastic heads pop up randomly from a board and you have to hit them back down with a plastic hammer. You never know where they’re going to pop up next and just as you hit one down another pops up somewhere else – a bit like my body.
I described the game to Zoë and told her how much I loved it when I was a kid. The only problem was it used to completely over-excite me. I’d go berserk to a degree that meant I couldn’t meaningfully play the game at all – I’d just squeal, flap about and hit out randomly at the air. My mum discouraged me from playing in the end because I found it so overwhelming.
This got me thinking about a few other games that made me overreact. Snap for example – a simple card game that most people start playing when they’re very young (I was no exception). What I expect is less typical is that my family and friends have always been deeply reluctant to play snap with me. It’s a game I loved but the tension was too much for me, and whenever I saw a pair I’d throw both my hands and whole body on the pack of cards screeching uncontrollably. Despite battling for years to rein in this response, and repeatedly promising to stay calm, I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a complete game. My fellow players almost always give up and refuse to carry on.
Both these games were usually played in the privacy of my home but my excited overreacting could also be very public, like at ‘Laser Quest’ centres for example. These were usually at a bowling alley and you’d be given a laser gun to do battle with other players in a dark maze. They were very popular when I was growing up, and I adored them.
But I was never able to cope in them successfully. They were common places for birthday parties and each time I went it was a disaster. I’d either end up being injured or removed by a supervisor. I wasn’t able to play the actual game at all – I’d get so overexcited I’d just run around chaotically in the dark, squealing and bashing into things.
After three attempts my mum banned me from playing. I was grumpy about this decision to start with, but I remember feeling quite relieved as well. It was at a time when I was compulsively running into lots of things and the idea of doing that for a full 30 minutes in the dark, with a load of flashing lights, wasn’t really that appealing.
The way I overreact when I’m excited started long before I had a diagnosis of Tourettes. My family and friends were tolerant of my extreme reactions to even the mildest of thrills, but no one wanted to join me in a game of Whack Attack, snap, or Laser Quest.