Tourette’s, ocd & me

person washing his hand
Photo by Burst on

From around the age of 11, every time I saw an old person I had to say “bless you” out loud because if I didn’t they would die. I was sitting on the top deck of a bus on the way to college one day & was looking out of the window at all the oap’s about to board. I probably said “bless you” twenty times. If I didn’t say it out loud it wouldn’t work & they would die for sure. I still say it to this day but I’ve learnt to say it in my head (and as far as I know, they don’t die)

My compulsive hand washing started when I was around 12. I had visited an old man down the street & he smelt quite strongly of urine. I convinced myself I could smell it on my hands & so the hand washing began. I would visit the toilets throughout the day preferably when there was no one else around & wash my hands 5-6 times in one go as quickly as I could before anyone asked what I was doing.

Touching, tapping & smelling are only a few of the many ocd’s I have. I have never been one to openly discuss it which is odd because I think I am a very open person but over the last few years since being officially diagnosed I now kind of feel free because  I know what is it although I have known what it is for years really, I just didn’t want to admit it. I’m not ashamed, not anymore, I just think it’s another little thing which adds to my personality.

For years I have been the master of disguising my ocd. You get clever when you have an urge & make excuses to cover it. No one would know, not unless they were looking for it. My husband & my son who both also have ocd know when I am acting out a compulsion. My husband only has it slightly, but my son had it quite severely, he has Tourette’s so it’s part of that. Our son didn’t stand a chance of not having some kind of ocd with us two!

My mum said for years I showed signs of TS too. From a little girl I would ‘tic’ & show repetitive behaviours. luckily for me I grew out of it but the ocd remained. We were told that our son would either grow out of it by the time he was in early teens & if he didn’t it would more than likely stay with him for life but he would learn to cope with it. Unfortunately it has stayed & he does cope with it but it’s incredibly difficult for him. There isn’t a single day that goes by without him ticking or having some major compulsions but incredibly he has taught himself to suppress them at school. This comes with its own problems as he has to concentrate so hard to stop the tics or the urges at school that is can interfere with his thought process & ultimately he’s ability to concentrate. Also after spending a whole day at school suppressing, it will come out with vengeance when he is home.

What some people don’t understand is that ocd is exhausting! It really can make you feel so drained, frustrated, irritated, aggravated & tired. If something just doesn’t ‘feel’ right, it takes such willpower to be able to move on from that thing. Only recently I walked past a charity shop window & saw a shirt hanging off a rail inside the shop. I didn’t want the shirt or look at it because I liked it, I just saw it. I had the urge to go & touch it but I was in a rush & had to get back to my car. I walked right up to the other end of town before the compulsion just got too much & I had to literally run back to the shop to touch it. In that moment I didn’t care what that must have looked liked, a woman running in to the shop, picking up the sleeve of the shirt & giving it a good feel before darting back out. After that I felt immediate relief but then I had to go & wash my hands ASAP because I convinced myself the shirt smelled of urine Now, this is quite rare for me nowadays, that day I was particularly stressed & thats when my compulsions are at their worse. Most days I do something compulsive, it can vary from touching something to folding a tea towel into a perfect square, it just depends on what ticks my box that day.

I have often felt overwhelming guilt about my son having TS. Of course I couldn’t control what he or I was born with but the feeling that I have passed it on to him doesn’t feel good even if they say it’s not hereditary, which is debatable. I know the hell it can be & he has it far worse than I ever did. Luckily in our little family of three we have a great sense of humour & we always laugh at ourselves. Sometimes in the moment of a bad tic session or an intense compulsion episode it’s hard to see the funny side for my son but afterwards we always manage to make some kind of joke from it BUT what people also don’t get it that it is painful. Literally. Can you imagine having to jolt your head back hundreds of times a day? Or maybe push your knuckle deep into your own cheek (yep that’s a tic) until it bruises? We have lost count of the different tics my son has but there are hundreds!! Repetitive movements cause pain, distress, fatigue & are incredibly disruptive & frustrating.

For me I’m lucky. I can control my ocd to a degree & be very subtle about it but many people can’t & it completely rules their life.. Again, it comes down to the wiring of your brain & no one really understands why we have ocd. The only thing we can do is try to teach our son that it’s ok & it’s nothing to be ashamed of but he is the one who needs to overcome these overwhelming urges & at the moment at the age of 15 his patience & ability to try & talk himself out of them is non exsistant. The Tourettes is here to stay, it may dampen down from time to time but it’s a condition with no cure. In time we hope our son can find a way to control the ocd & learn to beat it. In the meantime we can just educate ourselves with coping mechanisms, support, & encouragement.

what everyone else can do is educate themselves. ❤️



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