Suppressing Tourettes Syndrome


Let’s get one thing straight: from a very early age I knew I was weird, my behaviours irrational and abstract, my thinking patterns chaotic and uncoordinated. I seemed to have no power over my obsessive compulsions but in the 80’s, these strange mannerisms were ‘just a phase’ and the doctor’s readily dismissed any kind of mental illness despite repeat visits. The phase lasted quite a while, thirty-seven years so far and counting. My ignorant parents thought it was just me misbehaving for attention and every tick they witnessed, every sound they heard warranted a slap around the head or face.

But you can’t repress tics, verbal or motor and as soon as the mind is relaxed, they unconsciously occur.

On the plus side, repeated abuse conditioned my body for the decades of trauma that I would inflict upon myself.

My tics were powerful and noticeable, impossible to repress and my thoughts/behaviours were unusual and impulsive. Until I started smoking drinking, my waking thought was how to get through the day without attracting too much attention. As anyone with Tourettes will tell you, being incognito is a difficult task.

For nearly twenty years, I thought alcohol was a good suppressant for Tourettes and became an alcoholic quickly. I was also smoking weed but the alcohol was much more of a prominent factor along with a host of other drugs. I found methamphetamine interesting as it forces people to gurn and mutter meaning that Tourettes behaviours can seem completely acceptable when under the influence of this particular drug. Similarly, the same can be said of MDMA which can force twitches and convulsions of the body and face.

Alcohol, however in large quantities was a great suppressant, I found and given its price and availability, it became an obssession, a willing trade in order to be devoid of tics and twitches.

The bad thing there is the schizophrenia it induced, given my pre-existing mental condition. For nearly two decades, I was somebody I cannot even recognise with no morals and little in the way of self-respect or lust for anything other than satisfying lusts. Alcohol made me forget I had a partner and children, as if they didn’t exist (until sobering up and realising the impact of my actions). I drank, gambled and took reckless risks without regard for consequences but at least I didn’t twitch very often.

At thirty, I stopped drinking with the help of an intensive two-year programme that should be available to any one with a drink problem but isn’t due to funding.

With sobriety came a host of unwelcome tics and sounds, impulsive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

You see, Tourettes is all about impulse and compulsion. Sufferers often exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviours and have intrusive thoughts. Even though drinking suppressed the twitches and vocal tics, it heightened other compulsive behaviour such as sex, stealing and gambling, also an urge to try and self-destruct by putting myself in dangerous situations.

The tics came back after sobriety, new ones and some old classics that bring back unpleasant memories. My primary ones are uncontrollable leg-shaking, eye-creasing and lip-pursing along with the impulse to say an exotic word in a strained voice that sounds like Johnny Vegas taking a shit. I have metamorphosised the cuss-word into another nonsensical phrase that I utter but it doesn’t bring the same satisfaction as the genuine word, like an itch that has only been partially scratched, making it even itchier in the process.

I have actually come to terms quite readily with this malaise, now that I’m older and sober. I accept it and partition it as a separate personality which can be dangerous, especially in times of great stress. There is clearly more than Tourettes at work in my mind as my delusions concerning my illness are strange, indeed but cannot be disproved, just as we can’t say that Jesus did not turn water to wine.

I used to favour possession by an incubus or maybe the Devil himself but that’s another story altogether. In my youth, I experimented readily with the so-called ‘black arts’ with little success apart from frightening my schoolmates. In that case, it was worth it. However, my problems started about age-three and I certainly wasn’t praising Satan around that time, ruling out any possibility of demonic usurpation.

I do, however have more than one personality and it may be the partitioning of Tourettes that facilitated this dichotomy. another story for another time. Back to suppressing the tics without ruining your life and liver.

I found that smoking marijuana not only alleviated the unbidden urge to tic but also gave me a deeper introspect, an awareness of myself and a sense of identity (something I have lacked since birth). Instead of hiding away behind a curtain of liqour, I felt empowered to research the condition and learn more about myself, about how I fitted into the society around me.

The way I learned was by writing, by explaining things in my own words, by researching material, making connections and applying my own perceptions. I found writing a much more stimulating obsession than gambling but was disinclined through drink in the earlier part of my life. Maybe I wasn’t ready to out my demons just then. I only wished I had stopped drinking and started smoking weed earlier, my life may have been a lot different.

I don’t know what it is about the chemicals, about the THC and the CBD, the various cannibinoids, the toxins; they seem to soothe some area of the brain, the ugly, loutish Tourettes facet that feels the need to expose itself continuously. Marijuana evolves the thinking into something more refined, enables a deeper self-awareness, a desire to produce something great, to do something positive. Rarely have I smoked and endured paranoia and negative feelings, only when mixed with alcohol did this occur.

The leg-shaking hasn’t stopped; I’m doing it right now whilst writing this blog but the other tics have mellowed out considerably. I need to begin researching this link and would like to hear from sufferers of Tourettes and other neurological disorders who have found positive gain through the use of marijuana as self-medication.

Please leave your comments on the section below. Looks like neuro-chemistry might become my new fixation for a while!

As a footnote, the warnings about the use of marijuana whilst mentally ill are greatly exaggerated. It is far more likely for someone with a mental health condition to commit an offence whilst under the influence of alcohol or nothing at all rather than high on weed. Does it induce psychosis? It may be so in some rare circumstances but doesn’t legal alcohol also induce a form of psychosis?

Thoughts, please…





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