At the time of this writing, four boys and their coach are still trapped in a Thailand cave. While some families rejoice that their boys were safely rescued yesterday, others are not so lucky. Their sons, brothers, cousins, grandchildren and friends are still stuck in that dark, dank cavern. With a monsoon pending, divers don’t have much time to save them. The unknown for so many is downright terrifying.
As I type this post, I can hear piano music rising up the stairs. It does not escape me for one second that I am blessed beyond measure that my kids are safe. I can’t help but remember, also, that I recently got free of an emotional cave myself.
My Never Ending Worry about My Sweet Ticcer
My 15-year-old was diagnosed with Tourettes when he was four. I’m no mathematician, but I am quite aware that means I’ve been worrying about this disorder for 11 years straight. I even wrote a book about my journey. And while Happily Ticked Off talks about how I learned to “let go,” I’d be lying if I said that I released my fears with 100% abandon. With supreme self-care and focusing on my son’s spirit, I managed to put them down 75% of the time. But that 25%? It was always with me—weighing me down with agitation and irritation.
“Maybe a better diet?” I’d ruminate. “Some CBD oil or perhaps getting him tested by 23 and Me to see if he had a mutated MTHFR gene?” And sure. . . there’s little doubt that my son could benefit from these options . . . but I had a slight problem: His tics didn’t bug him.
My Kid Doesn’t Mind His Tourette’s
“My tics don’t bother me,” has been his constant refrain ever since he was just tall enough to reach my belly button. He’s now 6’4 and he said the exact words to me just a few weeks back. We had recently arrived home from a five-day stay in a friend’s time share, and he was vocally ticcing to the tune of 200 times/hour. (I suck. I counted.) They were not terribly loud, but the gulps were being released like machine gunfire.
Nick had just finished showing me a computer game he created from code on his desktop. He was so excited and proud. Just when I didn’t think he could tic more, he did. “Gulp gulp gulp/head nod/arm twist/throat clear” x 1000. I couldn’t take it. Despite swearing I would never ask him this question again, I found myself saying, “Sweetheart. . . .Nick . . . is there any way you might consider taking something to keep those noises down?”
He looked at me with those big hazel eyes of his and said, “Mom, my tics are obviously so hard on you. And that makes me feel bad.”
He paused, and then continued, “But I will never, ever, go on medication or any kind of oil just to make you feel better.”
And with that, he looked me and added, “Want to watch the latest episode of Steven Universe with me?”
And so we did. Side by side on the couch we watched his favorite show. He ticced. I bit my lip. I asked God to forgive me for my irritation. But God didn’t seem to listen.
And neither did my husband, Rex, who has no problem with my son’s noises.
A few days later I brought this conversation up with Rex and our counselors— a man and wife team who we’ve been talking to weekly for two years. (I highly recommend it—it has saved my marriage and sanity.) I was sobbing in frustration that for over a decade I’ve been fighting this battle alone. I thought for sure my counselors would tell my husband that it’s time Rex back me up on Nick’s healthcare regime. Instead, I heard the words that would change my life forever.
“Andrea, it’s not your son’s job to make you feel comfortable,” Sam said.
I was in shock. “I know that!” I cried. “But if he would just do a few things. . . .like cut down on sugar or play less video games, we could find a happy medium!”
To this he responded, “No. There is no ‘One More Thing.’ There is just ‘The Only Thing’ and that’s to respect your son’s wishes.
“I want to!” I responded. “It’s just exhausting sometimes. The noises unravel me. I don’t know what to do.”
They gave me a few suggestions. And since I’m not one to ask for help and not follow directions, I took their advice. And now I will hand these transformative tips over to you.
10 Ways to Accept Tics
*Note: I am well aware that not everyone wants to let go of looking for tic triggers. You’re likely on this site because you’re looking for answers. I, too, was very much in this place. It’s only because my son has expressly asked that I stop trying to manage it that I found myself with the list below. I hope it can be of some help to those in the same place as me, and for those that aren’t, know that I get how hard it is to wait for solution. But answers do exist! Stay patient and know you are not alone! (Okay, back to my list.)
- Do your best to accept wherever you are at in the tic journey. You don’t have to love it, but acceptance makes the road less bumpy.
- Do whatever you need to do to calm down—not to change your child—but to calm you. (A warm bath? Hot tea? An extra walk?)
- Sleep 8 hours/night
- Commit to meditation morning and night—15 minutes each
- Read some spiritual literature
- Give yourself breaks
- Concentrate on your hobbies and loves (writing, walking, time with friends)
- Eat well
- Write nightly gratitude lists
- Enjoy some good shows (Call the Midwife on Netflix? LOVE IT.)
Week One of No Tic Obsessing
The first week was rough. It wasn’t even the tics that were hard. The toughest part was realizing that in giving up my obsession with my son’s sounds I had to look at myself and see things I didn’t want to see: a career that wasn’t exactly on fire. Frustrations with my spouse. A house that needed some definite help in the cleaning department.
Week Two – Big Improvement!
I’m now on Week 2, and I can honestly say I’m 50% better. I know, in my gut, I cannot revisit “The Big Solution” anymore. The solution for me (and my son) is in letting go, and so, I am. I am hiking daily. I am working on a TV script. I’m getting my paperwork done to substitute teach next year. I’m finally. . . .finally . . . getting the message that even though my son makes noises, he has won the game—and I’m not talking just video games. I’m talking life. If this kid at 15 can accept himself as he is, then I can accept the tics also.
Every Child is Different!
What works for my teenager may be completely opposite of what works for your five year old. Whatever stage you’re in on this tic journey, I want to reiterate that there is no one way to find relief. Some kids absolutely want to minimize their tics. Some kids have severe twitches or vocals that require a diligent search for answers. I can promise you that if you’re looking for natural solutions, this website will be invaluable.
Main takeaway: Every child’s case is different and, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you peace and love along the journey.
You can find me on Facebook under Happily Ticked Off or on my website www.happilytickedoff.com