Recently I met someone else with Tourette’s in the library. It was pretty obvious that he had it, but I had to ask him to be sure, so that if anyone else complained about his noises I’d be able to explain it to them.
I sat in a chair across from this older gentleman and said, “Can I ask you something?”
In his eyes I saw the expression I’m sure I’ve given to many other people during many other, similar conversations. It’s a look of fatigue and wariness mixed with what I hope is usually good-natured humor.
“Sure.” He smiled, which was encouraging. I spent a lot of bad years being defensive and it got me nowhere.
“Well, the thing is, I’ve got Tourette’s. A pretty bad case, although you don’t see it here much because I have to grind down on it at work. Do you have it too?”
“Yeah.” He smiled. Then his head twitched up and back, and my head jerked to the side and we each made our own weird noise. Then we laughed.
“Quite a pair,” I said.
He laughed again and we shook hands and that was it.
I felt better for the rest of the day, even though it was a rough one. Until something like this happens, I always forget just how good it can feel to simply be in the presence of someone who understands you.
With Tourette’s, it usually doesn’t help for two people to get together, not in terms of symptoms. It can actually make it worse, which makes support group meetings an ironic and lively experience. But it does help just because someone else understands. The symptoms are almost irrelevant at that point if you have someone you can just shrug with and say, “Good grief, aren’t we are pair?”
I suspect we’ve all got someone who makes us feel this way. I hope so.