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Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month

Posted by Tom Benedict on 17/05/2012

Guess what? May 15 – June 15 is Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month! (Don’t sweat it if you didn’t know this. Until about an hour ago, neither did I. And I have TS! So relax.)

I tend to roll my eyes when someone mentions an awareness month. “Did you know this is Fuzzy Puppy Awareness Month?” “GOSH! NO! ‘Cause puppies need help being noticed. Really.” Just kidding. But honestly, I think the TS awareness month is a good idea. I’ll get to why in a minute. But first I want to touch on why I think a lot of awareness months really don’t work.

The problem with most awareness months is that people use them to brow beat their fellow creatures. “This is Bad People Suck Awareness Month.” “Ok.” “Are you aware bad people suck?” “Umm… Yes?” “I doubt it. You might think you’re aware of this, but I’m going to make you really aware of how bad they suck.” “Uhh… Can I just go back to reading my book?” “See?! You’re ignoring me! You suck! You’re a bad person!” It’s not much fun. So when people hear that Feburary 13 through March 18 is awareness month for thing X, Y, Z, most people just tune it out or point out those dates are longer than a calendar month. At the very best it’ll be for something they don’t relate to. At the very worst someone will make them feel bad for not relating to it. No fun!

So when you have an awareness month, keep it upbeat. Keep it interesting. And truly try to improve awareness rather than just shoving it in people’s faces. That’s how I’d like to see Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month handled.

Now on to why I think it’s a good idea! Most people are aware that TS exists. Hey, I’m a lot less subtle than a cute fuzzy puppy when my tics are going full-throttle. The problem isn’t with the awareness of the condition itself. The problem is that most people aren’t aware of what TS actually is. The stereotypical image of someone with TS walking around swearing and barking is precisely that: a stereotype. Certainly there are people with TS who have coprolalia (uncontrolled swearing) and barking tics. But not everyone does. There’s more to it than that. Here’s what TS is to me:

TS is a neurological disorder. I really was born this way, kinda like I was born with blue eyes. Sorry. I didn’t come with a money-back guarantee or a 90-day warranty (just ask my parents!) As Popeye said, I yam what I yam.

TS is only a part of who I am just like being left-handed is only a part of who I am. But just as being left-handed doesn’t define me as a person, neither does having TS. Knowing I have TS is just scratching the surface.

TS provides me with all manner of quirky behavior. I twitch. I jerk. And sometimes I let go with an explosive sound or two. But the truth is everyone has quirky behavior. Some people have to have their coffee just so. Some collect little glass figurines. Some have to vacuum daily or they feel unclean. Everyone has quirks. Mine just have a label.

TS is distorted by the popular media, and as a result is largely misunderstood by the general public. This is unfortunate, and is the main reason why I think having a TS awareness month is a good idea. The image presented by the media is a stereotype. Move past it.

TS has been a vehicle by which I learned to have a sense of humor about myself, and not take life so seriously. It presented very real obstacles as I was growing up. Sometimes it got so bad I had to choose: should I cry or should I laugh? TS taught me to choose to laugh. And the punchline to the joke? Everyone faces obstacles growing up. We could all stand to take ourselves a little less seriously and laugh a lot more.

And finally, TS has been an avenue to meet so many wonderful people who also have TS or who know someone with TS or who are just curious about it. The TS community is one of the most compassionate bunches of people I’ve ever met.

Don’t believe me? Then you’re in for a treat. This blog entry is my way of spreading awareness of Tourette Syndrome during TS Awareness Month. And this video is how a fellow TSer decided to spread her awareness of Tourette Syndrome. Take a look. Meet her. See for yourself that TS is more than just tics:

So have a great Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month! Bake some cookies. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. And if you see someone ticcing while you’re out and about, give ’em a wave and a smile. It’s a recipe for a better day.

– Tom

2 Responses to “Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month”

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever commented on a blog post of yours, Tom, but thank you for writing this. 🙂 Happy TS Awareness Month!

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