• Dan Zerin

Suppressing more than just tics

When people with Tourette Syndrome suppress their tics, is that all they are suppressing?

Fresh out of high school and you got a scholarship to a college for singing opera. To say you are excited would be an understatement.

At this point in my life, I had been diagnosed with ADD and Depression. I hadn’t been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, yet. But, I had quite a number of tics and was very actively trying to tense muscles to suppress as many tics as I could. You might be thinking, “but, I thought Tourette Syndrome was something you have no control of”. There are many kinds of tics, but for this post, I’ll talk about two; conscious and unconscious.

Unconscious tics are exactly as you are thinking. You have absolutely no control. They simply happen and there isn’t anything you can do to stop them from happening. However, it’s very common for people with TS to notice their tics very quickly and try to do things as soon as they start. For example, when I was younger, I would hold onto my hands as soon as a hand tic would start or bounce my legs up and down to “confuse” my legs into stopping the muscle tension tics.

Then there are conscious tics. These ones are more like OCD. “Technically”, I could try not to do my conscious tics. But, if I were to not do them, I would feel so incredibly uncomfortable that doing them would make me feel better. For these ones, I would tense muscles or hold parts of my body before they happen. They would still happen, but they would be less noticeable.

Because of all of this suppression, most people didn’t notice my tics. But, I was in an incredible amount of pain. For a while, I would take extra strength pain killers frequently to calm the pain.

One of the suppression tactics I used was tensing the muscles in my neck and shoulders to lessen the volume of my vocal tics. However, this caused so much of a strain in my throat that my singing was being affected. First, I started losing my high notes. Then, I started losing my lowest notes (the ones I got the scholarship for). Before I knew it, I was losing interest. I was feeling that I was never going to be able to sing the music I wanted to sing the most. I still put in effort, but not as much as I should have because I stopped believing in myself.

In my second year, I started skipping all of my general education classes (math, English...) and I lost my scholarship.

In my third year, I finally decided to see a neurologist and was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Shortly after being diagnosed, I was told by my guidance counselor that I was going to have to spend another four years in school because I was failing my general education classes. After that, I decided that I was already miserable from how TS was affecting my singing and I was losing interest in singing altogether. So, I dropped out of school.

8 years later, because of “My Voices Have Tourettes”, I finally decided to stop suppressing my tics and have noticed, while singing in karaoke, that I’m now singing better than I ever have.

#myvoiceshavetourettes #mentalhealthawareness #tourettesyndrome #tourettesyndromeawareness #OCD #ADD #ticsuppression #opera #collegestories #mentalhealtheducation

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