ARC Blog

With the Blink of an Eye

I had never heard of Tourette syndrome when I was diagnosed at age twenty. I started having symptoms of it at the age of six.  For the fourteen years in between I wondered what was wrong with me and why I wasn’t like other people. When I was diagnosed it was then that I finally knew why I shrugged my shoulders, blinked my eyes many times in a row over and over, swallowed, jutted my arms out to the sides, grinded my teeth, bit my fingernails so far down until they bled, bit the insides of my cheeks until they bled, cleared my throat, grunted, stuttered, scrunched up my face, coughed forcefully, all repeatedly and for no apparent reason. Tourette’s was the reason. I didn’t want to do these things, but my mind made me.

Before my junior year of high school, I had never been very good at studying, but I had always been able to when I really put my mind to it. During my junior year of high school that was even impossible. The first time I sat down at my desk to do homework that year I absolutely could not do it. It started with me becoming distracted by everything in and around my desk each time I sat down to do my homework. I tried doing it at different times and in different parts of the house, but nothing worked.

About a month later I also began having horrible symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD first showed itself in me in the form of making me think about making lists and being obsessed with certain numbers. When it began, an idea would pop into my head. Then, I would spend the next two or three hours writing down everything I could think of that was related to that subject. If I started thinking about cars, for instance, I would get out a piece of paper and write down every make and model of every car I could think of. If I started thinking about professional basketball teams, I would jot the names of every team and players on them until I couldn’t think of anymore. No topic was off limits. Whatever came into my mind would be written down on paper and consume my thoughts for hours.

Later on I became obsessed with numbers. I started counting up to whatever number I was obsessed with at the time, each time I did a daily activity. Most people would do things, like brushing their hair until they thought it looked good. I had to brush mine well past that. I would get stuck on a number for months. Then, all of a sudden, I would become obsessed with another number for several months. The numbers were always odd and consisted of having the same number multiple times. The numbers 77, 111, 333, and 555 were some of the numbers I routinely obsessed over. If the number that I was stuck on was 111, for example, I would make sure I did every daily activity I did during that time, no less and no more than 111 times each time I did them. Things like brushing my teeth, brushing my hair, and running my hands through my hair while shampooing it, each had to be done exactly 111 times. It had to add up to exactly 111, or it didn’t feel right. If I ever miscounted I had to start over and count again. I knew that it wasn’t normal and that it would have sounded crazy to anyone I told, but I couldn’t help it. I didn’t know why I was doing these things, but I had to do them. My mind made me.

Halfway through that school year, after having had the horrible obsessive thoughts, where I made lists and obsessed over numbers, another variance of OCD appeared. Up until then I had either made lists or obsessed over numbers. I had done one or the other and had never done both of them at the same time.  During the middle of junior year both of them combined to make to make my life a living hell. I would begin by getting a thought in my head, just like I had done before. I would then start making a list and I would not stop thinking about that topic until I had written down as many items as the number that I was obsessed with at the time.  It was easy to think of more than the number I was obsessed with when that number was low. When the number I was obsessed with was a high number and a topic that I did not know much about entered my brain, I was in deep trouble. Many times, when that happened, I would be up until the early morning hours, trying to think of enough things to write down on my paper. If I thought of them I would go to bed. If I couldn’t think of them I would stay up until I did, sometimes all night. If I just tried to forget about my list and go to sleep, thoughts about the list would overwhelm me. At that point I would have to get up out of bed and work on the list until I was finished or until it was time to go to school. There were many times, after staying up all night, where my brain would be so exhausted that it would just shut off. That was the only time I ever got a decent amount of sleep for three straight years.

I put together my first book of anthologies about Tourette syndrome titled “Touretties” which was published in 2011, to raise awareness for the disorder. It is an anthology that includes twenty-one true short stories, including my own. It is currently out of print, but I will be releasing a new addition later this year titled “Touretters.” It will include ten new stories, along with the old ones. I’ve also published my memoir available as an ebook and am currently working on children’s books. You can learn more on my Facebook Page.

I believe that writing stories about one’s afflictions can be very therapeutic. By giving people the chance to tell their stories, they will allow the readers of their stories, who have the same diseases, disorders, and disabilities, that they have, to realize that they are not alone. Many people feel alone, especially right after they were first diagnosed or because they don’t know anyone with the same disorder, disease, or disability that they have.

Please join me in sharing your story to be included in the book. Stories can be of any length and be written by people of any age. Authors whose stories are used in the book will evenly share 50% of the royalties made from sales of the book. The main reason I am putting this book together, though, is not to make money. It is to raise awareness for people with OCD and related disorders and diseases. Many people with these disorders are bullied and misunderstood. Together we can erase the myths and stereotypes that come with these disorders and help people to understand them. Even if only one person reads each book, and I am hoping many more do, it will be well-worth the time and effort they took to put together. For more information, feel free to email me at [email protected]

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