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How To Have Tourette’s Part 25 – You Have Earned A Vengeance Voucher

Something happened this week that I never could have predicted.  Without going into too many details: I was in a situation where another person with Tourette’s Syndrome was within earshot of me for several hours.

In my experience, when two tickers get together, they set each other off and create a spastic din that dwarfs any foolishness they could have produced alone. So when I started hearing this person make noises, I braced myself for what would surely come.

Except it didn’t. I made some noises, but I was fine. But that’s not the unexpected part. The unexpected part was equal parts surprise, guilt (I’ve gotten over it by now), embarrassment, and a profound sense of hypocrisy.

What happened

I surprised myself when I realized that this person’s ticks were driving me nuts. The constant noise! The throat clearing! The yips and yelps and yaps! And I was incredulous.

Are you serious? You are annoyed by this guy who does what you do? And he’s nowhere near as disruptive as you!

I tried to tune it out, but nothing made it easier. I was distracted and couldn’t get any work done. And over and over I asked, What is wrong with you? How dare you!

I knew what was wrong with the other guy. I knew all too well, of course. I never would have dreamed of saying anything to him about it. He wasn’t hurting me. He was just…doing what we do. I didn’t want to be annoyed and I was anyways. I knew I shouldn’t be and I couldn’t figure out how not to be. What a wake up call. I’ve never felt like a bigger hypocrite.

I had to confront a possibility I hated to think about. I had done so much patting myself on the back for all the progress I had made. I was finally comfortable in a crowd. It never occurred to me that maybe the crowd wasn’t yet comfortable around me. Maybe everyone around me was annoyed, distracted, and on-edge, waiting for my next outburst.

Or maybe not. I do believe people are generally good, patient, and accepting, my own recent reaction notwithstanding.

But what a thought. You are annoying everyone around you. It was exactly that thought that trapped me indoors for the better part of 10 years. And now here I am again, thinking the same thing. I’m not asking you to say “No! It’s fine! You’re fine!” It wouldn’t change anything anyways. I’m not going underground for another decade.

But wow. I’ve had a lot to think about. Which is good.

I’ll wrap it up with a thank you. If you’re someone who has been putting up with me, I appreciate it. If you’re someone I work with and I’m driving you nuts, feel free to say so!

If you’re the person who was having the ticks, I am officially offering you a vengeance voucher: if you ask, I will put your three greatest enemies in my tightest headlock.

If you’re someone who married me…pipe down and don’t get sassy…you knew what you were getting into:)


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  • Todd June 17, 2010, 6:23 am

    I have to say, every time that I read these posts, I am more and more impressed with you. Even in admitting your hypocrisy, you’re admitting to a fault. This I respect. Maybe next time you’ll reach out to the guy. Imagine how he might feel if you gave him a pat on the back, and told him everything is okay… even if you’re at your wits end.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 17, 2010, 11:48 am

      Oh, there will always be faults to admit to. If I see him again, we’ll talk. I had a feeling that it only would have made things worse for us both that day. Seeing two people with tics both ramping up at the same time can be pretty crazy.

      And if he’s anything like me, he may very well have assumed everything was okay, just like I usually do.

  • John June 17, 2010, 6:50 am

    Josh – I had a similar experience recently where I felt like a complete hypocrite. I’ve always run 5k’s for charity but never as a “runner” (30-32 minutes typically). Recently, I got serious about running and am now in the 23-24 minute range. I ran a charity 5k last weekend and found myself getting frustrated with slower runners around me. After snapping out of it, I made a point to give each runner that I passed a thumbs up or encouraging comment as I went by. I also stayed at the finish line to cheer for everyone that finished until the last runner crossed.

    Being aware of my hypocracy and taking action to change it gave me one of the best running experiences I’ve had in years.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 17, 2010, 11:47 am

      What was the charity? I’m sure the slowpokes appreciated the encouragement.

      • John June 17, 2010, 12:12 pm

        This one was to raise money for the local high school music program. I know how much the support of strangers means to me when I am running, and I wanted to make sure to pass it on.


        • Josh Hanagarne June 17, 2010, 5:31 pm

          I’m even happier that the charity was for high school music. It’s an endangered species.

  • Anders Ronnau June 17, 2010, 8:31 am

    Hi Josh
    It sounds like the Shadow Effect made an impact that you have yet to realize. I haven’t read that one, but in Debbie Ford previous books she claims that the stuff in others that we are most annoyed with is the shadow in ourselves that we need to work with first.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 17, 2010, 9:39 am

      I don’t know, Anders. Maybe. On one hand, I don’t feel bad about being distracted by something that is distracting. If you were trying to write a novel and I was sitting next to you barking, you’d be well within your rights to be distracted. With some distance now, the real jolting part was not the realization that someone else’s tics could bother me, but the idea that I might be bothering everyone else without realizing it. Details to follow!

      • Anders Ronnau June 18, 2010, 12:48 am

        I hear you. Challenge for you there is that you may never know what others are really thinking without asking them – and if you do, you’ll make sure that they will notice and be distracted! 😉

  • Helen Hoefele June 17, 2010, 10:49 am

    Sometimes I find that some things (like a ticking clock) might annoy me a lot, while at other times I can totally tune it out and not even notice it. It kind of depends on what I’m focusing on.

  • Daisy June 17, 2010, 12:06 pm

    The mirror is hard to see sometimes. For me, it’s the hearing. I want people to listen and hear me, but I don’t always make the (admittedly challenging) effort when things are difficult to hear.

  • Janette Hanagarne June 17, 2010, 1:09 pm

    I’ll keep all the sassing to myself. And for the record, leaving the bathroom floor all wet after a shower is way more annoying than your tics. Oops, was that sassy?

  • Bryce June 17, 2010, 1:26 pm

    Awareness is awesome!! Great post Josh.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 17, 2010, 5:30 pm

      Two exclamation points, Bryce. You convinced me:)

  • Ayelet June 18, 2010, 9:56 am

    I actually was in close proximity to a ticker recently, but because of your blog, I just recognized it as Tourette’s and moved on. Even when we were talking and he was ticking, I was less frustrated with it than I might have been if I thought he was just making noises to make fun of me or be immature.

    btw, I totally agree with Janette – wet bathroom floors suck royally!

  • Melinda June 18, 2010, 3:53 pm

    Ahhh…Josh! That’s the great part about being human, we get be what we are and that includes everything! We get to be both annoyed and loving with others, both good and bad, generous and stingy, bold and afraid.

    And just to let you know, I’ve known people with Tourettes and after a while the ticks are like every other individual characteristic, they become just a part of the bigger whole.

    Love your blog and LOVE your writing style. So funny engaging and concise. Thanks 🙂


  • Matt Orb June 26, 2010, 2:23 pm

    Interesting post Josh.

    it’s just occurred to me, how did/does it affect you working in the environment you do if you’re having a bad day? Do you get disapproving looks or worse?

    • Josh Hanagarne June 26, 2010, 2:32 pm

      Matt, the worst that has ever happened was a guy screaming in my face for me to shut up. I didn’t handle it very well. I laughed and said “Do you really think I’d be doing this if I could stop?” that did not please him greatly:) A guy also punched me at a concert once because he thought I was making fun of him. I punched him back and we had quite a row, but it was quite appropriate for a slayer show. I won, by the way:)

      More common are the startled looks and questions. Those are fine. It would startle me too. but one of the reasons I chose to work in a public library was because I knew it would challenge me. When I applied, I was trying to reassure myself that I had finally turned a corner and was going to get off my couch. I thought I was mentally tough enough but needed to prove it. I knew the quiet library would either confirm it or spit me right back out.

      that was a few years ago. It was the right choice!

      • Matt Orb June 26, 2010, 3:20 pm

        I’m surprised you got grief at a Slayer show to be honest (being a Slayer fan myself although never having seen them live yet), most metal heads I’ve met are pretty chilled out.

        So come on…best Slayer album?