If you’re anything like I was when my son was diagnosed with Tourette’s 10 years ago, it can feel like your world is falling apart. Questions like, “Will he be bullied?” or “What kind of diet should I put her on?” or “Should I go with meds?” can feel like a machine fire of exhaustion.
Let me tell you that I wholeheartedly get it. I was in so much fear I ended up on medication to calm my butt down. But looking back, there’s a whole lot of things I wish someone had told me that I am about to tell you that would have made things easier. I could go on and on, but here are my top 5. (If this post gets a decent response, I’ll write a second set of suggestions next week.)
5 Ways to Manage Tic Overwhelm!
1. Slow Down: Assuming you have ruled out anything traumatic going on in the brain (which most times there isn’t) then take things slowly. This can sound obnoxious when every bit of you wants to run out and try every option out there to calm the tics down. The problem with this manic response is that tics often change. If you do everything at once, you won’t know what worked and what didn’t. Was it the magnesium? The gluten-free bread? Lack of screen time? Do one thing at a time for a few weeks… maybe even a month… to get your child adjusted to it. It’ll save you both energy and money.
2. Find a Mentor: Tourette’s is a tough diagnosis, because there’s so much wrapped into it. Some kids have ADHD, some OCD, some ODD. Some have none of it at all. It’s helpful to find someone you trust that perhaps has been down this road before. You can find people on forums, through support groups, or maybe just a trusted friend or family member who perhaps has never dealt with tics but is familiar with how to handle an unexpected diagnosis. Having someone you know has your back, and can help you come up with a plan, can be a saving grace and keep you from making decisions based on fear. This leaves me to #3.
3. Kick Fear to the Curb: I get it – the idea of a kid with Tourette’s is scary. I often freaked out myself, fearing my little 4-year-old would be like those kids on TV who barked and cursed during circle time. Turns out the only person who barked and cursed was me as I came face to face with this terrifying diagnosis. And guess who made it terrifying? ME. I wish someone had told me that most kids with Tourette’s go on to live perfectly wonderful, normal, well-adjusted lives. If I had only learned to put a muzzle on my fear and deal with reality, I’d have saved a lot of unwasted time crying over spilled milk. (Well, spilled almond milk. We went dairy free for a while!)
4. Diet: (Yours, not your child’s.) When my son got diagnosed, I spent a lot of time obsessing about his diet. I spent hundreds of dollars on cardboard tasting gluten-free/casein-free pizza, only to not take care of my own nourishment. I drank too much caffeine, didn’t sleep, and wondered why I had developed an anxiety disorder. As cliché’ as this sounds, wear your own oxygen mask first. When you feel good, you’ll better be able to help your child.
5. Fun: It might sound obnoxious for me to tell you to have fun during this hard time of your life, but I can promise you that it is worth every measure to do so. Even during my lowest point in accepting the tics, I made sure to imbue magic into my kid’s childhood. I was determined that he would be a kid who remained funny, whimsical and full of joy. Tourettes would be part of his story, but not the main theme. This meant taking a warrior stance/Moana style and telling Tourette’s to, “Board my boat!” I was in charge! On days I wanted to cry I put on some make up and took him to the park. I never stopped singing to him. I played music. We read books. And most of all, I told him every single day, “Stink, I’m so glad you were born.” (And believe me, I wasn’t lying. Today he’s 6’3 and I still tell him that!)
Last Note to Scared Parents – Shift Your Mindset
Tourette’s can feel overwhelming, but if you think about it, isn’t life overwhelming? If it were not Tourette’s, your child would have to deal with something else later. So would you. What if you could shift your mindset ever so slightly and thank Tourette’s for coming into your life. What if instead of cursing it (no pun intended) you said, “Thank you, tics, for giving me the opportunity to not be afraid of the unknown. To find new people to learn from? To learn new ways handling life? To become stronger and focus on what truly matters – my child’s spirit, not his twitches?”
I can promise you, as hard as this shift is, that a whole river of gratitude will flow in. Your heart will change. Your parenting will change. Your relationship with your precious child will change. And from there… from that place of peace and acceptance… you will find the answers you are looking for.
Until next time,
Andrea Frazer is a published TV, magazine, blog and newspaper writer whose latest book, Happily Ticked Off, can be found on Amazon. You can also visit her at her blog where she writes weekly at www.happilytickedoff.com