Part of having TS involves what is called premonitory urges. This is a sensation that preceeds the tic itself that feels like a burning or an itch that the person chooses to release. The tic itself relieves the uncomfortable feeling and this urge is seen as un-voluntary rather than involuntary.. The person doesn’t choose to feel the urge but may be able to suppress the compulsion to relieve it by stifling the tic. This takes a lot of effort and usually the urges get stronger and stronger the more they are suppressed until the person feels like they need to let them all out. This is why a lot of kids with TS will choose to come home for lunch when they would rather stay at school with their friends just so that they can have a safe place to relieve the urges. Often there is a string of tics that are released and they can be pretty intense. If they can’t get to a safe place kids with TS might relieve the urge using some of their less disruptive tics. For example, if the urge is to yell very loudly the person may say something very loudly and then repeat the word under their breath so that it is barely heard. This usually quells the tic for the time being but the demands of every day school life is stressful enough without having to be consciously withholding physical relief. In addition, many kids with TS have co-morbid sensory processing difficulties so that a florescent light bulb can be perceived as a 1000 watt halogen bulb shining directly in their face. So much to manage all the while trying to get into a good college. This can result in rage behaviours. Consider a ten year old kid having to exert that much mental energy trying to “look normal”, maintain friends who may not know about their TS and keep up with their school work. After 6-7 hours of that even the slightest stimuli at home can feel like sandpaper on a third degree burn and they freak out and rage on the only people that they feel safe around–their parents and loved ones.
And this is why I must have TS too. Because my life is a series of premonitory urges followed by a conscious suppression of inappropriate thoughts and/or behaviours.
For example when I see people wearing black tights with white shoes I feel distress. Nails on a chalkboard distress not the Titanic is sinking distress but a definite air of ickiness prevails. This would be my premonitory urge. Now, I also know that it is not ok to express my thoughts but suppressing the urge takes effort and I usually have obvious signs of my distress; grimacing, fidgeting and I usually forget your name just as the last syllable has left your mouth. Equally regrettable is my low tolerance for sensory stimuli (specifically from annoying people). Here is a list of things that make me squirm. People answering cell phones at the cafeteria check out, overhearing conversations that sound like this “and then like she goes and then like he goes”, being called Ma’am, being called Miss (equally mortifying), the guy at the staff meeting who won’t shut up and it is Friday afternoon and you can all go home when this is over but he just won’t stop talking because he loves the sound of his voice and when he gets home his wife won’t let him get a word in edgewise, people who walk and text, people who go in the right hand side of a double door which is clearly the exit, girls who tell guys that they have way more guy friends and were kind of a tomboy when they were younger (guys never do the opposite because admitting they liked to play Barbies with their sister when they were younger is still frowned upon), panty hose that roll down at the waist while your camisole rolls up, the commercialization of yoga and how Tim Horton‘s changed their drink cup sizes so that when I order a large coffee I now have a vat of caffeinated beverage on my person. These are a few of the examples from today. I have about 2 more hours before I can leave work and I am strategizing how I can avoid human contact until then. Thankfully, most of my rage behaviours have been sublimated into crafting and wine. However, if someone were to comment that there is no such thing as a 1000 watt halogen bulb all bets are off.