We’re all normal. It’s true. I’m sure there is some existential link involved in the process of finding normality. That’s part of the journey. I am 36 years old and have Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and ADHD tendencies. Sure, normality is an elusive and subjective concept, but after admitting some of my own distinguishing characteristics, I still believe that we’re all normal.
Yes, I have Tourette’s, and in the spirit of giving I’ve passed this blessing along to my son. In the end, it is his young life is that gives me hope. The process of finding normality is funny, because it’s one that brings you full circle. When I was a kid, no one talked about TS or its associated disorders. I didn’t think anything of clearing my throat until it hurt, blinking until my vision was blurry or jerking my head until it hurt so badly that I had to go to the school nurse. What was wrong with staying awake until 3 a.m. making sure that the closet door really was closed or that my slippers were still perpendicular to the bed? Nothing, but gradually people began to talk.
No one really knew about the obsessive side of things, but there were plenty of people telling me to “stop walking that way” or “quit sniffing”. Most difficult was living with teasing from other kids. I learned lots of new words at a very early age. Dealing with this kind of pressure forced most of my symptoms underground. I would keep from jerking my head or contorting my hips until I could get to the bathroom or someplace else private. Needless to say, the frustration from holding my tics in took a toll. I felt like I was crazy. Those dark days still come around, although less frequently now.
My return journey began almost four years ago when my son was diagnosed with TS. I see him encounter the same things I did. He jerks, squints and makes funny sounds. He gets stuck on thoughts and can’t quit saying certain phrases, but I sense something different. In seeing his symptoms come to the surface, something new has set in. It’s an air of comfort and familiarity that has begun to make these things seem, dare I say, normal. Chris is my inspiration. He gets up every day and goes on with life. If he tics, he tics. That’s it. After 30 years, I have finally felt released to be who I am, and not be ashamed of it. I owe that freedom to the example of my nine year old son.
In this search for the holy grail of my own normality, I have learned something about the people around me. None of us has cornered the market on the way things ought to be. We all contribute to making things the way they should be. Normality is the fruit of diversity and giving ourselves permission to believe this is the beginning of freedom.