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Tips for Handling Tourette’s In A Movie Theater

I had an interesting experience yesterday that I’d like to share. My wife and I went and saw the movie Source Code (that is not the interesting part, the movie gets a C from yours truly).

I’ve always believed that movie theaters were designed specifically to make it hard for people with Tourette’s to have an easy time.

The giant, lit screen, the darkened room, and depending on what you’re watching, you may very well be sitting in a very quiet room. Note: if you want to go see a movie loud enough to mask any tic imaginable, go see Source Code.

The movie theater is one of the few places that still tends to give me some problems. Every time I sit down in those chairs I start wondering how long it’s going to be before I know how it’s going to go. I’m usually fine during the previews, but for some reason, when everyone settles in and the movie is beginning, the urges set in.

Here are a couple of things I do that work for me.

1. Breathing

If you’ve watched the first video from the first Tourette’s newsletter, you know how key I believe it is. If I can get my breathing under controlI’m usually fine. Easier said than done in the theater sometimes.

2. Closing my eyes

Sometimes even 10 seconds is enough for me to get some things reset. Not always, but often. If the thought of missing one moment of Jake Gyllenhal’s smile during Source Code is unacceptable to you, please feel free to pursue other methods, like:

3. Choosing the right seats and walking

I’m always on the edge of an aisle so that only one person is next to me, and it’s always someone I know. If I go in a group of friends I have no problem being in between two of them, however.

If I anticipate real trouble I sit in the back and I attend matinees that aren’t likely to be packed. This usually lets me pace in the back row. Sometimes this gets me calm again.

4. Popcorn

This is about the rhythm of eating and chewing for me, not the sublime treat that is movie theater popcorn. I find that if I choose a rhythm and I stick to it, I usually have an easier time.

I grab a piece, I put it in my mouth, and I try to chew it a set amount of times. If this sounds like overkill you’ve never had tics that dislocated your thumb in a movie theater because you decided not to get popcorn. It’s no fun.

Just something to think about.

5. Plan for tics

This is my favorite on the list. It always makes me laugh afterward. If you’re in a movie that is going to have things exploding, simply try to grind down on your tics until you can let it out during a fireball or gun battle or what have you.

It works for me.

But I do believe the best thing is not to get into a state before you go. Try not to think about it, and if you can’t avoid thinking about it–wondering how it’s going to go–focus on your breathing. And keep trying to increase the amount of breaths you are able to take in a completely ticless state.

You can even practice that in the theater. It’s always best to practice for specific environments.

Finally, while I can’t rave about Source Code, I did recently watch The Fighter, and that was fantastic.

Take care, twitchers.

Josh Hanagarne








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