What Makes You Tic?
Posted November 25, 2011on:
Last week I went to a presentation on tolerance. The name of the program was called “What Makes You Tic?” The speaker was Marc Elliott, a man in his twenties who was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome when he was 9 years old.
He has lived with strange physical tics for many years, as well as inappropriate outbursts of name calling, cursing, and loud, odd noises.
His most-notable tic is/was the slamming together of his teeth, loudly enough to hear his upper and lower teeth grind and make contact. Imagine doing that for over 20 years!
His talk was very inspirational. He shared about how he often found himself explaining to people in school or out in public that his weird movements or sounds were not intended to bother or offend anyone, but that they were involuntary.
He also has lived with a rare intestinal disorder, making the “taken-for-granted” bodily task of relieving himself a particular challenge as well. He talked about never wanting to use a public restroom. He always felt he was being judged. Even when all he could see, and others could see, were ankles and shoes at the bottom of a stall.
If he heard someone come in to the bathroom, he would make himself stop “his business” in mid-action, in order not to be judged (or so he thought, in his mind.)
This is very similar to stuttering. How often have you chose not to speak, or switched words, for fear of how someone would react?
During his talk, Marc made reference to stuttering. I was not surprised. I knew there was some closeness ( in the brain area) between stuttering and Tourette’s syndrome. And I am always interested in how people with differences manage in their daily lives.
Marc shared that in the last 5 months, he has gained such a level of acceptance for his tics, that he rarely tics in public anymore. He said he almost never thinks about the fear of how others may perceive him, which has given him control over his tics. This is where he made reference to stuttering. And what surprised me, frankly.
He indicated that like Tourettes, if people who stutter could just forget that they stutter, like we do when we sing (!), we would be able to reduce or eliminate stuttering, like he has done with his tics.
He never quite told us how he has eliminated his tics. He said we could read about that in his book, (of the same title, “What Makes You Tic?“) which is due out by the end of the year.
At the end of the program, many people started lining up to speak with him. I got in line, deciding to let him know (gently) what I thought of his comment about stuttering.
I was close to the front of the line, and listened while some young girls cooed about how amazing and inspirational he was. An excited group of three got another friend to take a picture of them with Marc.
When it was my turn, I introduced myself, using some voluntary stuttering until real stuttering took hold. I told him I enjoyed his talk, but was a little curious about his reference to stuttering. I shared with him that if not thinking about stuttering was all it took for me to not stutter, like he no longer tics, then I needed to know the secret right away.
I also said, “I bet you didn’t think anyone who stutters would be in this audience, huh?” He did seem genuinely surprised and commented that he was glad I had come up to him. He also said he was grateful that I had shared a little about stuttering, and that maybe he needs to get more information before he “uses that connection” again.
We spoke for just a few minutes, but I knew I had his attention. While we spoke, he “ticked” quite obviously – his mouth clamped tight a couple of times and his gaze was all over the place. Maybe it was because I was stuttering freely, or like me (with my stuttering), he tics more one-on-one with someone than he does/did when he was on the stage talking and using a microphone.
I think he was actually surprised that I came up to him and had the guts to gently point out (for me anyway) that his analogy about “not thinking” about stuttering wasn’t the answer.
He thanked me and gave me a hug before I left.
I was glad I went up to him and was honest and stuttered openly. We all learn from each other.
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