As I mentioned in a previous post, I had the opportunity review a book by the very talented and funny Jessica Thom called “Welcome to Biscuit Land.”
Not unlike the other Tourette book I had the honor of reviewing, “Welcome to Biscuitland” left me feeling both grateful and protective all at once — grateful for brave women like Thom who aren’t afraid to fearlessly write about their experiences with severe TS, but also protective of parents who are new to the confusing syndrome of this disorder.
As I mentioned in my last post, there are some people with Tourette who absolutely jerk, shake, curse and wind up in wheelchairs for their own personal safety when their tics become unmanageable. But there is a much higher percentage of folk who live with medium to mild TS (like my own child) and simply do not fit the stereotype of the shrieking, flailing ticker who illicit stares and insults from the public as ruthlessly as nonsense talk over Kate Middleton’s post-pregnancy belly.
The above disclaimers stated, the absolute facts are that I adored this book — not just for Thom’s honesty, but for her humor. Thom has a way of writing that is so outrageously funny, she immediately put me at ease about her condition. It’s clear from the very beginning of her book — written in the style of a one-year diary — that there is a big difference between Thom inviting us to laugh about the more humorous aspects of her Tourette and having ignorant people laugh at her.
Example 1: Thom Inviting us to Laugh at TS: “For the last five years I’ve kept track of my regular tics, the ones I say or do over and over again (for months or even years on end).” … “The vast majority of my tics tend not to be triggered by events or my surroundings at all, and a lot of them are completely inoffensive:
However, some are offensive. Some phrases are linked to themes, words or sounds:
- God loves gerbils
- God loves sandwiches
- God loves everyone — except you
I’m pretty sure God loves Thom, because despite being teased or pointed at mercilessly throughout her life for outbursts she can’t control, she remains a beacon of forgiveness and elegance throughout.
As a professional who works with children, she writes extensively about educating them. She not only explains to them why she can’t help the noises and sounds she makes (which they accept quite readily and just get on with business) but she educates people on public transportation, waiting outside bars, in stores and on street corners.
While some people never do understand why Thom shrieks or curses or assaults unsuspecting geraniums by plunging her fingers deep into their unsuspecting soil, many people do. Her book is full of characters, from family, friends and occasional strangers who support her for her soul, not her tics.
My personal favorite? A drunk man outside a pub who defended her honor against a knuckle dragging drunk kid. After popping the dude on the head for teasing Thom, she gratefully dubbed him “Thump-A-Youth.”
Her writing, told in short day-by-day segments, bursts with characters so detailed I was sad when the book ended. She painted friends who, like my example above, laughed with her, not at her. And really, there was so much to laugh about. Take the following conversation between her dear friend Leftwing Idiot (dubbed by Thom for his penchant for liberal rants) and his girlfriend, Poppy:
Poppy: What are you going to do this afternoon?
Thom: Some drawing, read the paper, have sex with an otter.
Leftwing Idiot: OK. When’s that happening?
Thom: I’m going to wake him up.
Leftwing Idiot: Is Mr. Otter upstairs now?
Thom: Cuddle Mr. Otter.
Thom explains quite clearly through the book that her vocal tics are not something she is in charge of. It’s as if her wires get crossed and she’s not even aware of what she’s saying until after she says it.
While some folk of kids with TS might find this very disconcerting, Thom finds it reassuring because she need not feel guilty for what she says nor feel embarrassment. Of course, this kind of enlightenment does not come easy for her — it is hard-earned validation from years of living with unrelenting tics.
But in the end, like any true guru, Thom has a choice: She can despair and hide in a hole over her disability, or she can choose to use her disadvantages for good. In her case, she became a Tourettes Hero with a blog of the same name.
In a full body suit fitting for any adventurer, Thom educates people throughout the world via her website, speaking engagements, Twitter, Facebook and more, with the simple motto to, “Change the world one tic at a time.”
Let’s get real: Thom’s book made me sob at times. To see this woman — so full of soul and life and courage — endure so much public and private humiliation for something she couldn’t control was maddening. And yet, her bravery and wit far outweighed her suffering.
Like my favorite kind of leader, Thom didn’t dwell in her disability, but instead used it to transform her soul into something far more powerful than random curse word flung to an unsuspecting gang of tween football players on a public bus.
I would be lying if I told you that I wouldn’t be heartbroken if Stink’s TS got as severe as Thom’s, but this book was one giant validation to me that living in fear is no life at all. If Thom can be strong despite setbacks, I can, too. And so can you.
I will leave you with something she wrote on the home page of her blog. It echoes my sentiments exactly. I hope you’ll consider both reading Thom’s book and, like Thom, finding a way to release your worries about what you can’t control into something bigger and greater than yourself. Like Thom, your kids need you to be their Tourette Hero. I know you can do it.
If I were giving one piece of advice to a parent of a child with Tourettes it would be, “Talk about it openly and encourage your child to develop ways of explaining their tics and experiences to others.” Building this simple skill has helped me more than any drug, treatment or intervention.
Another great article on Thom’s book can be found here.
Stay tuned as my new favorite pen-pal, none other than the grand Tourettes Hero herself, will be doing a guest post on Happily Ticked Off. Have a specific questions for her? Leave them here and I’ll be sure to send her this link!
In closing, may God grant you to accept the tics you cannot change, change the tics you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. I’m not Tourettes Hero, but that motto has worked pretty well for me.