Sometimes It Really Is

There’s an old joke: If they really are out to get you, are you still paranoid?

At one point I made the mistake of asking a doctor that question. I thought it was funny. They took me seriously. Suffice it to say that I paid them their hourly rate for almost an hour to hear their very detailed answer. The short version is this: Yes, you’re still paranoid, but if they really are out to get you your days are numbered anyway.

At the time I thought the doctor missed the point. (Humor! Har!) But the more I live with TS and OCD the more I realize they’re right. Just because someone really is out to get you doesn’t mean you aren’t paranoid. Just because I swear at someone doesn’t mean it’s a tic. And even when the guy with OCD feels the need to clean, maybe it’s because the house actually is dirty.

When I got home from work the other day the kitchen was a mess, the dining room had stuff all over the place, and it looked like a pack of rabid wolverines had passed through, leaving dirty dishes and rubbish in their wake. I felt like my skin was trying to crawl off my body so it could hide in my shoes! It was my turn to cook that evening, so I scrubbed out one corner of the kitchen and hid from the germs while I made dinner.

About an hour later my family came in, tossed grocery bags in my tiny clean corner, and breezed right back out, never once acknowledging the mess they’d left for me to find, or the fact that they’d just cluttered up the one clean place in the entire kitchen. I didn’t exactly blow my stack, but I didn’t use my inside voice, either. As I was pointing out the dishes, the wrappers, the rubbish, and everything else, I could see the looks on their faces: It’s the OCD talking.

“Maybe so,” I wanted to scream at them, “but that doesn’t mean the house isn’t a wreck!”

I’m not a neat freak at home. I’d love to be, but I know how that can take over my life. I’ve learned to let stuff slide, at least a little, so I don’t get trapped in cleaning routines. But there are limits – reasonable limits – and those limits had clearly been exceeded.

This is one of the real gotchas with neurological conditions like TS or OCD, or paranoia for that matter: You can become marginalized because the people around you begin to attribute everything you do to your condition. Even worse, you can do it to yourself.

But sometimes the house really is a mess.

And sometimes I really am just swearing.

(Does that mean they really are out to get me?!)


P.S. At this point all my swearing is voluntary. I’ve never had coprolalia as a tic, but as I’ve pointed out in other posts the tics associated with TS change constantly. Could I wind up with a swearing tic in the future? Sure! Could I live my entire life without getting one? Sure! Would I still have TS if I didn’t? You bet.


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