A New Tic

Some time ago I wrote a post called Takes a Lickin’ and Keeps on Ticcin’. In it I told a story about a visit to a doctor that illustrated a point: People with TS can’t stop their tics, even when it’s obvious they should do so. In the case of that story I had a neck jerking tic that was exacerbating the neck injury I was seeing the doctor for. Sure, the sensible thing would have been to stop ticcing so my neck could heal. But tics don’t listen to sense, I couldn’t stop, and the healing process took a lot longer than it should’ve.

I recently added a new vocal/motor tic to my repertoire: I bare my teeth and growl like a little anklebiter dog. Good news is my cats are all so used to me that they don’t even twitch a whisker when I go off. Bad news? A couple of weeks after it started I came down with a cold. No big deal, right? After all, what does a cold have to do with Tourette’s Syndrome?

Two words: Sore Throat.

My wife and kids still find the tic funny, which is fortunate. Nothing helps reduce the impact of a tic more than being relaxed about it. But after a full day of growling with an already sore throat, it felt like I was being stabbed in the neck. No amount of water, soup, whatever, seemed to help. I usually recover from colds in a few days to a week. I’m on week two and a half. At this point I figure I’m probably over the cold. But with growlydogtic I figure the sore throat may still have a couple of weeks left.

Tics change constantly with Tourette’s Syndrome. New ones will show up, old ones will fade away. Some stay for months, some years, some never leave at all. New ones always bring surprises. When a new tic shows up there are a whole slew of open questions that can only be answered with time: How severe will it eventually get? How will this eventually impact my life? How long is this one going to stick around? And most important: What curveball is it going to throw me that I haven’t even thought of yet?

When the growling first started I found it as humorous as my family. “Well this is new! Hahahaha!” A week into the cold all I could think was, “This blows.”



Hobbies and Filters

A recent discussion about coping mechanisms and filters in a TS support group made me realize I’ve been employing coping strategies without even knowing it. Someone suggested using sunglasses and earmuffs to crank down the gain (so to speak) on a chaotic situation. I really like that one, and have used it numerous times. One of the things I like most about working in a machine shop is that no one bats an eye when you put on safety glasses and ear defenders and live for hours in a silent world of your own.

But it also made me wonder about two of my hobbies: photography and field recording. One of them makes perfect sense in this context. The other either makes sense in a way I haven’t figured out yet, or is downright masochistic. I’m still on the fence about it.

When people ask me why I do photography, my stock reply is something along the lines of, “It lets me share the world with others as I see it. For a brief moment they get to look at the world through my eyes.” (Without having to deal with the noise in my head. But I digress…)

But when people ask why I pick up a camera, my reply is, “I get to look at the world through a viewfinder, and choose what I see.” In a way the two are saying the same thing. But in the context of filters they’re quite different.

When I’m eye-to-the-viewfinder with a camera, I can control what I see and don’t see. I can control how bright things are, or how dim. I can decide if motion is frozen or accentuated. And most important, I don’t have to interact with the people around me. No one expects a photographer to keep up a running monologue. At parties they’re the ghosts who pass by, not conversing, just photographing. At scenic overlooks they’re busy working, setting up gear, composing the shot, waiting for the light. People let them do what they do without insisting on interacting with them. It’s not so different from putting on sunglasses and earmuffs.

Where all this starts to break down is field recording.

I like to joke that a person with TS can do anything they set their mind to… except be an international super-spy. ‘Cause nothing screams “Can’t Blend!” like a person who jerks, twitches, and makes growly bear noises at the back of their throat while baring their teeth.

I think I need to expand that to include recording sound. One of the first rules (ok, guidelines) of recording sound is that the recordist has to be absolutely silent. No shuffling feet, no sighing, certainly no sneezing. And no tics!

Well I blew that!

The first several times I went out I came back more or less empty handed because my vocals were peaking at the time. I got some lovely wave sounds on one of my outings. Waves interspersed with lots of “HUP!” “HO!” and (my fave) “GRRRrrrr!”. Drunken Santa wolverine waves. Mmmmyeah…no.

Field recording tracks are rarely very long. 3:30 is a nice time for an edited track. My raw tracks tend to run about 6:30 to 7 minutes. On a light tic day I can pull that off pretty well. When they’re really going I have to keep things shorter or walk away. I’m to the point now where I can grab my gear, head out into the field, and come back with something I can edit later. Despite the TS, I’ve found a way to make it work.

But why keep things simple? [Insert maniacal laugh sound here… No, I haven’t recorded one yet.]

A while back I built a head-mounted binaural microphone array into a pair of reading glasses. It uses a pair of Primo BT-EM158 capsules, and the mic cables are concealed in a Croakies band. The whole thing looks like nothing more than a pair of reading glasses with a strap on the back. Perfect for stealth recording!

(For the record I use this rig to make ambience recordings in environments in which waving a microphone around would substantially change the environment I’m trying to record. NO, I don’t use it to spy. Think along the lines of recording people buying fish at Costco. I told you I’m not considering the whole international spy thing as a career choice!)

The problem is that binaural recordings require the microphones to stay absolutely stock still for the duration of the track. This is why most binaural recordists use artificial heads and not real ones. A foam head on a tripod isn’t likely to move over the course of a session. But stick the microphones on the head of a person with TS who experiences neck-jerking tics?


The funny thing is, I think I’m getting a handle on this, too. Last Sunday I spent about forty five minutes in Costco wearing my binaural stealth rig. I moved from spot to spot, standing still in “interesting” places for a couple of minutes before moving on. I ticced when I moved to a new spot, and held still when I found something interesting to record.

As far as my tics go this is the self-induced equivalent of balancing a treat on a dog’s nose and making it wait until you say, “GOBOY!” or something. I’m pretty sure this falls under the category of things my mom asked me if I’d do if my friends did it. “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?” (Actually, I totally would because at least one of my friends is a BASE jumper. But I digress.)

Anyway, I can’t blame my friends for this one. I came up with this idea all on my own. I’m sure there’s sense to be had here somewhere, but I’m at a loss to say what it is. I’ll chalk it up as exposure therapy and move on.

The funny thing is, standing absolutely stock still in Costco with your eyes closed is a remarkably effective way to make people ignore you. Almost as good as putting on sunglasses and earmuffs. Or hiding behind a camera.