How It Feels To Have Tourette Syndrome

That’s the condensed version of what 16-year-old Mickey D’Andrea of Brick tells his classmates at the beginning of every school year.


“There’s a whole lot more I say, but it would take about an hour to explain,” he said. Here he shares what it feels like to have Tourette syndrome:


Q: What do your classmates say after you tell them?


A: They want to know if it’s contagious.


Q: How do they treat you?


A: The only time people treat me badly about my Tourette’s is when they don’t understand. If somebody tells someone else to make fun of me because of my TS, and that person doesn’t really know why they told them to make fun of me, I usually explain to the person, and most of the time they say, “I’m really sorry, so-and-so told me to do that.”


Q: Do you think they understand what it feels like to have TS and OCD?


A: In my opinion, you can’t possibly know what it feels like unless you’ve experienced it first hand. It’s not easy to explain, and it’s not a well-known medical problem. It’s kind of like having the hiccups. You don’t want to hiccup. You try to stop it any way you can, but you can’t stop it until it runs its course. That’s what a tic is like. You can’t stop it until you finish it and it feels just right. I don’t choose when my tic stops, the tic chooses when to stop.


Q: Do the tics slow you down when doing creative projects?


A: Yes. Sometimes I crumple the paper by accident when doing the origami, and it really messes me up when I’m doing my ceramics. It’s kind of hard to sculpt when your arms want to do one thing and you want them to do something else. Painting is really bad because it is so tedious. My hands can’t do all the intricate painting because my fingers are moving in all different directions, sometimes.


Q: Do you have any tic-free activities?


A: Only sleeping. But it takes me forever to get to sleep, and in that time of trying to get to sleep, my tics are very bad. Sometimes I think I just faint from exhaustion!


Mickey added: “You didn’t ask this, but I want you to know that my favorite teachers are Mrs. Barbara Floyd (Algebra II, because she went out of her way to make sure I could take the algebra class that I wanted). I had another teacher in seventh grade at Lake Riviera Middle School who helped me out a whole lot, Mrs. Vickie Lawrence. She still checks up on me.”


Linda Walls, Correspondent