There was a woman at the hospital when I was a patient who had tics just like mine. She looked like me, had similar disorders as mine, was even in the same groups as me and had a similar history. Her name was Christine.
Christine was sad and afraid. Her life had changed drastically with these new movements, shaking, twisting, turning for sometimes hours, she couldn’t paint, sometimes even cleaning was difficult. She slept a lot from being worn out moving all the time and the headaches. She was facing the possibility of losing someone she loved deeply and at one time thought she would never be without again. It had taken her a long time to trust the relationship. Soon, her last child of three will fly the nest. The panic and grief that swept through her was so overwhelming it translated as having nothing left to lose. Alone, kicking and screaming internally, she hated everyone who wasn’t her child for not being who she wanted and rejected them for not being who she loved. Being so screwed up it was hard to give a flying fuck about anyone who wasn’t nice, even if they were sick, too. The people who were decent, or at least not like a cheese grater against her skin, it was pretty easy to not want to put a fork through their temple, but the mean ones not so much.
The characters were each of their own unique and wonderful design but that is for another story.
One young man, we’ll call him “Woosh”, basically left her alone and didn’t have many dealing with Christine. He hung out with the newly recovering addicts and people who smoked. Being a non-smoker, she wasn’t interesting to many people because she didn’t have cigarettes to be bought or bummed.
“Woosh” was about twenty-three or twenty-four and often looked sleepy. He wandered around with his hands in his pockets, usually by the nurses station or the pantry.
There had been a few instances of ticcing where Christine had heard giggling and laughing like outside the hospital in public but she told herself she was being paranoid as most people didn’t seem to notice, care or make a big deal of her movement disorder in hospital.
Until one group…
The night before one guy with a huge red Mohawk had a seizure, had hammered his head badly and was pretty beat up from it. He was hospitalized and people were upset and scared for him. Needless to say when Christine began to tic during group a woman who had never seen it before became worried…she, like many of us, had little impulse control and a big heart. Stopping the group, she spoke to the group facilitator and said something like “I don’t mean to be rude but somethings wrong with this lady. She is jerking all over the place.”
Chris slid down in her seat. “I have a tic disorder, a movement disorder. My body moves and jerks against my will sometimes. I’m ok but thanks for noticing and drawing attention.” she said with some embarrassment and sarcasm knowing full well that the woman meant no harm. It was kinda’ shitty.
Laughter came from her right.
The facilitator who was disabled began to give some speech about people being nervous after last nights seizure episode completely ignoring the person laughing at Christine.
The laughter came with every tic.
He continued to ignore the laughter from “Woosh”. The facilitator himself was disabled. He must have known what it felt like to be made fun of, to be surrounded by a room full of people and be laughed at or hurt…and yet he did nothing.
Christine got up and walked out. She went to her room and cried.
She had gotten to a point out in the world where people looking out of the corner of their eye or outright staring had been something she was beginning to get over and been working on. It was still hard the one or two times when at Walmart or places similar, a group of teens wouldn’t even hide their staring and laughter but she was going to tackle that later; but to have this happen in a facility that was supposed to be safe was horrible, humiliating. There was no car to leave and sit in to hide, or drive away like in a store or other public place.
The day before she had sat with a group full of women ticcing and they asked about it. They all voiced their disbelief and shock that people could do the things she spoke of and how they would never allow that as we all have said in our lives. Yet, when in group, not one person said a thing during the situation.
In their defense, I wasn’t in the room when Christine left so I don’t know what happened or what was or wasn’t said, but what I do know is that she was mortified and felt shamed.
There was a knock at her door. When she opened it, there was Joanie, kind yet tough as nails. She has been through the ringer, she will give you food out of her hands if you deserve it but she will just as fast stab your hand if you lift it to just take it. Christine kept repeating “But they were laughing.” She pleaded with Christine to tell her that not everyone was laughing at her, that she wasn’t one who was and that she wouldn’t let anyone. It reached Christine but she was so ashamed, she slowly shut the door. Later she would write a note to Joanie that simply said “Thank you”. She knew Joanie would “get it” and no more words needed to be said to her.
The next day something happened.
While walking down the long corridor toward the pantry and the outside courtyard, “Woosh” entered from the opposite direction on the opposite wall just as Christine’s tics began in earnest. I suppose something in Christine snapped, tired of not accepting herself and not being accepted, making her tics come out in such a way that they were now so strong.
As Christine and “Woosh” met going in opposite directions, he was talking and laughing with the man before him and Christine’s arm had a sudden huge tic, shooting out and punching “Woosh” in the solar plexus, knocking the wind completely out of him. As he crumpled, red-faced against the wall, Christine, immediately began to apologized, saying “Oh my God, are you OK? It’s my tics, they do that sometimes! I’m so sorry!”
“You hit like a man.” he gasped, holding his chest.
Christine straightened up, looked him dead in the eyes, said “It was a tic. They do that sometimes.” and turned away.
He no longer laughed at her tics, in fact, he avoided her altogether, even going around tables to keep from being in walkways near her.
We have to be careful of who we kick when they are down. They may appear to be a mouse, but they may turn into a lion for a moment.
Christine began to work on accepting her changed body and fears which is a slow hard process.
And that, my dear reader, is the fable of The Laughing Boy and The Tic That Stopped The Wind.