Another Crappy Thing About OCD

I suffer from mood swings. I can be on top of the world one minute and on the bottom the next. Once I’m at the bottom I tend to stay there for a while. At one point I wondered if this was indicative of bipolar, but after doing my own research and talking to a doctor I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not. A much more plausible explanation is that this is yet another wunderfuckingful manifestation of OCD.

In earlier posts I mentioned that tics don’t stop, even when they start to cause bodily harm. Some of the worst, for me, have been head-jerking tics that wrench my neck. Even when I pinch a nerve and my muscles spasm, the tics don’t stop. They keep going and going and causing more and more damage until I’m back in a doctor’s office, waiting to hear, “Well if they’re hurting your neck, why don’t you stop?”

Because. I. Can’t.

I’ve learned the same kind of thing happens with OCD. I fixate on a thing, and I can’t stop studying it. Eventually the need for information invades every aspect of my life. Whatever I know isn’t enough. It’s never enough. So I’ll stay up late, I’ll read on the computer when I should be doing other things, I’ll buy books I can’t afford because I need to know.

In so many many ways this has served me well. Unlike the tics, I’ve benefited from the information overload. I’ve steeped myself in Old Norse culture. My browser history is chock full of visits to sites describing stereo recording techniques I’ll never use. I have shelves of books detailing the history of machine tools. I learned these things not because I needed to, but because I needed to know.

None of this information has ever helped me win at Trivial Pursuit. In some ways it hasn’t helped at all, except that I feel better for knowing. All I know is that I can’t stop, any more than I can stop ticcing. Even when it hurts.

The one drawback of this obsessive approach to learning is that I’m a constant novice. I always find myself at the grassy foothills of a mountainous learning curve. As soon as I make any real headway into a subject, my mind jumps the rails and plants me at the foothills of yet another subject, staring up at the cliffs. As much as it’s invigorating to learn new things all the time, it’s also exhausting.

And, as I’ve learned over the years, not all experts are very accepting of the perpetually ignorant, no matter how driven they are to learn. The beginner questions I ask are often met with scorn and derision rather than real answers. But no matter how painful it becomes, I can’t quit. I can’t stop. I have to keep reading and asking and putting my foot in my mouth. It’s hard not to come away from these interactions feeling genuinely stupid.

After a while, feeling stupid really starts to grind on the soul. I wish I could tell my mind when to jump the rails and leave a subject behind. I wish I had some measure of control over the things I fixate on. I wish I could just stop. Why don’t I?

Because. I. Can’t.

A Relative Quiet

I apologize for not writing more in the past few months. The two posts on OCD took it out of me to some degree, and I’ve been taking a break from writing about mental illness.

But then something else happened. My daughter signed up for a second year of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and using her sly daughter Jedi magic she roped me into doing NaNoWriMo as well.

Ok, to be fair I’d wanted to do it, but she’s the catalyst that made it happen.

The idea behind NaNoWriMo is that each participant, during the month of November, writes fifty thousand words of a novel. Or to put that another way, each participant writes, on average, 1666 words per day for a solid month.

I’ve had a couple of ideas for novels hanging around for a while. None of them are very inspired, but one itched to be written more than any other. It’s a novel about a girl with TS and OCD who struggles with her own identity, her own value, her own place in the world. She’s thwarted by so many things that people with mental illness are thwarted by: indifference, outright animosity, misunderstanding, and distrust. And like many with mental illness, not all of that comes from the outside.

So far I have just over ten thousand words on the page with… forty thousand to go. (Yes, I’m behind schedule.) In those ten thousand words it’s already taken me places I didn’t expect to go, and shown me sides of my characters I didn’t expect to see. It’s hard work, but it’s a fun journey.

I don’t know if this novel will ever see light of day. I hope so, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story.

Intrusive Thoughts

“What has been seen cannot be unseen, what has been learned cannot be unknown.”
― C.A. Woolf

For the reasons in this quote from C.A. Woolf, I have shied away from writing about intrusive thoughts. They’re terrible things. When taken out of context they can be used to paint the person experiencing them as a monster. The rest of this was written at the risk of being judged in that light.

Symptoms of OCD tend to kick in a little later than the symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome. My first tics showed up when I was three or four. I experienced my first intrusive thought several years later when I was in elementary school. It was strongly visual, as most of mine have been, and only hit me when I was in church.

I was raised Catholic back when Pope Paul VI was in the Vatican. The message from Rome revolved around abstinence, not coveting thy neighbor, and the hellfire and damnation awaiting those who strayed from the one true path. The priests at our church were all too happy to pass the message on to us in the most strident tones.

One Sunday as I sat in the pew listening to the admonishments from the pulpit, I had a flash vision of everyone in the church naked, grimy, coated with grease and dirt, clawing at the walls like rats in a sewer, trying to escape, and desperately fornicating.

As a young kid I didn’t have any real knowledge of how sex actually happened, so the vision was a little fuzzy on the details. This is an important point to keep in mind with intrusive thoughts: they come out of your own head, so they can only use what you already know. I was a kid. I knew what dirty looked like. I knew what greasy looked like. The ditch behind our neighborhood offered plenty of opportunities to watch rats trying to escape rising waters. But sex? No clue.

That first time I was too shocked to react. I just knew I didn’t want to go back in the nave of the church. So from then on whenever we went to church I sat outside. Or I sat in the restroom, claiming I had diarrhea. Or I sat in the crying room. Anywhere but in there where the naked, greasy, clawing rats were.

One of the messages the priests were very clear about was that it wasn’t the act that made a sin a sin; it was the thought. The very thought of coveting thy neighbor was a sin. The very thought of murder was a sin. The very thought of taking the Lord’s name in vain was a sin. The thought of all of the churchgoers having greasy, dirty, wild sex? You gotta be kidding me.

My seating arrangements didn’t go unnoticed. Nuns would stop to talk to me, as did a couple of the priests. One Sunday I worked up the nerve to ask how serious they were about the whole ‘the thought is the sin’ thing. I was treated to my own private sermon right then and there. I drew the only conclusion I could: I was hell-bound.

Being a good Catholic, I decided to go to confessional, but my parents wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re too young! What could you have done that’s a sin?” Oooooh… You have no idea. In the end family won out over religion and I never went. It’s just as well. I’m pretty sure I’d have been burned at the stake.

I’m making light of the religious consequences of that first intrusive thought, but at the time it was mortifying. Every Sunday it came back. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t un-think it. And the Church made quite clear I was going to hell for it. It felt like the entire universe had dumped me off a cliff and laughed as I fell.

It was the first, but it was far from the last. Several years later we stopped going to church and that particular intrusive thought faded. When my wife and I had our first child I was treated to the parent’s special: graphic visualizations of my child dying through my own negligence.

At the time I worked on a university campus and had to park several blocks away. This was Texas. This was the summer. By nine in the morning the interior of my car easily reached 120F. Each morning I’d drop my daughter off at day care, park my car, walk to my office, reel from the overwhelming knowledge I’d left her in the car, sprint back to my car, knowing I’d find her cooked, bloated body strapped in her car seat, only to find the car empty. I’d walk back to my office, feeling guilty anyway (the thought is the sin, after all!) and go through it all over again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Ever since that one all of my intrusive thoughts have centered around my being responsible for the deaths of others. Back when my kids had all entered elementary school I had what is to this day my worst one: Every time I saw one of my kids or my wife, I witnessed myself stabbing them in the chest. I would see their faces register shock and betrayal, see their eyes glaze over as they died, and watch them slide off the knife and fall to the ground. Each time I looked at them it would repeat. Over and over and over. I spent close to six months experiencing myself murdering my family thousands of times.

Of course it showed on my face. My kids would try to hug me and I’d either flinch or stand, stiff as a board, awkwardly trying to return the favor. “What’s wrong?” they would ask. What was I supposed to say? What could I say that would explain what I was experiencing, but not frighten them away forever? “Nothing, hon. Just nerves.” It’s all I had.

I told my wife about that intrusive thought years later, after it had faded into the background. It freaked her out a lot less than I was afraid it would. But of course by then she knew all my quirks. It was just one more to add to the list.

More recently I’ve had one that centers around stabbing myself, triggered by seeing a knife on the kitchen counter or in someone’s hand. That one flares up every couple of weeks, and is still going on. I found I can counter it by turning all the knives on the counter so they’re handle-out tip-in, and leaving the kitchen altogether when it’s particularly bad. It’s not perfect, but it serves.

I eventually made peace with the implications of thinking such horrible things. Years ago I wound up in a therapist’s office under less than ideal circumstances. Because of those circumstances, during our first session she informed me that if she ever thought I was a danger to myself or others, she would push a button that would call the police. At the end of the session they’d escort me to the state hospital.

As much as that might sound like a threat, in that context it was meant as a promise. A promise that no matter what happened next, no one would come to harm for it. I clung to that promise like a lifeline.

That was the first time I ever spoke of my intrusive thoughts. I told her everything. About church, about my children, all of it. She listened patiently, asked pertinent questions, but didn’t seem alarmed. At the end I asked if the police were waiting for me outside.

“No,” she said.

“Why not?” At that point I didn’t know if I was safe to go home.

“Because you’d never do any of those things.”

I found her words hard to believe at the time. The thought is the sin, right? By virtue of my thinking it, I must be capable of carrying it out. Right?

As I learned during subsequent conversations, I was wrong. Intrusive thoughts don’t convey your deepest, darkest desires. If anything they indicate the opposite; they embody all the reprehensible things most antithetical to your nature. They’re your brain’s way of throwing you under the bus and sneering as it runs you down. Having them doesn’t make you an inherently bad person any more than having tics does. Being unable to shut them out doesn’t make you weak any more than being unable to stop ticcing does. They’re just one more part of the puzzle that makes up the mind of a person with OCD. Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s difficult to convey the importance of that conversation. It was the first time I knew my family was safe from me. It was the first time since I was a young child that I truly believed I wouldn’t go to hell just because of how I was made. It didn’t make everything better, but it meant I wasn’t beyond redemption.

So here’s the quote from C.A. Woolf in its entirety:

“What has been seen cannot be unseen, what has been learned cannot be unknown. You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it. You can grow from it. You can be made stronger. You can use that strength to change your life, to change your future.”
― C.A. Woolf

It’s in the second half of that quote that I put most of my hopes with this post. If others can learn from my experiences and not unduly judge me for them, it won’t be a wasted effort. And if I can spare anyone even the smallest measure of the grief and despair I went through at the hands of my intrusive thoughts, then some good will have come out of them after all.

Sometimes I Don’t Know Whether to Cry or Scream

Most of what I’ve written up to this point has focused on Tourette’s Syndrome. A common theme with the diagnosis of TS is the possibility of one or more associated conditions – co-morbids.

As with anything else, the symptoms of a co-morbid condition have to be severe enough to cause significant impairment in order to warrant a separate diagnosis. Simply being a little scatterbrained isn’t enough to warrant a co-morbid ADHD diagnosis, nor is the need to wash your hands a little more than normal sufficient to warrant a diagnosis of co-morbid OCD. The symptoms have to have enough impact to justify the diagnosis, which means that in many cases the symptoms of the co-morbid condition can be more difficult to deal with than the tics from TS.

That’s the case with me and OCD. My tics can be a real pain in the neck sometimes (pun intended), and have landed me in physical therapy from time to time, but OCD worms its way straight into your head.

OCD describes two separate phenomena that, more often than not, go hand-in-hand: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts or thought patterns. Sometimes these show up as images. Sometimes they’re urges. Sometimes they’re runaway thoughts you just can’t reign in. Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive behaviors, patterns of behavior, or mental acts you feel compelled to do, for want of a better term. In the classic case these often happen in response to or to ward off obsessions, but they don’t necessarily have to. They can be their own thing.

Like the tics associated with TS, the severity of obsessions and compulsions will vary over time. Sometimes they can be so mild that you’re only peripherally aware they’re there. Other times they color everything you think and do. And, like tics, they can be triggered by outside events.

I don’t have many compulsions. In a previous post I mentioned that I don’t step on cracks, or more accurately I don’t step on color divisions. The example I used in that post was walking through a crosswalk. I have to have my feet either only on bare pavement or only on the white lines, but not both. On bad days I have to step on the same number of white lines with each foot. As awkward as this sounds, I’ve managed to take up most of the slack by adjusting my stride. When I’m walking with other people they hardly ever notice.

Years ago I had a hand washing compulsion. But like the not-stepping-on-cracks thing, for the most part people around me rarely noticed because we, as a society, have created so many opportunities for people to wash their hands discretely. For me it wasn’t just about washing my hands, though. I had to rinse them clean. At one point I was seeing a doctor for my OCD, and just before each appointment I’d stop by the restroom to (can you guess?) wash my hands (surprise!) But for some reason they stocked the restroom with the goopiest, stickiest, slimiest lotion soap known to humankind. During one of my sessions I was particularly agitated, and the doctor asked what was wrong with me. I think I was holding my hands like they were coated in dead fish goo. “Why would a doctor who treats people for OCD keep lotion soap in their restroom?!” I don’t think I ever convinced them there was anything wrong with this. I also don’t think they saw the humor.

I should probably leave the hand washing compulsion on that lighthearted, self-deprecating note, but that would be a disservice to other people who have that compulsion. It’s not always funny, and it’s not always safe. When that one was at its worst I had to scrub my hands with undiluted bleach and Scotchbrite pads. Months of doing that damaged the skin on my hands to the point that it’ll never really recover. (Remember that part about causing significant impairment? Not kidding.)

But for all that the worst part of OCD for me is the obsessions. The intrusive thoughts.  The spiraling negative feedback loops. I’m going to save intrusive thoughts for another post. They’re a touchy subject for reasons I’ll get into when I write about them. For now I’m going to focus on spiraling negative thoughts.

Have you ever had a conversation that you felt you got the worst of? Then for the next hour or so you play it back in your head, trying to figure out what you should’ve said? Trying to figure out what they might’ve meant by what they said? Wondering how that could’ve gone better? Instead of doing that for an hour, do it for months, replaying every conversation you have, wondering what you said and did wrong, wondering if you’re chasing off every friend you have. Wondering why anyone likes you at all. Now extend that not just to conversations, but to everything you see and do.

Negative feedback obsessions are the classic case of Catch-22: damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Every gut instinct is telling you that the worst case scenario is going to happen, so your every thought is drawn there. How to deal with it. How to get through it. Trying to figure out what people will do and say, and trying to figure out all the ways the situation could get even worse.

It’s easy to say, “But when you find yourself thinking that way, couldn’t you just focus on positive things?” It’s not that simple, though. Not considering the worst case scenario feels negligent. If you don’t plan for it you’ll be unprepared when it does happen. You won’t deal with it. You won’t get through it. You’ll be caught by surprise by the things people will do and say, and when the situation gets worse you’ll be left standing like a deer in the headlights.

The people around you tell you that you’re over-reacting, and what they’re saying makes sense. But your mind is telling you the worst is yet to come. You begin to doubt your own doubts, and wind up in a situation in which no one is advocating for you, not even yourself. You’ve second-guessed yourself so many times you don’t know what to believe any more. You don’t know whether to cry or scream, and find yourself wishing it was all just tics.

Movie Review: The Road Within

In several (ok MOST) of my previous posts I’ve poked fun at Hollywood filmmakers for doing such a shoddy job of portraying Tourette’s Syndrome and, to a lesser degree, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. To be fair there have been films that got it right, most notably Front of the Class. (Obvious reason: the author of the autobiographical book the movie was based on has TS!) But the vast majority of the films coming out of Hollywood just… miss the point.

But now I have to add another to the list of films that got it right: The Road Within.

I toyed with titling this post, “Why I Should Stop Making Fun Of Hollywood”, but it seemed a little too long. Even so, the sentiment is true. Obviously there are filmmakers who can and do get it right.

The Road Within scored points with me for a couple of reasons: First, Gren Wells, writer and director of the movie, got her facts straight. The portrayals of TS and OCD in the movie really are spot on. I really didn’t find anything I could point to and say, “Stereotype!” much less “Wrong!” Next, the performances by Robert Sheehan and Dev Patel, each playing a character with TS (Vincent) and OCD (Alex), respectively, were also spot on. Each picked up on the frustration that can hit when the events of the world around you are running completely counter to what your brain is telling you it needs. And each did a wonderful job of balancing the human aspects of their characters against the outward signs of what’s going on in their characters’ heads.

But what really won me over with this movie was the humor. It’s full of humor the way humor so often strikes us in real life: raw, painful, and for some inexplicable reason just… funny.

Too often movies with TS or OCD characters go after the slapstick gag: the swearing tic at just the wrong moment (badump bump) or having to gingerly step over cracks in the floor (rimshot!) But in The Road Within one of the funniest moments came about because Vincent, Robert Sheehan’s character, wasn’t swearing. Wasn’t ticcing at all, actually. And not five seconds later, Vincent’s reaction to not ticcing caused one of the more emotional scenes in the movie. For me, anyway, because he echoed a sentiment I’ve often felt frustrated by. I found myself simultaneously laughing and thinking, “Damn…”

And that, right there, is what really sold me on the movie. I’ve never identified with the TS character in Deuce Bigelow. I’ve never really identified with any TS character I’ve seen in a movie, with the exception of Front of the Class. But I found myself identifying with both Vincent and Alex in The Road Within. As I watched the film I kept thinking, “Yeah. That.”

In writing all this I’ve utterly neglected the third character that makes up the main trio in the movie: Marie, played by Zoë Kravitz, who has an unspecified eating disorder. I have no experience with eating disorders, but one bit of dialog in the movie sold me on her character. Vincent and Marie are sitting in a car, talking. Vincent asks the most obvious question: “Why can’t you eat?” Marie replies, “It’s not that easy.” As simple as this sounds, it made enough sense to Vincent that he didn’t press further.

One review I read of this movie seemed to miss that point. It accused Gren Wells of backing down from really tackling issues of mental health, and cited that same exact scene to make the point. But to me it carried the day. How many times have I been asked, “Why can’t you just stop?” I know I’m projecting, but how many times was Vincent asked that in his life? Whether it was Sheehan’s acting or my own projection, when Marie answered his question with that simple sentence it seemed like Vincent reacted the only way he could: realizing it was the same damn thing with the same damn answer. If it really was that simple, he wouldn’t tic and she would eat. But it’s not that easy. It never is.

In the end the movie asks something of its viewers that people I know with TS and OCD would ask of the people around them: Stop thinking of us as a diagnosis. Think of us as people. Sometimes our needs make no sense: a need to know things are clean, a need to make a sound or move a certain way, a need to gain just an ounce of control over a body that so often isn’t under our control at all. But sometimes they’re the same needs as everyone else’s: the need to eat, the need to sleep, the need to feel accepted or even loved by the people around us. The Road Within is more a story about three people than it is a story about three people with mental health issues. I think it’s better that way.

Faking It – Why This Is Silly

If you’ve ever cruised Youtube videos made by people with TS, one of the most common comments is, “They’re faking it.” Here’s why this is a silly thing to say:

First, unless the person making the comment is a specialist who’s well-versed in neurological conditions, how the hell would they even know?! This is the equivalent of someone walking up to you and saying, “That noise your car is making is just a loose tail light. It’s coming from the front of the car because the engine is faking it.” (Please don’t ever let this person work on my car!)

Here are some other reasons why it’s silly to assume people with neurological conditions are faking it:

I’ve seen your house. It’s a mess. You can’t possibly have OCD!

Most of the time this comment comes from people having seen the movie Sleeping With The Enemy. For starters OCD is never mentioned, so it’s a little odd to associate those symptoms with OCD. It’s a closer match to obsessive personality disorder. I don’t have OPD. I have OCD. But as I mentioned in my last post I’m not a neat freak at home. That’s just not how my obsessions and compulsions manifest. Intrusive thoughts? Yes. Not stepping on cracks? Yes. A reasonable expectation of a clean kitchen before I start cooking? Yes, though I think that’s human nature rather than any three-letter acronym tacked on my chart by a doctor. But I’m not a neat freak. Besides, I have kids. There’s no greater power of chaos in the universe than kids. If I was like the character in Sleeping With The Enemy my kids would’ve driven me crazy years ago.

I talked to you the other day. You weren’t ticcing at all. You can’t possibly have TS!

If you talked to me any time in the last six months I’d have to say you need new glasses! But tics wax and wane. Right now mine are peaking, but in the past they’ve been relatively mild. Unless someone was looking for them they might not be obvious at all. For a period of over a year my two main tics were a breathing tic that only I was really aware of and a tic I did with my ears that had no visible outward component. I had others, but those were the biggies. That was the year I was diagnosed.

Another reason someone with TS might not visibly tic is because they might be medicating. To put this another way, saying someone with TS who’s not ticcing while on medication is “faking it” is like telling a hypertensive who’s medicating that their 120/70 blood pressure proves they’re “faking it”. Take either one off their meds and it’s a completely different story.

You’re just doing it for the attention!

People say there’s no such thing as good press or bad press… just press. But there is such a thing as good attention and bad attention. Good attention wins you the respect and admiration of your peers. Bad attention gets you punched repeatedly during recess. Guess which one this falls under? Very very few people go looking for this kind of attention.

But you don’t do that swearing thing!

Ok, first of all anyone who says this about me must have blinders on and ear plugs in. I swear all the time! I even swear when writing this blog. I just don’t have a swearing tic. Swearing is only a requirement for a TS diagnosis if you’re a Hollywood filmmaker. The definition in the DSM only mentions it as one example of a vocal tic, not as a requirement for a diagnosis. To put this another way: Not everyone with TS has a swearing tic. Get over it.

I know you’re swearing on purpose! That’s not a tic!

No kidding. See above.

I’ve seen the Tourette’s Guy. He’s hilarious! You’re not like him.

No, nor are most people with TS. I really don’t know his story, so I can’t say much about him. But if you’re looking for a typical case of TS, that’s not even close to what it would look like.

(I know I said there’s no “typical case” of TS. I’m trying to point out that judging an entire group of people based on one particular stereotype, regardless of its validity, is silly. Work with me here.)

You’re just doing it for the attention!

Already covered this one. See above. (Sheesh! Why is this one so common?!)

You’re just…

Ok, enough. Here’s a thought exercise: Let’s say you’re someone who has multiple motor and vocal tics, and you want to go see a movie. You know full well people will stare at you when you’re in line for the tickets. You know they’ll stare, laugh, or yell at you to shut up once you’re in the theater. You know you’ll be judged and found wanting before you’re ever even given the chance to offer an explanation. And you have to go through that thought process every single time you want to go see a movie. Or go out to dinner. Or go to the beach. Or visit your kid’s school. Or any of the myriad things people do on a daily basis. And for some non-zero number of these that thought process leads to the conclusion: I’ll just stay home. They win.

WHY exactly would people want to “fake it”?

That’s just silly!

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.