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12/31/01 Went the Neighborhood
12/01/01 This Magic Moment
11/14/01 Brain Gap Day
10/28/01 B-I-N-G-O
09/28/01 Me and the Girls
09/16/01 The Local DJ
08/12/01 Out of the Closet
07/28/01 The Bomb

Out of the Closet

I'm having trouble writing. It's the same problem I have every day: I can't stop twitching long enough to get the words down.

I have Tourette Syndrome.

It's not the amusing type of Tourette where I get to curse out loud; it's a simple, unyielding, life-numbing compulsion to make foolish movements.

If you are unlucky enough to have TS, you know it to be a lonely condition. The impulse to twitch is stronger than 300 mosquito bites in need of scratching. You can hold it off for a while -- a hot date, perhaps -- but it is always there when you return, only angrier.

"What is a twitch?"

I'm glad you asked.

Twitching is a hydra-headed beast. Just when you have one spasm licked, it assumes a clever new form.

Presently, I suffer from 14 different tics. They are on some sort of platoon schedule. At this moment, I'm battling the nose tic. This one is especially hateful because it is so subtle. Outwardly, you see a man twitching his nose like a gerbil. Inwardly, he is screwing the nasal pipes so badly that he can taste blood.

Soon there will be a pain inside my face that no aspirin can touch. Sleep is the only cure. Sometimes I use a pince-nez (nose pincher thingy) to confuse the tic. It works for an hour at a time.

Today I am applying an ice pack to freeze the tic out. This typically leaves me with a runny nose and so many bugarcicles. Sometimes the skin beneath my nose chafes from the frost. My mom thinks I'm snorting household cleaners again.

Later, this spasm will be replaced by the graveyard shift, which involves my shoulder and arms. The shoulder tic is a little more involved and a lot more embarrassing. In fact, I do shows every night at 8 p.m. My elbow rises, my shoulder comes forward, and I tilt my head in the direction of the mess. Clever knave, that tic, to hide inside my shoulder, where it can't be massaged. Multiply by 500 times per day, and you wonder why I'm grumpy.

Then we have the guttural noise with which I have lived since high school. I've learned to make the sound without moving my lips so that others don't know where it's coming from. I have become a TS ventriloquist. So it goes.

Other forms of twitching include closing my eyes for entirely too long when I blink, smiling for no reason at all, clearing my throat nonstop, sniffing, curling my toes, tightening my butt, and trying to think hair onto my head. Wait -- that last one is part of my OCD. That's another story.

"What have I done to combat TS?"

You ask all the right questions.

I have tried everything: medication, acupuncture, biofeedback, Tony Robbins, you name it. The best remedy is still vodka and tonic. Recently, I decided to name my tic "J. J." Instead of berating myself as I have for 25 years, now I just roll my eyes and say, "What now, J. J.?" It's like having a retarded invisible friend.

This is not a cry for compassion. I'm immune to the stuff. This is a selfish exercise to alleviate the burden of my secret. Even now, I am investing half of myself in the sharing and half in calming my gerbil nose. Some days, I throw my hands in the air and say the hell with it-I make more sense as a vegetable.

So when I tease the mentally impaired, it is with a sense of kinship. To those of you who live with this ailment, cheers to you, mates. Having TS is like being confined to a wheelchair that no one can see. We suffer alongside any other cripple, only we don't get the good parking spots.


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