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  • Hi all!

    Wow, I wish I'd known about this board when I was younger. It could have helped me a lot. But I am here now, to introduce myself, and perhaps give you something a little inspirational to read.

    I'm a 26 year old male, I'm an actor, I'm a singer, and I'm a songwriter (Not famous, I've only done local stuff). I also have Tourette syndrome. As if you didn't see that part coming. I've had quite a few of the common tics--the blinks, eye twitches, face scrunches, grunting, throat clearing, drumming on things with my hands, kicking the ground, echolalia, and yeah, the occasional swear word has come along. Just to name a few.

    I have only had the TS diagnosis for about five years. I always knew I had some weird habits as a kid, but that's all everyone thought they were--childish habits. And nothing I tried could rid me of them. I'd promise my teachers or parents or whoever that I'd stop misbehaving, but at the end of the day I was still doing it. I couldn't stop. I got an OCD diagnosis around age 13, but that still didn't explain away everything. As far as we knew, the tics were still habits that I would grow out of.

    Early on, I wanted to try performing on stage, but most of the time I just couldn't stay still. I got into two plays in the 6th grade and it was such a struggle that I quit trying as soon as they were over. Today, I don't even include them on my resume or consider them a real experience because it was such an embarrassment. I mean, I think I did all right for the average 11 year old, but I just couldn't stop doing all those weird things. That was what was so frustrating, I knew I had the talent I needed to do this really, really well someday, but because I had no self control, it was all ruined. So just like that, other than taking drama and vocal classes in highschool, it was pretty much over, or so I thought.

    It was around the beginning of 2003 when I spotted an article in the paper about Tourette's. I'd heard of it before, I'd seen Deuce Bigelow (as many of us have, haha), and I knew there was some kind of element of twitching and such. But when I read that article, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was like they followed me around and wrote about me. I told my doctor about the article, he referred me to a neurologist, and I was diagnosed in April of that year.

    I guess I can say being diagnosed was both a blessing and a curse. The good: I finally had a more complete answer to why I was so different. The bad: Every morning I woke up and I still had Tourette's. With time, though, I would also learn how to recognize the urges and control myself a little better at work and social situations. It does make for a bit of "getting up to go to the bathroom" when I'm holding in a bit too much, but it's good to get a break from the stares once in a while.

    With a little added confidence and control, I started singing publicly more, mostly karaoke and such, but the odd thing with bands. It was fun, and rewarding, but still a bit of a dead end. But it was around a year ago that an executive member of a musical theatre group in town saw me at a karaoke club and asked me if I'd ever tried musical theatre. The thought of doing it again was a little scary, but I did go to the audition, got into the cast, and started rehearsals in January 2007. And in May, 14 years after my disastrous debut, I was back on stage. It may not have officially been my first stage experience, but in my eyes, it was my beginning. One more show ran in November, and I'm currently in production for my next one in February. It's definitely hard work, but I've been so pleasantly surprised as to how little stress I've felt compared to any "real" job I've ever had. When you think about how much time is actually spent on stage in front of an audience by a single person, it's much easier to control myself for that long than it is for any 8 hour workshift. And hardly any actor is ever onstage the whole time, so there are some much needed breaks.

    I guess a lot of the biggest difficulties I have currently aren't with the condition itself. It's still very much a presence, but I'm managing just as well as you could expect. However, I still have a problem coming out of the Tourette closet, so to speak. If I trust someone enough, I can tell them. But it's such a difficult thing to admit in the theatre world--I don't need my co-stars worrying that I'm going to have attacks on stage, and I especially don't need a director worrying the same thing and deciding they need to pick someone else. This goes back to another reason I don't include my 6th grade plays on my resume--what if they somehow find the teacher who directed them and she tells them how fidgety I was?

    I did tell a few castmates about a month ago, the first time I'd told anyone I'd worked with on stage. It went without incident, but they were really good people. So even though they were so wonderful about it, I do still worry about how others might react. I tell myself that when I have a few more credits and a good reputation built up, that I can be way more open about it, possibly even enough to publicly work for the cause. I would love to do that now, but I'm still trying to work my way up the ladder, and at this stage I just feel it would be career suicide. Half the battle of getting work in the industry is the audition, which is all about getting someone to believe in you, and it's just that much harder to do that when you introduce the possibility of tics on stage. And there's a lot of people out there who like to tell people what they can't do. I just prefer to show them what I can do before they have a chance to judge the book by its cover.

    Despite all the symptoms and fears that still remain, I'm proud to call 2007 the best year of my life, as I'm finally doing what I've wanted to do for so long, and doing it nearly inhibition-free.

    Whew, that was a lot of writing. I hope it wasn't too much and I thank you all for reading it. Looking forward to being a member of the community.

  • #2
    Re: Hi all!

    Welcome thebard!

    What an inspiring story. Congratulations in overcoming your fears and following your dream!

    I can understand your trepidation regarding "coming out of the closet". Have you ever considered the fact that you have TS need not be some sort of an "announcement"? Give some thought to perhaps the next time you get a quizical look from someone when you tic to just nonchalantly saying, "Oh, this is just one of my tics. I have Tourette Syndrome", and leave it at that.

    You might be surprised that if handled in such an "ordinary" way it likely won't spurn any kind of negative reaction. On the contrary it may open up new dialogue with a soon to be good friend.

    I kind of look at it like adoption. My 13 yr old son (who happens to have TS) is adopted and we never made it into a big deal. He has just always known he was adopted. There was never any need to make some big announcement to him or worry about when he would be old enough to know. It is just a part of who he is, just like TS.

    I really enjoyed reading your post and am looking forward to getting to know you better.


    • #3
      Re: Hi all!

      As a mom of a 12 year old with tourette's this is great to read! You are great inspiration for my son!


      • #4
        Re: Hi all!

        Originally posted by mom2TSguy View Post
        I can understand your trepidation regarding "coming out of the closet". Have you ever considered the fact that you have TS need not be some sort of an "announcement"? Give some thought to perhaps the next time you get a quizical look from someone when you tic to just nonchalantly saying, "Oh, this is just one of my tics. I have Tourette Syndrome", and leave it at that.
        That's pretty much how it usually happens. People notice something, and based on my comfort level, I either tell them or just say "I'm fine" or something.

        I did tell a lot of people at first, having been so excited that the weirdness I'd had all this time finally had a name. It was mostly okay, but a few bad apples spoiled the bunch. Even when the responses weren't negative, I felt like some people didn't see me as me anymore, like to them I was Tourette Guy before I was myself. So I started being more selective. Letting people know me and letting me know them before I introduce the extra info.


        • #5
          Re: Hi all!

          Welcome aboard! Get it? A boa... oh, why do I bother.


          • #6
            Re: Hi all!

            Welcome thebard

            Glad you found us now... we think this is a great place for educating others about the reality of living with TS.

            Thanks for sharing your story. Hope you stay connected with us and continue to build new friendships through this phenomenal resource.

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