In 2009 I kept my diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome hidden from my wife. After the big reveal some things did make sense to my wife: my incessant nail-biting, the tugging, twisting and bending of my ears, shaking my legs, hitting myself, my inability to sit at peace, my impulsiveness, the stress that basic arithmetic caused.
I didn’t want to be that guy who twitches, tics, shouts and swears all over the place. In social situations she couldn’t see my curled toes or my white knuckles whenever I felt the tics approaching.
A cousin of mine has TS, and it has not dissipated in symptoms as he has aged. Yes, I'd have gone out with him but it turned out he was an ex of my sister's I'd never met and when I found that out, I had to pass. He has had a very difficult time maintaining employment due to his tics, and, consequently, difficulty with employment contributed to the dissolution of his marriage. I put them back in touch with each other and they dated for a short time again. I still think of him nearly 25 years later and wonder how he is. I know I'm going to get flamed for this but I once went to a restaurant to try and relax and have a nice meal and there was a guy there with TS and he kept whooping and yelling and screaming every damn minute.Each time he did it I jumped up a little in my seat. I work with kids with all sorts of developmental disabilities and neurological and neural/psych conditions, including Tourette Syndrome. It could only be a matter of minutes before detonation time, before my terrible secret would be unleashed. Maybe I could soldier on and conceal it one more time. Time to fashion a goodnight before projectiling my lies and deceit all over my wife.
The diagnosis provided much-needed clarity and meaning to my actions.I no longer live with a secret, I’m more relaxed about who and what I am, I’m less worried and stressed about folk discovering it, or me revealing it.In a sense you could say that Tourette’s has liberated me somewhat. Although Tourette’s came to me late in life – I was officially diagnosed when I was 37 – it enabled me to understand certain symptoms I’d demonstrated since childhood. After all, what’s a marriage without honesty, loyalty and trust? She could now relate this to my Tourette’s and not solely part of my cute/bizarre/annoying idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, I was steady, comfortable in my own skin, confident. By telling her about the Tourette’s I’d be chipping away at the rock, I’d be losing control of who I was, I’d be showing her my weakness. I mean, how do you even go about initiating a conversation like that? I know now, however, that it was my Tourette’s I wasn’t ready to confront, not my wife. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t get the words out to explain my “episode”. While my wife demonstrated levels of understanding, protectiveness and concern that both soothed and saddened me, she also asked perhaps the most pertinent of questions: “How is it possible that I never knew? She’d never seen the tics being shaken out of me in a loo or when I was certain wandering eyes weren’t all over me.