This is Derek Smith! He is 32 years old. He has not yet been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, but he has been living with it for many years. Here’s his story:
I’ve had this condition my whole life, movements mostly, but not violent tics, and never really had anything verbal. Mine were head and neck movements, hands, other stuff, stuttering, stammering, drooling, it’s almost constant involuntary movements. I’ve had problems with hand writing, concentration, social skills as well as other things.
I’ve been through the doctor hamster wheel. The first person to notice my condition was my third-grade gym teacher (so I was 8?) went to the doctors, (not sure of the process) they said it was a chemical imbalance, then ADD, ADHD, they thought it was Parkinson’s disease, this ‘n’ that. They had talked about Tourette, but I didn’t qualify because mine weren’t “tics.”
So I went through the MRIs, EEGs, blood work, occupational therapy, was on Ritalin, Wellbutrin — you name it, I tried it and hated it! I gave up in high school, I ended up dropping out because of the social problems.
Growing up, I lived with my mom. I never really knew my dad, I only had a couple of friends (won’t mention names to protect the innocent.) I was the kid every one picked on because of my condition. I didn’t really get bullied though, just being called names like retarded, stupid, etc.
But no one ever really taught me or showed me how to stand up for myself, or how to “Man up,” I didn’t have the guts anyways, and I wouldn’t listen to anyone I had extreme depression, low self esteem, I hated my life, and I hated my voice, I hated how I looked. I couldn’t fit in to any group of people.
I started smoking cigarettes and using drugs and alcohol, I discovered the internet and the phone, and other ways of thinking it felt good. And I made up my own little world; I just thought I was stuck. I tried everything to try to fill that void. Sex, drugs, alcohol, acting stupid, being someone I knew I wasn’t, doing stuff I hated doing. I was trying to please everyone else because I never thought I could get happy. Never saw my life past 30, never knew my identity or who I was or the purpose for my life.
When I was 18 (in 1998) I went to a neurologist, more guinea pig stuff, and they said it was something called Choreoathetosis. I wasn’t satisfied with it and took more medication I hated, so I gave up on the meds, accepted my condition and lived with it! and other choice colorful metaphors.
In June 2008, I ended up in Houston — broke, jobless, homeless and on several drugs and an alcoholic. I checked myself into a Christian Men’s Rehabilitation center (quite the story!). In that place, I gave my life to God, accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. God delivered my from the drugs and alcohol, I asked God to change me and make me a better man and He did (another long story!).
Since then, I’ve come back to Michigan, I work a full-time job, I’ve made contact with my 9-year-old daughter, and am building a relationship with her. I still attend church and hope to become a pastor some day. I’m helping my parents out as they help me.
For several years, I didn’t have a problem with my condition, no one made mention of it, and I never thought about it. After I came home, my mom’s friend (Jerry’s grandmother) made mention of it, and we talked about it.
Jerry’s mother and grandmother loaned me a couple videos on Tourette and they really opened my eyes! Since then, I let it fly, and I have a new vocal tic that sounds like a dog giving karate instructions, it uses my whole body and almost upsets my stomach if I do it too much. Add a couple new leg movements and stomps, a wrist flick thing, and I’m slurping more than I salivate. So among other stuff and I’m right back where I was 16 years ago! Fun!
But I am finally able to put a name on my condition. I have not been diagnosed with Tourette, but I’ve been dealing with this condition for a very long time and learn a lot from it. I have been to a neurologist and have been put on blood pressure meds to suppress the tics. They seem to be helping. And so many other things I could put, but I feel this is lengthy. So I’ll sum it up:
Don’t ever let anyone get you down, don’t ever let this condition get the best of you, push through it, persevere! You may have this condition, but it doesn’t define you, it may be part of who you are, but I do not believe that this is how God made us! We have this condition to show the world that God can still use us, that we are perfectly capable of everything that everyone else is!