Life With Tourette’s is a documentary that aired for the first time last night on the National Geographic Channel (NatGeo). It tells the stories of three individuals who are overcoming great odds to pursue their dreams. Here is the description from their website. It will next be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 12.
Chris is a 35-year-old, bright, handsome man who has struggled to find a career worthy of his talents. He worked a series of dead-end jobs before deciding to go into training to become a park ranger. However, his very loud and disruptive tics may get in the way of him achieving his dream.
He knows that people are skeptical of him because of his Tourette’s. They see it as a disability, but he wants to prove them wrong. Chris goes through the training to become a park ranger but has a hard time controlling his tics in the classroom setting. He must also go through firearms training to pass the law enforcement academy.
At the gun range, Chris must command extreme focus in order to shoot his firearm. The instructor has doubts about whether someone with Tourette’s, who has uncontrollable twitches, can safely fire a gun. Chris nails the exercise and explains that any time he is in a very serious situation, he is able to control his tics. Still, not everyone passes the academy and he worries his Tourette’s will ruin his chances. Chris finishes his training at the academy and waits for a response to his park ranger application.
Louis is not where he wants to be in life. He is 27 years old and living in his parent’s basement. His dream is to be a standup comic. At 7 years of age he was diagnosed with Tourette’s and the doctors put him on medication. The side effect was severe weight gain. This meant he was not only the kid with Tourette’s, he was the overweight kid with Tourette’s.
It was then that he began using humor to cope with his disorder. He liked to make the kids at school laugh at his own expense so that they wouldn’t make fun of him. Now, he wants to make it big in standup comedy so that he can get out of his parents’ house and out on his own.
As a way of coping with his challenges, Louis goes to group therapy with others that have Tourette’s. It’s helpful to get together and share common experiences, but Louis also reports that it is “comedy gold.” He likes to use his sense of humor to bring levity to the sessions.
Louis gets a gig at a local bowling alley. He is always terribly nervous before any show, no matter what the size of the venue. He takes the stage and struggles to keep the room, but by the end of the show he has everyone cracking up. Louis is hopeful that he’s on his way to bigger and better things. Then he gets a big time booking at one of the best comedy clubs in New York! His nerves are on edge because he knows this could be a make–or–break show.
Zach was diagnosed with late-onset Tourette’s when he was 19 years old. He is now 27 and lives with his wife and baby daughter. His Tourette’s involves him repeatedly hitting himself in the neck with substantial force. Right now Zach makes and delivers pizza. He worries that he won’t be able to provide for his family.
His dream is to become a firefighter. He has applied at 13 fire departments and hasn’t been hired. He worries that closed-minded attitudes about Tourette’s will keep him from ever landing his dream job. Zach takes the fire department’s physical test; a very demanding obstacle course that will test his ability to react and maneuver in a fire.
He isn’t sure whether he will be able to hold his tics in during the test. He doesn’t want anyone from the fire department to know about his Tourette’s because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his chances. However, he finishes the test in record time. He successfully hid his Tourette’s from everyone and is hopeful that this time he will get the firefighter job. He just has to wait a week for a letter from the department.