The Roller Coaster Ride

Somewhere along the line I mentioned I have OCD in addition to TS. Any time you have two medical conditions one of them is typically considered to be a “comorbid” condition of the other. Comorbidities are common as dirt with TS. Depending on the statistics you look at, it’s more common to have TS with one or more comorbid conditions than to have it by itself.

This can be one of the more terrifying aspects of TS for the family of someone who’s newly diagnosed. Support forums are full of comments along the lines of, “Weren’t the tics enough?! What’s next?!

It’s tough to provide any kind of helpful information at that point. You can’t reassure a scared parent that their kid won’t get comorbids because you really don’t know. You can’t even tell them what comorbids will show up because no two people are the same. You certainly can’t tell them the likely severity of the comorbids any more than you can tell someone how severe their tics will be as an adult. Welcome to the great ughknown.

The last time this topic came up in a forum I came up with an analogy:

TS is a lot like a roller coaster. Most people figure it out during that initial clanking journey up the first big hill. From that perspective the whole thing looks like this endless climb toward the sky with a certain precipitous drop at the top.

But what does the rest of the roller coaster look like? Will there be a loop? Two? A spiral where everyone turns upside down? A tunnel? More ups and downs? Is that guy two cars back going to get sick and do something the rest of the people on the ride will never be able to unsee for the rest of their lives?

Want to know what the answer is? I HAVE NO CLUE!

I can’t. Because we’re each on a different roller coaster. Some will be violent. Some will be gentle. Some will have loops, or spirals, or tunnels. Some will have lots of hills, some won’t. None of us know until we ride our ride.

And you don’t know how it’ll affect you until you get there. Some people deal better with the ups and downs than they do the loops and spirals. Some can handle the loops, spirals, and tunnels, but a fear of heights makes the hills a screaming terror. And some will ride any damn thing and just keep laughing, even when the guy a couple of cars back gets sick.

But here’s the catch: Worrying about what’s up ahead won’t change the outcome. You might be able to mentally prepare yourself, but chances are you won’t. You’re still going to scream just as loud as if you hadn’t. Heck, you might scream even more because you psyched yourself up for it rather than just taking the bumps and wiggles as they came.

This is why it’s hard to compare tics, obsessions, compulsions, attention problems, etc. and say person X has it harder than person Y. Person X may step off the world’s highest, fastest, wildest roller coaster screaming, “YEEEEEAAAAHHHHH!!! BRING IT, BABY!” and person Y may come off the kiddie ride coaster, shaking, and gasping out, “I hate roller coasters. Dammit I hate ’em so friggin’ much!” Who’s right? Both of them are. Who got the rougher hand dealt to them? You got me.

I think this also explains, to some degree, the comaraderie people with TS and all its comorbids tend to share. They might compare notes a little, see who has the loops, who’s got the spirals, see who’s got the biggest hill. But in the end they knuckle-bump, nod knowingly, smile, maybe a little sadly, and say, “Ride on.”

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