In previous blogs I’ve mentioned suppressing tics, but not properly talked about it, so as I can’t sleep due to being anxious about surgery later today I thought I’d write a blog to explain.
A definition of the word ‘suppress’ is: forcibly put an end to. Which correctly and incorrectly links to suppressing tics. It is forcibly stopping them, but not forever, eventually the tics will come out. Some people can’t suppress and never have been able to, some can’t but used to be able to, some can for seconds, or minutes, or hours, or even days, but the tics will eventually come out, it just kind of puts them in a queue, like at a place and then suddenly the gates open and everyone rushes to get in.
This blog is written from my prespective, so please remember that every other person with TS will be different, but some things will be similar or the same.
I describe suppressing my tics as stopping yourself from blinking, it’s something that non ticcers can try and kind of get an understanding. If you force yourself not to blink, even from that first second you are concentrating on it, but you might be able to concentrate on other stuff, but you are still focused on not blinking, the longer your eyes are open for the more you feel the need to blink, the more physical and emotional/mental energy it is taking to not blink, your eyes might be stinging, painful, or a pain in your head. Other parts of your body may be in pain, you might be tense etc. You might clench your fists and by this point all your concentration is on not blinking. Eventually you have to blink and when you do it’s not just one blink, it’s many, rapid blinks and even then something doesn’t feel right. That’s the way I describe suppressing tics to non ticcers.
Suppressing is painful, stressful, takes away energy, concentration, drains me mentally and physically.
Maybe you will think why suppress then, if it’s that horrible to suppress why do it. For me there are a few reasons why I suppress at different times. When my tics at school became yet another reason for the bullies to target me I did everything I did to suppress them. Now I generally try not to, but if I’m on my own out and about or on public transport I am terrified. Terrified of the reactions, stares, whispering, laughing, pointing, basically the bullying and sometimes suppressing is safer for my mental health (like if someone says something it can trigger my complex PTSD and cause flashbacks, etc) if I’m with someone I feel a bit safer to not suppress.
Sometimes I’ll get trapped in a suppressing cycle, someone will have said something on a tram and suddenly I’m suppressing as much as I can even when in safe places. I try to break these cycles as quickly as possible by going to a local cafe/restaurant where they’re so accepting or being around other ticcers, so meeting my friend or going to a Tourettes support group.
Sometimes I suppress in certain situations that I feel I have to suppress in, like going to the theatre or cinema etc, where others expect me to be quiet. I know deep in my mind that I shouldn’t have to, but when it’s really quiet, except whatever is going on, on the stage, any noise (even a sniffing tic) feels like the noisiest thing ever and often people expect silence from the audience. I still go to the theatre and similar things, but it’s a struggle. I do all that I can to prepare, by contacting the theatre for access stuff, taking fiddle and chewy toys, but more concentration goes on suppressing my tics than on the actual performance sadly.
I try to not suppress, as I know that sooner or later the tics will explode out and I won’t be able to express them. Although I have tic storms (see previous blog for info about them, AKA tic fits or tic attacks) regularly, anywhere, anytime. I know that if I’ve suppressed a lot they can increase.
For me in some ways (exhaustion and general all over pain) suppressing can be worse than the tics.
please never ask someone with Tourettes to stop or suppress their tics, or expect them to, it doesn’t work like that.
i don’t like suppressing my tics, but sometimes my mind kicks in, kind of like survival mode to protect my mental health.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Dash Mihok, an American actor with Tourettes. “People believe that if you can shut your Tourettes off for a period of time, then you can always shut it off. I try to explain to people that if I spent my whole life trying to control my tics, that’s all I would have time for”