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My Story: “One Twitch At A Time” part 1

I have been contemplating doing this for quite some time, but never really thought anyone would be interested or if I even could. I recently discovered the blog of a new friend of mine from church that I found quite inspiring, so I decided to finally jump in and do it.

I was born in El Cajon, California, in 1972. In 1977, my mother, Tess, moved us to North Bend (Hauser, to be exact), Oregon, because of some rather unpleasant happenings in our neighborhood. I lived a “normal life” — I played with other kids getting into all sorts of good old-fashioned mischief.

One day, my friend David, who was the son of the pastor of Hauser Community Church, told me about Jesus. I remember thinking that he sounded like some sort of superhero, but I was genuinely interested in what David was telling me, and so some time there in the late ‘70s I accepted Jesus into my heart.

I began going to Sunday school there at Hauser Church, and soon my parents started attending Sunday service also. Soon enough, I was enrolled in school there at North Bay Elementary, where everything went — at least to my recollection — according to plan … that is until I turned 7 and was in the second grade.

I really can’t recall what my first tic was, but it quickly got the attention of my teacher — who if I recall was not a very nice lady to begin with, and she had no patience for some little cretin causing a disruption in her classroom. I vaguely remember the principal talking to me about it, and then of course there is the famous family story of my dad, Tom, taking a swing at the principal for suggesting I was a “retard.”

Needless to say, I was quickly removed from North Bay and soon found a home at Kingsview Christian School (KCS). I was among the first few classes to go to this fantastic learning institution and was instantly welcomed with open and loving arms.

Not long into my KCS career, some of the “perks” of Tourette’s started to become evident, and by perks I mean stuff like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and a few others I’d rather not mention (not a word, mom!!).

Though KCS was an extremely nurturing environment, I found it becoming harder and harder to pay attention, behave or even write legibly (to this day my hand writing is fairly crappy), and so I soon found myself being held back for a second year of 3rd grade.

I wasn’t too thrilled about it and was a tad embarrassed, but there was nothing I could do about it, and so I did what only a little Dib in my position could do — become a comedian! Looking back, I have no doubt that God introduced the world’s greatest Christian comedian, Mike Warnke, to me for a very specific reason — to save my life.

I listened to his tapes over and over ’til I had his hilarious words seared into my young brain. Armed with Mike’s love for making people laugh and a razor-sharp wit by way of M*A*S*H’s Hawkeye Pierce (thank you, dad!), I combated feelings of awkwardness, humiliation and sadness with jokes and one-liners — a tactic I find that still works as well today as it did back then! I made some great friends and even had my first girlfriend that year, (oh yes, I was a ladies man back then) and things seemed to be going fairly well.

My TS doctor decided to put me on a drug called Haldol that had been known to work for people with Tourette’s, and I think it helped a little, but it made me plump up a bit and we soon found out that long-term use can lead to some very serious side effects/problems, so my parents pulled me off of it. Haldol was only the first of many drugs I would eventually try in an effort to quell the tics, some of which I’ll talk about in later postings.

As with most everything in life, my time at KCS came to a close. Most of my classmates had left for other schools and all of the other boys were gone, leaving me the sole dude in a combined 7/8th grade class full of girls, which was kind of cool, I guess, but a guy needs some pals to pal around with.

So soon my mom and dad noticed that I was a bit lonely in my current surroundings, so in the middle of my 7th grade year my folks made what I’m sure was an extremely hard and potentially heartbreaking decision for a kid with Tourette’s Syndrome — they were going to let me go to North Bend Jr High … more on that to come.

One of the main reasons I wanted to do this was to hopefully reach someone else out there with TS and show them that life IS NOT as hopeless as it seems. Growing up with this was very VERY difficult, to say the least. People made fun of me — both kids and adults alike– and I spent most of my adolescent years feeling like an unwanted freak.

I can’t recall how many nights I cried myself to sleep wishing I could just die, but thankfully that never came to pass because of God putting some very special people in my life at just the right moments — my BEAUTIFUL wife Joyce and a man I have called my brother for 25-plus years, Shawn Criswell, being chief among them (stay tuned for those stories in later postings).

I can’t begin to imagine all that I would have missed out on had I been successful in taking my own life — things like two wonderful, beautiful daughters and being married for 22 years. And though it may sound a tad self-serving, giving the middle finger to all the naysayers during the 3 years I spent as a jeweler!!

You can read more from me on my One Twitch At A Time page on Facebook!

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