Finding Nemo The Musical, a personal favorite to watch
When I was an adolescent, my schedule revolved around theater and show choir. One of our regular choreographers told me and my peers over and over again: "There is energy in the stop." While dancing, I used this advice to make my movements sharp and clean, which resulted in meaningful actions that carried to the back seats of the auditorium. Lately, having hung up my dance shoes and theater makeup, I've been thinking about this phrase as it relates to Tourette's.
I almost always recognize a fellow TS-er. I never out them, but it is usually clear to me when a tic is happening versus, say, and rapid movement. But why? Why do I (as I'm sure most other TS-ers do too) pick up on the difference, even on the smallest tics? And is it alright for non-TS-ers to notice? Let's talk about the energy in the stop.
A voluntary movement, as defined by Introduction to Kinesiology: Studying Physical Activity by Shirl J. Hoffman, is intentional; "it is purposefully directed towards an identifiable goal." Tics, on the other hand, do not fall into this category because they do not aim to achieve an identifiable goal. For me, they are repetitive movements that I feel are necessary to complete for my body to stay at a state of normality. When I "hold in" my tics, I feel a similar panic that you might feel if you are underwater and you are unsure if you will be able to make it to the surface in time to breathe.
About this energy in the stop business. My own tics are individual rapid movements that harshly and suddenly stop, and then repeat. Most of the TS-ers I've met follow this pattern as well. And there's energy there! Just like people in the back rows of the auditorium focused on my crisp movements in theater, so are people in public startled by my tics that start and end quickly, even from across the room.
Is it okay to be startled and look at a TS-er when you aren't expecting them? Absolutely! The next step is learning about what to do after. Look forward to a new post addressing what to do if and when you are in the room with someone with Tourette's; how to handle the situation so both of you feel comfortable and welcomed.
If you or a family member has Tourette's and have a personal story you'd like to share with me, please see my contact page. Let's talk!