Isn’t it wonderful how God can take bad situations and use them for good? How challenges can become opportunities and heartaches become joy? This is my story of overcoming Tourette syndrome. My hope is it will inspire and encourage others who are suffering from TS or other challenges life brings.
Late last year, my best friend asked if I would consider sharing the story of my Tourette syndrome condition with others. At first, I was scared to expose that much of my personal life, but after many hours of thought and prayer, my wife, Carolyn, and I realized it was the path God was leading us down. We realized if we were to help anyone with their struggles, it would require telling a story that is hard to tell. It would require a leap of faith.
When I was 13 years old, I began what was to be a lifetime of constant, involuntary and very tiresome “fidgeting,” or tics. Eye blinks, facial contortions, neck stretches and leg flails – just to name a few. It didn’t take long for my parents to notice something was wrong. But the doctor who examined me didn’t seem too concerned and his diagnosis was “nervous tics.” I would not receive the real diagnosis until years later.
As a teen with constant motor and vocal tics, it would have been natural to be ashamed or hide from my peers. Although my tics became worse and changed in intensity and form, I was able to lean on a few close friends who were always supportive and accepting of me and my odd movements. As an adolescent, I had very low self-esteem and absolutely no confidence, but with the help of my friends and love and guidance from my Mom and Dad, I made it through my teenage years.
As I grew older, my tics became physically exhausting and most of the time I ended the day with extreme soreness and fatigue. In 2002, I made the decision to seek help from a local neurologist. It was then, at the age of 38, I was diagnosed with mild Tourette syndrome. I was prescribed a variety of medications to help control the tics, but instead of helping, I became lethargic, gained weight and fought depression. I became lifeless and dangerously depressed in a thick, blinding fog. I knew something had to be done and I turned it over to God.
I stopped all medications and after about 10 days off medication and on the treadmill, the fog lifted and I began to feel like myself again. For some, medication helps tremendously, but it just didn’t work in my case. So now, I’m just me – tics and all. I do try to control my tics while on the air or in public, but if you see me moving around a lot, you know “the rest of the story!”
It’s hard to describe a tic to someone who doesn’t have them, but try to imagine not blinking or holding back a sneeze. You can do it for a little while, but it must come out eventually. Once the tic happens, there are a few seconds of relief, but it doesn’t last long until the next one comes along. Some tics are so intense it’s painful, but the urge to move outweighs the pain of the tic. In some people, tics become less intense and less frequent with age, but that hasn’t been the case with me. Only God knows what the future holds for my condition, but whatever is in store, I know He will carry me through.
As I’ve matured, I’ve accepted who I am and only recently realized how I might be able to use my condition to help other people. Everybody has something - challenges, hurts, disappointments, broken dreams, consequences of bad decisions. That’s the one thing we all have in common. But I’ve learned, and I want you to know, through faith, perseverance and the right attitude you can overcome the most difficult of circumstances.
Please write to me and share your story, or comment on mine. With your help, we can make a difference for everyone living with TS or other life altering conditions.
Remember, everybody has something and it’s how you deal with it that determines your success.
All the Best,