So apparently, the guy who played Monk was in a movie about a boy with tics, before he was on Monk! It’s called The Tic Code, and I want to see it (but I wanted to before I knew Shalhoub was in it, so that’s not why.)
I think I actually used to do this as a child! My hands “needed” to feel cleaner than the rest of my body.
So I’ve had this thing about the radio; where I’m obsessive about always listening to the best possible song. I switch between every music-playing station I can receive even remotely clearly (this is maybe about 10 stations) , searching for the best song, rather than leaving the same station on while I drive. Not only that, but unless I find one of my favorite songs ever, I feel compelled to check all the other stations just in case I could be listening to something better. So basically most of my time in the car for the last few years has been spent fixated on switching radio stations.
I wanted to mention this to my psychologist on our last visit but we talked about other things and I forgot. But I noticed that on my way home, I didn’t do the radio habit — I simply decided, “It’s time to start settling for one station” and I did precisely that all the way home. It was surprisingly refreshing, but of course I had a little anxiety from time to time when I wanted to switch stations. I just had to remind myself: “If I switch stations now, I’ll just want to do it over and over again” and resist the urge using that reasoning.
But now I’ve realized I have a huge problem with clothes, too. Part of it is legitimate. I’ve been pregnant 2 times in the last few years and I’ve gained and lost a lot of weight. A lot of my clothes are too big for me now, and I’m fitting back into my old ones. But when I buy a new shirt or pants that fit relatively well, I find myself obsessing over the following types of thoughts:
“What if I get pregnant again and this would make a good maternity shirt but I bought it too small because I didn’t think I’d get pregnant?”
“What if I don’t get pregnant and I keep losing weight, and this shirt that fits now becomes too big?”
Of course I can’t possibly obey both of these suspicions at once without buying two of everything. Part of me wants to do that. But not only is it unaffordable, it’s unrealistic because the fact is even if I did get pregnant soon, I’d have no idea whether I would lose or gain more weight first, or whether I would lose or gain a lot during the pregnancy — thus, it would be impossible to predict what maternity clothes might fit me in a year or two. But, my mind keeps wanting to do this. I guess I’m preoccupied with wanting to make sure I make really responsible financial choices by buying clothes that will fit me for as long as possible, but that’s only realistic to a small extent as far as pregnancy goes.
“Tourette’s has a lot of emotionality tied to it. Often families come in and they’ll have a child with fairly debilitating motor tics, maybe some vocal tics that are causing problems at school, social impairment, maybe even some functional impairments or discomfort. And at the end of the appointment I diagnose their child with a transient tic disorder and they almost wipe the sweat off their brow they’re so happy that, ‘Oh my goodness, Doctor, I thought I was gonna get a diagnosis of Tourette’s Disorder here.’ So, tic disorders can be very severe, but not necessarily TS. On the other hand, I can have children come in who have multiple motor tics plus one vocal tic for more than a year, meeting diagnostic criteria for TS, and be very mild, and so at the end of those appointments I’ll circle something on the diagnosis sheet about TS and the family leaves very distraught at that.”
To be free, we have to want to escape our self-imposed limitations — and most of the time, that’s all they are. But it can be surprising sometimes how little we actually want to escape our self-made prisons. So when I’m really struggling with something, I ask myself: “Do I even want to get past this?” If I do, then I make a stronger effort in that direction. If I don’t, well, then I decide maybe it’s not so bad feeling the way I do after all, and if I’m going to stay that way I at least try and learn to enjoy it.
Then there are habits; things we don’t really enjoy, and might want to change, but they’re such a part of our every-day lives that we either overlook them or feel hopelessly bound to them. It takes one step at a time to defeat old habits, and you will lose battles before you win the war. Some habits seem almost impossible to break. If you can’t break the habit, you can at least be aware. You always have the power to acknowledge that a habit is a habit — that it is a bad habit — and sometimes even that small recognition is a huge improvement. Or maybe the habit isn’t so bad and you just feel shameful about it for some crazy reason, and in those cases the key is realizing the habit isn’t so bad after all.
So that’s my lesson for today: 1) Try to break bad habits. 2) If I can’t: ask myself, do I really want to break this habit after all? If not, accept and enjoy it for what it is. 3) If I want to break the habit but can’t, I’ll at least acknowledge that it’s a habit I should break, every single time I engage in it. My obsessions have a lot less power over me if I call them out for what they are.
Here’s a new interview from Ask Stefanie with Marc Elliot who is a well-known motivational speaker with Tourette’s Syndrome and OCD. He discusses what it’s been like growing up with tics and compulsions, how teachers and other kids reacted, and especially how he’s grateful for his parents’ support. Marc offers some interesting, and in my opinion good, advice at 21:23 in the interview: “I think it’s really important if your child is dealing with a lot of stuff, tics or anything for that matter, that you do not feel entitled that the school should be understanding. Because the reality is it’s like, if somebody wants to be understanding it is their choice. And it’d be great if we all lived in a world where people were understanding, but if you come at it with the mindset of ‘Look, they don’t have to be understanding,’ it’s only going to be a positive experience after that. [. . .] Even if there is a law that says they have to be understanding, that doesn’t mean someone has to be understanding.”
Marc has coprolalia, and in another interview I’ve seen has said that this actually comes more from his OCD than his TS. The OCD is what causes him to think of the worst thing he could possibly say in any given situation. I wonder if this could be true for more people with TS and coprolalia as well? Personally, I have a hard time identifying with the urge to say swear words as I’ve never had it, but I have had lots of thoughts of doing/saying taboo things in various social situations, so in that way I can understand very well. It’s just that I have a hard time understanding getting to the point of actually doing it. But I do understand my own tics, and that in a way they’re very similar. I also notice that my breathing tic seems to get worse in situations where I feel like I can’t do it; like the fact that I’m suppressing it is making it worse.
Another interesting point at about 30:50: “What is so interesting now Stefanie is that now that I’m not ticcing, I am now seeing all these other things about my personality and about my behavior that I do, that I never could really see before because I was ticcing so much.” That may apply not only to those of us with OCD spectrum disorders, but everyone with problematic thoughts or behaviors — once we begin getting over problems, new ones appear, or come out of the shadows. That’s one reason to be so positive about learning to master one’s OCD/tics or at least be aware of them; because, once we do that, we can begin tackling other, very real problems, which may actually be even worse in the end. We start to see the more “real” problems in our lives. In a way it could also be discouraging; “Look, when you get over this, you’ll just have a bunch of other things to get over of!” But from my perspective, it’s a relief; at times, OCD problems are so frustrating that I’d be glad to have any other problem to work on. Also, life is an ongoing challenge for everyone; no one is ever guaranteed at any time that they won’t have any more challenges to deal with; in fact, quite the opposite, in continuing to exist we are guaranteed new challenges every day, whether we see them and are open to solving them or not.
This is a long interview which I’m only halfway through and have a baby crying; so, I will pause for now. I may have more to say about it later.
Someone posted a link to this article on a Tourette’s forum I belong to:
In my opinion, this is a wonderful article about obsessional worrying or “Pure-O” OCD. In it, several interesting methods for dealing with obsessions are discussed, but one in particular that interests me is what I would call the “amplification” method; or, as Steven Phillipson refers to it here, “turning up the volume”:
Rather than attempting to escape the spikes, the person with “Pure-O” is encouraged to purposely create the thought, repeatedly, following its initial occurrence. One is also encouraged to take the presented topic and actually amplify the threatening component. This has the effect of desensitizing the brain to these spikes by sending the message that not only am I not going to attempt to escape these thoughts; but I am at such peace with them I can create a multitude of them. In response to the thought, “I might have run over someone on my way to work,” a beneficial response would be; “There is probably a stack of bodies all along the street; I probably wiped out half the population of my home town yesterday as well. I can’t wait to drive home tonight and kill the other half.”
I’ve found that this method works extremely well for me. Not only that, but having undiagnosed OCD my whole life, I kind of learned to do it on my own without realizing. I think it came from my older brother. When I was a child and would worry about germs/contamination, or obsess over washing my hands before eating at a restaurant, he would remind me that the cooks probably didn’t wash their hands, and that the plates probably weren’t properly washed, either. That sort of therapy works a lot better for me than someone simply telling me to “stop worrying” or that I’m “just being silly.” In fact, those negative critiques of my thinking actually amplify my fears most of the time, seeming to reinforce them. It works much better if I’m allowed the space to deal with my thoughts myself, and given credit for being able to decide what’s rational and what’s not, rather than being told so by someone else.