Tourette Syndrome is a two-sided coin. One side is that of the individual with the disorder, the point of view from which he sees the world. Then there’s the other side, the perspective of all those who are close to that individual.
Tourette can be an awkward thing to talk about. It’s gotten easier for me as the years go by, but when I was younger, it was the last thing I wanted to admit to myself, let alone other people. And yet, sometimes it’s just the elephant in the room, something you can’t just ignore. As a friend, it’s important to know how to address your friend’s Tourette delicately and honestly. It can strengthen your friendship, and it can build your friend like little else can.
Here is the fifth of 6 ways to love on your friends with the neurological disorder, Tourette Syndrome (TS), as told by someoneone with Tourette:
If You’re Close to Someone with Tourette…
We’ve already discussed the physical encouragement you can offer your friend with TS. Now it’s time to think about other ways to support him or her. This can be anything from offering to talk (in private is probably best) to subtly offering a way out of a stressful position to going to bat for your friend when he or she needs it.
- Example 1: Your friend is displaying more tics than usual. It probably means he or she is under some sort of extra stress. Try to get your friend to talk. You don’t have to make it obvious by saying, “Gee, your tics are really noticeable today. You want to tell me what’s wrong?”
Instead, just do what any friend might do for another. “Hey, you seem anxious. Anything on your mind?” This way, you haven’t blatantly called attention to his or her TS, but you have opened up an avenue for conversation. This phrase is something that could be used between any two friends, no matter what the circumstance. All you’re doing is paying attention to signals not everyone else might see for what they are.
- Example 2: You and your friend are at a party. Your friend begins to tic away. I find that fresh air, or even just a bit of space to reset my brain can help. If you notice your friend is showing signs of distress, you can offer a subtle escape like, “Hey, I’d like to get some fresh air. Want to come with me?” If that’s not manly enough for the situation, you can offer to run an errand like buy more beverages and invite your friend along, something to separate your friend from the distressing situation.
(Chances are, if your friend does get some privacy, he might have what we in the TS world call a “tic fit.” Basically, all the tics he’s been trying to hold at bay will need to come out, and he won’t feel good until they do. Some people might feel comfortable doing this in front of friends, others may not. It will depend completely on your friend.)
- Example 3: This is the most obvious, but sometimes, your friend might need it. If someone is trying to deny your friend his rights protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by telling him he can’t stay in a restaraunt or sit in a movie theater because he’s too noisy, don’t be afraid to stand up for him. Chances are, you won’t win the battle at that moment (Unfortunately, not all establishments care about the law until it’s shoved in their faces), but you will have shown your friend you’re there for him when it counts.