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This is Pete. He has a problem that maybe you’ve heard about or seen, and which you’ll probably find funny, annoying or creepy. He has Tourette’s syndrome. He’s not ashamed of it – he’s got used to it. Pete wants to tell you how he found a way to turn his condition to his advantage rather than accept it was a problem.
He was an absolutely normal kid until one morning when he woke up and felt the urge to twitch his head for no reason. And then do it one more time. And again. He was standing in the center of his bedroom doing strange movements, and he couldn’t control it. Okay, he thought, maybe it’s some muscular spasm and it will pass. It didn’t pass even after several days. What was even worse was that he had a couple of other symptoms. Like raising his hands and winking. And the worst thing was that he wanted to squeak like a pig, like this *squeak*, from time to time, and he didn’t understand why. Of course, all this became pretty noticeable, and he went to see his parents feeling pretty stressed. They took him to the doctor at once, and that’s where he was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome.
Pete had never heard of it before, and he was certain that if he had seen someone else with these symptoms he would have laughed or been disgusted. And now he had to go to school and explain that this was how he would behave for the time being. He was only ten at the time. He still remembers what it felt like standing among his classmates and saying he had a condition, how embarrassing it felt to constantly move, and his classmates laughing at his every single tic. Sure, it certainly looked like he was having fun, but really, it’s not pleasant or entertaining at all! When he tried to explain that no one actually understood his problem, everyone just thought that it was Pete’s weird way of expressing himself.
And that’s how he became isolated from everyone. No one wanted to be around him anymore; and the teachers didn’t even try to give him any support. Even worse, Pete remembers how once his teacher became irritated by his winking – she thought he was just making faces, and put him at the back of the room away from everyone else. There he remained, isolated both physically and psychologically.
Pete got to know some other guys with Tourette’s. He thought that he wouldn’t feel so lonely if he got to know other people with the same problem. Unfortunately, Tourette’s is tricky, because when you see other people’s tics, your own tics become worse. And even if a situation like this looks comical in a way, all these tics can be very tiring and debilitating. So Pete came away from these meetings feeling really exhausted, and tried to avoid other Tourette’s sufferers from then on. In the meantime, the situation with his tics was getting worse – more movements appeared, as did more sounds, even abusive language, and in the end he reached his mid-teens looking like a foul-mouthed perpetual motion machine in deep depression.
At that time, Pete was browsing a lot on the web, because online no one was disturbed by his tics. One day, he came across a video of a Tourette’s guy who was singing on “The Voice”, and Pete was amazed to see that he performed flawlessly and beautifully, without a single twitch. It was then that he had the idea that maybe he could give it a try himself, and he even knew what he could do. Pete he’d always been quick-witted and had a good sense of humor, so he thought that he could maybe try a couple of times to do stand-up comedy pieces for a small audience, just to get him out of his house a bit.
Pete immediately sat himself down to write punchlines, and the ones he came up with made even him laugh. It was so exciting that he completely forgot his depressed state – he was just so drawn into the process. The thing was that his Tourette’s tics could be pretty amusing if he looked at them from an outsider’s perspective, and combined with his comic monologue, the effect was hilarious. And what he wanted to tell people was that having his condition was not a stigma; he wasn’t an idiot or anything, he was just a regular guy.
Pete performed his first show surrounded by Tourette’s patients. The effect was even better than he had expected. He got a standing ovation, which was a bit undeserved in his view, but still pleasant. What’s more, Pete learned that he really could control his tics better when he was on stage. He went to the local open mic comic club and performed in front of the locals, who first were taken aback by his strange behavior but by the end of the performance were laughing their heads off. And the most important part was that they were laughing not at him, but with him.
He’s now taken his comedy outside the club, and everywhere his audiences like him a lot, while Pete himself feels a lot better – more in control and not so lonely anymore.
Music by Epidemic Sound: