Coaching and Wellness, faith, spirituality, Tics, Tourettes

IGG Food Testing Vs. Traditional Allergy Testing

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About 10 years ago – during the time I was freaking out over my son’s Tourette Syndrome – I had Dominic tested for food allergies. I wrote about this in my book. Basically my husband thought I was a nut job as it didn’t follow the traditional route of blood testing through a lab. It instead involved vials and muscle testing. I was desperate for answers and I was relieved to find out what Dominic was allergic too:

Dom’s Allergies

  • eggs
  • peanuts
  • dairy
  • gluten
  • ham
  • …and a whole host of other things. When I removed them his tics dramatically improved

Note: He did not throw up or go into major shock when eating this food. His throat did not close up. But he was much less focused, hyper and, alternatively, lethargic afterwards.

Over time, with his resistance to bringing pizza to birthday parties that tasted like cardboard and moldy rubber, he chose to eat more of what he wanted. For him this meant consuming everything but gluten.

Then he decided he felt bad for animals so he gave up meat, chicken and even fish. I supported this. I made a lot of very bad veggie meals including gluten free mac n cheese with nutritional yeast for “flavoring.” YUM!

He continued to eat cheese and eggs (with little regard to the conditions of these animals in their cages, but hey, I figured he’d cross that bridge when he got there.)

Today we had a call with a traditional allergist today because his nose has been stuffy and he’s sick of it. The allergist gave me the same spiel that I got years ago. “Because I’ve been trained with Western Medicine, and the FDA doesn’t yet approve muscle testing, I can’t offer the IGG testing route.” But… she was great. She was honest and said that she’s seen great improvements with her patients who have gone off… wait for it… the SAME stuff Dominic went off ten years ago.

My point: Go with your gut, Mamas. If you think there’s another way to treat your child and it can benefit them, do that. If you’re only doing it out of fear, don’t do that. Take some quiet time for you and go along for the ride, because at some point your kid is going to be 17 and telling YOU what they need for their health. And if you honor them along the way, and don’t baby them when they are 5 inches taller than you, you just might be giving them the wings they need to survive in the world. And that, my friends, is far more important than fixing tics.

Until next time,

May God grant you the ability to accept the tics you cannot change, have the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Need an editor, book coach (transformational non-fiction) or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

Tic-Oh Tuesday, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Tic-O Tuesday #2: Comic Ticker Fish Lee!

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Welcome to Tic-O Tuesday #2! Many of you might know Fish Lee from his stint on the A & E television show, “The Employables.” Others might know him from his Facebook Page @TourettesLife which features his amazing Tourette Syndrome art work. Still others might know him thanks to his bestselling Tourette’s comic book, T-Man & Hyperstrike (copies are sold exclusively on his Facebook Page @TourettesLife.)

As for me, I had the pleasure of getting to know him today by chatting his ear off for over an hour. We discussed everything from his childhood with tics, his life as a struggling artist who had to live through some pretty severe Tourette’s, and his current success today as one of the most sought after comic book illustrators around. (Plus he’s barely ticking thanks to the right combo of medication, sleep and weight loss.)

Fish surprised me, because he is more than just a talented artist. He’s a human being who took adversity and kicked it to the curb. If you’re like me – a parent who is worried about your child due to an unexpected diagnosis – you need to take a seat and get a boost of inspiration topping for your taco this Tico Tuesday.

Fish’s Past

“I wasn’t diagnosed until I was thirty,” Fish said. “It was confusing and tough to not know what was wrong with me.”

Fish began with mild tics as a child. He would repeat things he heard on TV, hold his breath and rub his nose. He would obsess over things and have a hard time reading social cues. “I had a pretty bad temper, too,” he said. “It wasn’t easy making friends.”

That said, he was not officially diagnosed as a child – not even when he stayed home for three weeks because of his eyes being crossed. “My single mom must have taken me to the doctor 15 times, and in the end, no one believed me that I couldn’t help it. The doctor said there was no way I could have had Tourette Syndrome since I never cursed.”

After having every imaginable test run on him to rule things out (from diabetes to severe heart issues) Fish just had to live with this “mystery illness.” He went on to say that most of the time it was manageable, but one to two times a year things would get really bad. “It was terrifying,” he said. “Especially because people thought I made it up to get attention. There was a point when I got better where I wondered myself if I had made it up.”

Lucky for him they disappeared in middle school and high school, but it wasn’t just because of genetics and good luck. “I self-medicated big time,” he said. Fish, who has now been sober for a good long while, fully admits what would have been better than not having tics at all would have been to feel that who he was, as he was tics and all, was okay. But at the time, that simply wasn’t the case.

A Rough Time of Tics

The tics came back with a vengeance after college when he was newly married and sober. At 21 it really became a problem, and by 30 he could barely see, walk or talk. His wife had to bathe him. Despite seeing a respected neurologist (who said there was no way he had Tourette Syndrome) it was not until he saw a news show with professor on TV who had the syndrome, along with a weatherman who reported that he had it also, that he realized, “That guy is me!”

When he realized he had true neurological disorder – where his brain misfired and mixed signals like crazy – he was sent to a movement specialist in Houston. The moment he walked into the room the doctor took a look at his severe shaking and asked, “How long have you had T.S.?” to which he responded, “I don’t have Tourette’s! I don’t say bad words!” She said, “Oh, yes, you do have it. The bad news is that it’s the worst case I’ve ever seen. The best news is that it can’t get any worse!”

Fish laughed as he recalled that story. It was the beginning of an understanding for his disorder.

While Fish’s wife, who he is now divorced from, was horrified that her husband would be confined to a wheel chair and potentially be on disability, Fish was thrilled. He finally had an answer. “It wasn’t Huntington Disease. It wasn’t a stroke. It wasn’t MS. It was bad, but I was alive!”

Unfortunately he had to stop working for a while with his condition worsening. He could no longer foster children – which he loved. But he had 3 of his own still at home. And in the process he was able to go on Facebook and meet other adults living with Tourette’s. He no longer felt alone. “My whole world opened up,” he gushed. “I wasn’t the only person needing help bathing and feeding myself!”

The Mouthpiece – A Miracle Cure

A turning point in Fish’s life was a mouthpiece that was made for him in Memphis, Tennessee. Made in conjunction with NFL mouth guards, it was a Godsend for Fish’s constant movement. “It was made of rubber and soft on the inside… no metal,” Fish said. “It truly worked.”

(Note from Andrea: I can’t offer you parents medical advice, but I have heard so many good things about this device. Google and find a doctor in your area or give me a call and I’ll work with you to help you locate one.)

Advice for Parents

Many parents are scared about their kids’ diagnosis, and that’s understandable, but Fish encourages everyone to be careful about how they talk about tics both to them directly and around them. “They have it tough enough as it is, but it doesn’t have to define them,” he said.

He, in fact, pushes his own son, Bear, to go way beyond what someone might expect of him. “I remember as a kid at 7 that I personally could not focus because of seven trains of thought in my head: a fight I had with someone… a girl… a TV show,” he said, “But at the same time, this wild thinking was also what made me unique.” He went on to gush,”Tourette’s kids are so smart, creative and empathetic. So what if they are a bit ‘weird’ to others. That’s what makes them so amazing.”

He continued, “I encourage all parents to fully accept their kids where they are at. So what if they tic!”

Fish’s Medication and Tic Management

As far as managing the tics, he himself is on a combo of Guanfacine and Primidone. “Everyone reacts differently,” he said, “But for me the combo of these work perfectly. There are some side effects, but it’s been worth it for what I am able to do every day in my life.” And boy what a lot he does.

Fish’s Current Life

Unlike his past where he was confined to his bed and a wheelchair, Fish spends his days illustrating for some of the biggest names in the business, including Eric N Bennett. He shops, drives and spends time with his 3 kids whenever he can (Marcus 20 – who is giving him his first grandbaby in June), Jay (19) and Elisha (“Bear” /16 who, according to Fish, is “killing it” with his tics).

Fish’s Projects These Days

Fish has inked Empyrean Command #0 and illustrated Sentinels #269 and Fivestar #3 (coming after after Covid) (pencils, inks, colors).

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He colored The Power Company #2 (and has #3 in the works which will be done after quarantine is over.)

CoverA.

Most of his stuff is up for sale at www.indyplanet.com Fivestar.

He is working on Sentinels #270 right now, then the next Fivestar, then the next Power Company which will be all of his art work. “I’m already booked for most of the rest of the year,” he says proudly. And with artwork like this, it’s understandable!

Other Social Links: Find Fish

@TourettesLife on Facebook

WWW.MrFishcomics.com

Instagram

He can also be found on Deviant Art and on Twitter 

Twitter

Your Child Is not His or Her Tics!

As a writer and mother of a beautiful 17 year old with Tourette’s, I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to speak to Fish today. I want to encourage all of you parents to keep coming back every Tuesday where we’ll bring a new success story to you. And if you, yourself, have Tourette’s and are thriving (or know someone who is – young or old) drop me a line at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com. I’d love to consider them for a Tico-Tuesday post or at least as happy face or art work on my Success Story wall!

Until next time,

May God grant you the courage to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

taco tuesday, Tourettes, writing

TIC-O Tuesday! Wait, I Have a Question (Coronavirus, Anxiety, TS and More!)

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When the Coronavirus hit in March, many parents were faced with questions about jobs, healthcare and homeschooling. And they weren’t the only ones. Lots of kids had questions, too. Luckily authors Amber Lappin, M. Ed. and Stephanie Machado-Jenkins, M.S.W., LCSW created a delightful book Wait, I Have a Question! which put a lot of younger minds to ease.

Since anxiety is such a common co-morbid condition of T.S., I reached out to these authors who graciously granted me an interview. And so, to re-boot my Taco Tuesday (which I’m renaming TIC-O Tuesday) here’s what these professionals had to say.

Book Description

Wait! I Have a Question!  is a book written for families with young children who are trying to find out how to explain the mixed-up, wild world of social distancing. Beautiful illustrations and a relatable story help kids make a little sense of this WEIRD crisis.

What Kinds of Kids Would Benefit From this Book?

The authors wrote, “We’re hoping children ages 3-7 will relate to Sebastian, a young boy who has BIG questions about why he has to stay at home, why his brother’s home from college, and how his sister is going to school. We hope that Sebastian’s feelings will be familiar and that the ways he learns to navigate them will open discussions for families.”

Why They Wrote It? (Psst: Steph and Amber became friends in high school- Class of ‘90!)

Steph began to first see the need in her client care. Parents were struggling with navigating the challenges of little separation between work and home life, and littles were responding to the physical presence of their parents and the lack of their availability during “work” hours.  Here’s the actual text:

THE BEGINNING.jpg

(Note from Andrea – any writers out there – this is how things get started sometimes. Check out my site over here or follow me on Facebook for more encouragement!)

Stephanie and Amber’s Professional Backgrounds

ephanie

Stephanie Machado-Jenkins is a clinical Social Worker.  She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Social Psychology and USC with a Master in Social Work. She owns a private practice and specializes in treating adults with a trauma history.  “I combine old fashioned ‘talk’ with expressive therapies,” she reports. She also teaches at a local university in their School of Social Work Department and serves as a field instructor for Master level Social Work students who are learning the art of clinical work.

amber

Amber began as a preschool teacher at ABC Child Care Centers in Temecula, CA, where she still works today. “This gave me an excellent foundation for learning to love and care for children-and the people who care for them,” she says. In the years that followed, she wore many hats: in the preschools as a curriculum and literacy specialist, in a large children’s ministry as a part of the admin team, as a trainer and as a curriculum writer and consultant.

“I soon found that my biggest passion was in caring for the adults who care for children, so I went back to school to earn a BS in Human Development at Hope International University, and a M.Ed. with a specialty in Early Education at Grand Canyon University. Now, I am part of the faculty team at Mt. San Jacinto’s Teacher Education and Developmental Studies Department (TEDS), a foster parent educator for Riverside City College and I still get to work with ABC and as a freelance a conference speaker, trainer, and writer.”

Personal Background

Stephanie is a first generation Mexican American and the daughter of an immigrant Mother.  “I grew up in the Los Angeles area and moved with my family to Riverside County in my Junior year in high school. I moved to West Los Angeles in 1990. I continue to reside in Southern California with her husband David and son, Xavier.”

Amber lives in Riverside County with her husband Jason and 20 year old twin daughters. “We also have a three-legged cat and a perfect dog.” She goes on to say, “My son works as a firefighter in New Mexico- which is way too far away for my liking.” She and her husband will celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary this year. “In our pre-pandemic lives, our hobbies were travel and eating at restaurants. Now, our hobbies are staying thankful and trying not to walk in on each other’s Zoom calls.”

Kids, Anxiety and This Book

In Wait! I Have a Question! Sebastian has GREAT ideas for addressing all sorts of feelings, including anxiety.  His “I CAN” list is a nice start. Instead of focusing on what he wasn’t allowed to do while social distancing, he made a list of things he could do.  Caregivers who are working with children struggling with anxiety can help kids make a list of things they can do, and then use it to help them focus on the now instead of what has happened or what might happen.

The authors stated, “Depending on your faith tradition, you may also find prayer helpful. It’s important that we don’t teach our kids that praying is a magic shield that keeps us safe from germs. Instead, we can use the time in prayer and meditation to take our worries and cares to God, and allow God to calm our hearts and minds. Incorporating deep breaths and undistracted times can settle our spirit as well as benefit our bodies.” They go on to add, “You may find apps like Calm and Headspace helpful.  Each app has a number of soothing meditation recordings that are great for kids.”

Talking About Feelings

Stephanie says, “I also strongly recommend that parents encourage their children to talk about how they feel.  Sometimes adults overlook that their children are also hearing newscasts that talk about people who are sick and the numbers of people across the world that have died.  This can have huge impacts on our children.  We have developed a conversation talking guide for this reason.  We encourage you to use the guides and get your children processing.”

In addition to talking about feelings she adds, “Movement is also a huge help.  In the last few weeks, we have enjoyed urban walking paths and outside water play (it’s been hot here) and this is also a good source of recreation and fun!”

Parents and Self-Care

(Note from Andrea – Ya’ll know I love this topic!) The writers encourage parents to engage in their own self-care. Stephanie says, “I am mindful of the fact that many of us no longer have work-life separation that could create an incredible imbalance in how we feel.  It’s important to set aside time to engage in activities that you enjoy.  Also, keep in mind that doing ‘nothing’ is in fact doing ‘something.’”

Routine vs. Play in Times of Quarantine

“Structure is important,” Stephanie says, “And it’s essential to lean into play and creativity.  Dr. Dan Siegel says, ‘Play produces possibility and potential.’ I have and will continue to stand by this. These times require an outlet so that we can move anxious and worried energy ‘up and out,’” she insists, going to on to emphasize, “All sorts of play allows us to rid ourselves of the feelings that weigh on us.  I’ll add that play is not just for kids.  Adults need to play too!  I regularly engage in play so that I feel connected to myself and that I am connected to a creative outlet that restores my soul.  I absolutely enjoy my ‘go to’ play activities such as painting, collaging, photography and baking.  I also reach out to my circle of friends and loud laugh regularly!  We clinicians have an awesome sense of humor!”

Structure

While Amber admits play is critical, she points out that structure is an equally wonderful grounding opportunity for both kids and parents. “During crises, when chaos seems to be an overarching theme, it helps when children can lean into the stability of at least a few familiar routines,” she says. “Keeping developing brains regulated with the structure of expected patterns in the day can also help minimize tantrums, anxiety, and squabbles.” I am recommending to parents of young children to draw up a loose version of the basic times of their day- a ‘flexible schedule’ if you will. As tempting as it is to let set times slide, this can be the root of some really wild behavior.”

She goes on to say, “Because it’s a totally mixed up, wild time, it’s okay to make bedtimes later and allow some ‘sleeping in.’ This may afford the parents some time to get up early and get work done before their littles wake up. But don’t forget that children under the age of 5 need about 11-13 hours of sleep a day (this can include naps.) That didn’t change just because of the pandemic! When you have a set bedtime (even if it’s later!) and a set wake up time (even though waking up small children seems plain wrong), you help your children get the sleep patterns they need to be able to rest well and function better throughout the day. (Hint: same for parents! They need healthy sleep cycles too!)

Collaboration During Times of Quarantine (For my Writers Out There!)

Amber and Steph had daily Zoom meetings including many a Sunday to get it done! They were aware of the many responsibilities they also had and were mindful of ensuring that their time spent was efficient and productive.

“We also shared Google pages so that we could jot down ideas and exchange thoughts as the book was being created,” Stephanie reports. “We were also good about the occasional late night texting so that we did not forget a critical piece of information as a thought struck us,”

Would They Do It Again?

“Absolutely!” both writers say. They have a few ideas in the hopper and would love to keep Sebastian’s adventures alive.  They are considering how they might collaborate on bringing social/emotional developmental workshops to different organizations and agencies.

The Illustrations

They had an incredible collaborator in Rock Barcellos, an illustrator in Brazil. He was able to perfectly catch the writers’ vision to bring Sebastian and his family to life!  He was also super patient with them as they were trying to work as quickly as possible to get this book out while it could still be useful for families (“We must’ve checked in with his progress several times a day!” Amber admits. “We could not be more pleased with the work that he did. He’s AMAZING.”

Tacos

Taco Tuesday is all about sharing joy with friends and family. If you were at my table, what kind of taco would you eat?

Amber says, “I’m a street tacos girl. Just give me some carne asada with some grilled veggies and some guac on a nice, soft, handmade tortilla, and you’ll not hear a single complaint out of me.”

Stephanie reports,”It has to be a chorizo potato taco!”

With that order out of the way, you can find more about these authors, the illustrator and the book here!

Facebook

Instagram

Amazon Paperback

Amazon Kindle

FREE companion printables

Until next time,

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you can not change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

Tics, Tourettes, writing

A Little Laughter Goes a Long Way (How to Keep from being a Beach on Wheels)

Mom + Daughter @Beach = Contentment

I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I’m reacting to this Covid 19 crisis in one of two ways:

  1. Everything is Fine! I will not freak out. All I can do is wash my hands, cut back on trips to the market, have faith that my job will still be there in a few months and enjoy every second I can with my kids before they graduate and try to block the memory of their mother shaking her bootie to Maroon 5’s “Sugar” every Taco Tuesday like a menopausal groupie.
  2. I am Freaking the BEEP Out.

Since #2 isn’t all that attractive, I’ve given myself some serious boundaries to make life more enjoyable in the Casa de Tic. And honestly, folk, after navigating Tourettes for over 10 years, I can promise you this: I might not have the “cure” for tics in the form of a pill or a magic diet, but my attitude goes a long way in keeping the symptoms down.

Yup, when I’m relaxed and not creating undue stress (yes, yelling and being generally a crazy person about where to place the potentially Corona infested Cheetos is not particularly helpful) my son is calm. And when he’s calm, there’s less tics!

Here’s 5 more things I’ve implemented on a daily basis that have gone a long way in setting a happy tone for the home.

  1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: If my son wants to have the last word on why he’s not comfortable going to the beach, despite quarantine restrictions being lifted in Ventura County – and despite my daughter and I being clear that we are going to stay 20 feet from people and just walk on the shoreline – that’s his right. I don’t have to cajole him. I don’t have to guilt him into leaving the house. I can worry all I want about him having been in the same two rooms of this house for the past six weeks, and conjure up all sorts of worst-case scenarios that involve a 35 year old man eating gluten free pizza in my basement in two decades, but I don’t have to share those projections with my son. (Also, we don’t own a basement, so that works out, doesn’t it?)
  2. Be Intentional with My Tone: Not all days are going to be winners for me, but for the most part, if I set out to have a good day, I have a good day. That often means being intentional about my attitude, even when things aren’t going particularly amazing for me. (Ex: Disagreements with my hubby about money, or my website having issues, or fear about this virus.) Despite perfection I can still play Michael Buble in the kitchen while I make toast. I can still read books every morning and take my mind into a new world rather than my own. I can still blast musicals on my way to Costco and call other people and ask how they are doing. When I go about making myself happy, I don’t take it out on my kids – especially my sensitive ticker.
  3. Stay Current: By “current” I mean that I have stopped living in the past or the future. I get to live in the “now” where the magic happens. The past, for me, includes how things used to be before he was diagnosed with Tourettes. (Back when he was three, and I thought his entire life was going to unfold as perfectly as an origami crane. But with no wrinkles. Nope, unlike you suckers, my baby bird would be perfect!) By “future” I mean I stopped judging his current situation by some ideal far ahead of where he is at this moment. I wasted a lot of years drowning in the fear of what was, or what could be, instead of grasping onto the gift of this very beautiful present. Staying current has made all the difference. I can only do this by sticking to #4:
  4. Gratitude: I am in so much gratitude these days. Yes, Dom’s tics are almost gone now – and I’m so grateful! (Parents of new tickers, did you hear that? There is HOPE!) But I’m in gratitude of far more things than tics. I’m grateful for a home. For a husband who I love and can count on. For a daughter who wants to sing show tunes with me. For a mom who still lives 15 minutes from me. For more friends than I can shake a very big stick at. By focusing on what is working in my life, as opposed to what is not, life is so much sweeter.
  5. Relaxation: With this imposed quarantine, I know how lucky I am to have a 4 bedroom house to hunker down in. I don’t want to waste this precious gift of time freaking out. Granted, I have had a few days of misery. And I give myself slack for those. This is a new normal and I’m an extrovert! It’s haaaard! But for the most part, I’ve had a ton of joy. Much of this is because I have given myself permission to keep a lighter pace. My kids also have had a lighter pace, and this helps in keeping tics to a minimum. Throw in a lot of dancing and really bad karaoke and you have one happy Andrea which, always, goes back to #1: A happier tone in the home.

Positive Outcome Stories

I want to share a snippet of a letter I got from a dad who says he read my book two times. He wrote me to let me know how happy he was that this blog, and my next book, would be focusing on positive outcomes. To summarize, he wrote, “The internet is full of worse case scenarios…we need more writing out there that reminds us worried parents that our kids will be okay.”

So that, my friends, is what you will continue to get. You will get a ton of posts that remind you that a positive attitude can go a very very long way in raising a child that is successful despite a few tics. And, of course, I will continue to bring you interviews with top experts, parents of kids who are older and doing well (right, Carrie?), videos, books and… wait for it… a chance for you parents of younger kids to sign up to play Minecraft with Dom.

In closing, as I always say, thank you for reading. If you’re scared, feeling alone, worried about your child or generally confused about what to do next, I have a suggestion for you. Sign up for this blog (bottom of this page), join me on Facebook and let this sink into your bones: Your child is perfect, Tourettes or not. You are not alone. We’re in this together.

So happy almost Monday! And remember, if you can’t fix the tics, fix yourself! Do something fun for yourself, okay? I promise you – it will make all the difference.

Until next time,

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Boundaries vs. Expectations and Teenagers + Tic Update

So today, like Saturday, started out so good! I meditated! I prayed! Today was Day 2 for me in Oprah and Deepak’s free meditation and it’s soooo worth the time. Today’s theme? Hope. Um, yeah, we can use this a bit these days!

I journaled. I prayed for friends. I was so refreshed! I was ready for the day – one foot on the earth and one in the heavens where the God of my understanding resides.

And then I came downstairs and the teens had different ideas about being ready for the day than I did. I didn’t show frustration or dish out shame like Saturday. (Hooray for progress!) But the co-dependent in me was irritated that they were irritated. If people would just behave I wouldn’t have issues, right?!

Mark Nepo, in his book, The Endless Practice, talks so beautifully about how problems – so often of our own making – occur when our soul that wants to soar like a hawk is bound to the earth. It’s not the challenge of being on the earth but in our resistance to being rooted that causes conflict.

Like I am reminded of in my 12 step program, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” When I get into grr over not getting my way, it’s never the situation itself that is the problem but the fact that I fight what I think I deserve. I argue with people not meeting my expectations (as if I know all the answers?) And in the middle of that tug of war I forget to take a breath and ask God for help. It doesn’t have to be a big drawn out prayer. “Help!” works just fine.

Awareness – A Double Edged Sword

Awareness is a beautiful thing in my life, because I’m learning ever so slowly that the only person I can truly control is myself. In times of quarantine, it’s particularly lovely to remember this. But it’s also a painful lesson to learn, because “good parenting” and “toxic control” for this A-personality sometimes get mixed up. I take things too personally and really, that’s not good for anyone.

For you parents of kids out there – especially teens – tell me how you are managing setting expectations but letting go when they do what teenagers do!

Tic Update

For those of you who have been following me for a long time, I want to give you an update on Stink with his permission. That update? He barely tics at all. Some of this is because he is now 17 and a half. Tics naturally slow down as the teen years come to a close. Some of it is because he is not that stressed out anymore due to a more lax school schedule. But a lot of it, and I really believe this last bit, is because I have calmed down.

I’m a big believer in energy, and as woo woo as this is going to sound, I believe that my energy and his are very interlinked. We have always “gotten” each other so well. When he started ticking as a young boy I was so worried about it that I’m convinced my spike in fear created additional spikes in his symptoms. When I calmed down – with a boatload of work on myself and faith in something greater than me – he calmed down.

One of my readers here, Jeff, talks about his Tourettes sometimes. So, Jeff, I want to know: do you agree with any of my thoughts above? That in releasing my fears of tics that his tics have settled down? Would love your opinion.

Isaac, Abe and Eye Rolls

I’m reminded of that Old Testament chapter where God asks Abraham to put Isaac on the altar. Good Old Abe doesn’t want to, but he trusts God, and when he does, Isaac’s life is spared.

To me, this is not a story to be taken literally, but rather it demonstrates what happens when we place our idols down. I was making Tourettes an idol, and when I said, “God, you take Stink, he’s not mine to control” peace was granted both for Stink’s symptoms and my own internal emotions.

Happy Monday! I hope you are finding some peace within the fear of the virus and some love despite less than perfect circumstances.

Whether your kids tic or not, or drive you crazy (or not) I wish you nothing but the best as this week goes on. And be good to yourselves! You – and the kids – are worth your peace of mind.

Andrea

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

faith, God, humor, meditation, sobriety, spirituality, writing

Coronavirus Rushed in While Our Focus Was Elsewhere


Jez Timms @Unspash
The click bait title above was waiting for me in my in-box first thing this morning.
The Los Angeles Times wrote, “The Trump impeachment. The death of Kobe Bryant. The crowded Democratic presidential field. We dive into the fleeting days of 2019 and the first three months of 2020, when America and the world were looking elsewhere as an intruder crept in.”

That’s some heavy stuff. I’m not surprised, with headlines like this, that everyone looks at each other in the super market with just a little less kindness. As if simply asking about their day is some sort of manipulative gesture to snatch from extra toilet paper from under their cart. I can’t help but wonder if we put as much in energy into focusing on what was working, instead of what wasn’t, if our mental attitudes wouldn’t be that much more serene.

More Gratitude/Less Attitude

Okay, so that sounds super cheesy, but but I do feel like I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve been in 12 step too long, also, to not see the miracles that happen to me and those around me when I look for the good. It doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t happening in the world, but it does mean that good things are happening, too.

Covid 10 is a Virus, But So is Love. And Guess What? Both Are Contagious.

It is a simple fact that so many of us are feeling the strain of Covid 19, but my geraniums? Not so much. In fact, they’re more alive than ever! (Including a new baby second to the front that I snatched from a neighbor’s garden. My son, ever the honest chap, was not so happy at my thievery. I told him to go back and play some video games. Jesus would understand.)

On the subject of gratitude, when I stepped outside tonight with my husband and daughter for our nightly walk around the block, I smiled as my eye spotted a wind chime given to me by my ex-inlaws for Christmas one year. (Did you know I was married for a year back in college? Well, now you do. He is no longer alive, sadly, but his parents and I still keep in touch. Sidenote: This is why you and I can never meet in real life, because once I know you, you’re stuck with me for eternity. Right, Jodee? And that’s a lot of Christmas gifts to be sending everyone!)

Windchime toward the top.

I have a fridge full of food, a husband making pizza and Alexa is currently playing Christmas classics because, in a pandemic, I need a little cheer to remind me that there will be gifts at the end of this crisis. The gifts might not come in the form of material items, but when I’m patient, I can find them just about everywhere I look.

Reading – My Favorite Gift to Stay Present

Today’s reading from Mark Nepo spoke about trust, and for me, it’s become very clear that when I trust God, I’m fine. When I don’t trust Him – when I think it’s up to me to run the entire show – I get agitated, cranky and I blame everyone else for my issues.

Mark Nepo’s The Endless Practice – such great insight and beauty

I don’t want to live like that, people. But yesterday, despite a great beginning to my day, it didn’t end so well. The trick for me, because I’m in constant gratitude, is that I didn’t have to live in my pile of resentment. Unlike my drinking days, where I didn’t like being stuck in my crap but at least it was warm, these days it stinks too much.

So this morning, after sleeping in from an emotional hangover, I got up and meditated. I read some Mark Nepo. I journaled and I said to God what I often say when I can’t get out of my own head: God, help me set aside everything I think I know about this particular issue, and direct my attention to how you’d have me be.

Notice it’s not “What would you have me do.” Either God is, or he isn’t. I don’t need to self-will my way into “fixing” everything. Sometimes I just to let it pass, whether that means butting into someone’s business, giving unwanted advice or somehow thinking I know more than the next person. Um, not true.

I don’t know who your God is, but maybe you can relate to what happens you don’t trust this energy source. It never ends well. I’m so grateful for do-overs every single day.

Here’s what I published on my Facebook page. And I’m happy to say that all’s well that ends well. Not all days are gonna be winners, but with some trust in God – especially on Easter – I’m grateful to rise above my own anger and start over with love again.

Who remembers this episode?

Easter, 12PM

Yesterday started out so beautiful. I woke up deliciously late. I prayed and I meditated. I journaled.

For the first time in a very long time I allowed myself to rest.

No agenda.

No rushed pace.

I prayed for the world in crisis, but I also made an intention to enjoy my present. And that present was mine for the taking: beautiful weather, a walk with my husband, and a trip to Costco where I’d shop for myself and a few folk who can’t get out. Given I would not be back for two weeks at least (please no more messages to me about hand washing and shopping – I get it!) I thought I was in great mental and spiritual shape to get my groceries and go.

But when I got there, the mask kept steaming my glasses. And while I remained patient and asked for help, I started to feel defeated. “Is this what it’s like to be old?” I sighed. “To take 15 minutes to find beans because I can’t read the numbers on the aisles?”

When I got to the register – exhausted – the women (looking more like surgeons than cashiers with their gloves and face coverings) kept pushing me to get my items on the conveyor belt quicker than was my comfort level. “I need to split these items into sections,” I explained. “Are you ready now?” they would bark any time I’d stop briefly to check my cart.

“I’m not ready” I told them, inhaling air to center myself (as best I could with the little oxygen I had inside my mask) and attempting to remember that they deal with crazy customers like me all day long.

“Please wait while I figure it out,” I stated calmly, watching my food roll forward at a pace not unlike the episode where Lucy finds herself madly rearranging chocolates at the candy factory.

The conveyor belt doesn’t stop!” grunted one of the women who I swear was a Sue Sylvester look-alike.

I took a deep breath, looked at her in the eye and stated not unlike a female Terminator of big bulk shopping: “Stop the belt.

Which she did.

A miracle!

Either she found the pause button on the endless metal machine or she, like me, decided if she didn’t pause her own mouth she would murder me before ringing up my total.

$325 later, one stop to a friend and a big unload to a neighbor, I made it home.

It was now 7PM. I had promised my son I’d play Dungeons and Dragons by 730PM. Assuming that nothing got in the way of unpacking, all would be well. (Side note: I’m really working on being someone of follow through. If I can’t be on time for my kids, how can I expect them to be on time for me?)

But somehow in that limited 30 minutes left I had allotted myself, I forgot about dinner. And then my husband – in an effort to be helpful to get us closer to our 730 game time – put the food I had intended to sit out for 3 days to “de-Corona bug” on the clean side of the table. Oh, and my nutritious intake that day? Nothin’ but some dry toast and jelly. (It’s shocking I wasn’t in my fittest spiritual and mental condition.)

I lost it.

In front of the kids.

In essence, I forgot to tell myself to “Stop the belt!”

“Noooo! That’s the clean table cloth side! Now I have to remove the table cloth, do laundry and start over again before the game!” I barked.

In my mind I was going to be that hipster doctor from Michigan, calmly separating the food and spraying down the cardboard/cans with clean white rags and measured breath. Instead I morphed into the Tazmanian devil jacked up on Starbucks fighting invisible germ bugs with In and Out Burger napkins because Lysol Wipes have been about as elusive as the end to this crisis. It wasn’t pretty. #insanity

And all those big attempts to be present for my family and be a good neighbor went to hell. There would be no game because James and I were not speaking. The kids, who aren’t used to us arguing anymore, went into their shells and began drawing instead. I once tried to sit down to which my daughter, calm as a cucumber, said, “We would like a little time to ourselves, Mom. No disrespect.” None taken. Who could blame them? I wanted some time away from myself as well, but I don’t drink anymore. There was no where to hide. I just would have to sit in my feelings for a little bit.

I was consumed with guilt. What’s the point of praying and meditating if I’m going to let my own family down. And, more to the point, let myself down?

And then this voice came into my head that answered that very question – that voice that I can only hear when I don’t try to fix stuff but instead allow myself just to feel what is going on. “Because you are human, Andrea. You are not God. How about you let it go. These aren’t exactly normal times.”

So I attempted to do that. James had gone to bed so my apology to him would have to wait until later. But I told my kids that I was sorry for not being my best.

I listened to them instead of making excuses. (Ouch, that wasn’t easy.)

And at midnight, when I still couldn’t sleep, I took a long ride through the city with my daughter. We looked at the empty streets and I finished listening to her new love “Hadestown.” I then offered up one of my old favorites, “The Jazz Singer” (“Those are some serious power ballads, Mom!” she informed me).

We then sat in the dark front of my childhood church – the one I would not be able to go to for Easter services a few hours later thanks to Covid 19 – and just took a breath.

Like today’s reading from Mark Nepo, I’m starting to really get the fact that life isn’t always about the ups. The downs are part of it also. It’s in the acceptance that I don’t have to get it right, but keep pushing that ball of light up the hill, that I can find serenity.

This Easter morning are no eggs. There are no baskets. But perhaps new life can begin again with my family. I can talk to my husband about what was really behind my reaction to the food on the table. (Fear.) I can play some music and make some lunch. (Nurture.) I can ask if my kids want to try again on Dungeons and Dragons next Saturday. (Openness) And I can trust that the God of my understanding doesn’t expect me to be perfect. I just need to get off that Costco Conveyor belt of life and remember that this, too, shall pass.

Happy Easter, everyone. May you die to the harsh expectations you have of yourself and others and live in the new life of today. Even with our struggles, if we are present to them, there is so much joy to be found in their teachings.

Andrea

Happy Easter everybody!

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

faith, God

Today Sucked. I Don’t Trust God. And Subbing.

 @krisroller at Unsplash

So I did what I said I would do in my last post: I wrote down my dreams. “Dear God, I want to write the musical you want me to write. Amen.”

Then I proceeded to be bullied by a kid in class. I told him I’d call his mom if he kept acting nuts.

“Oh, okay,” he said, dead eyed. “I’ll tell her what you did last semester and you’ll be fired.”

Um, I got on his case last October for acting like a butt wipe, and when I realized I was a harsher with my tone than I’d liked, I immediately apologized.

“She won’t do anything,” he says out loud to the class. “She’s afraid of me.”

The truth? I kind of am. I don’t want to be sued. I don’t want to lose my job. I don’t want… on and on.

You know what? That kind of fear sucks.

I proceeded to call my sponsor who flat out told me that I don’t trust God. If I did, I wouldn’t be on Year 2 of going in the opposite direction of what I’ve been gifted in.

I agree with that statement, but I’m also a fan of putting food on the table for my kids. And so I find myself, yet again, like the beautiful lady in the above photo. I’m half way between where I find myself working and half way between my dream. I’m just sitting still… and yet the chasm isn’t that large. Why? Why do I fill my days with busy busy busy? One more kid to watch. One more Ebay item to sell (despite saying I wouldn’t do that anymore). Oh, right… because I don’t trust God enough.

But why have I not worked harder at a new job?

Why have I not yet turned in that pilot?

Why have I not really sat down and looked at my musical outline in 6 months?

Am I just a big talker?

Lucky for me the night ended with a blog comment from someone who had read a Tourettes post. She said, “You are so inspiring. Thanks for your book.”

Just kidding.

“You’re an axxhole” she writes. “Get educated on what Tourettes is. There are kids who are really hurting out there.”

I think this day will just go down as the day I might agree I don’t trust God 100%. But also it will go down as the day that I’m realizing I can’t figure out this stuff all at once. I have come so far. I’m so proud of my family and my internal strength.

But today, to quote that commenter, I feel like an axxhole.

Hope your day went better.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Uncategorized

Can You Please Stop Making That Sound or I’ll Kill You (And other tales of misophonia)

Photo from Unsplash
Artist: Noah Buscher@noahbuscher

It’s been a long time since I wrote about Tourette Syndrome. Part of that is because I needed to switch to a new direction for my own mental health. After spending years obsessing about changing my son, and then taking things way too personally in how other people reacted to him (Overly Controlling & Sensitive Mom Behind Door #3!) it became imperative to write about my other passions.

Also my 13-year-old son got tired of his syndrome being written about. If I learned anything from raising a teenage boy, it was to honor his needs, not mine, when it came to writing. And so, I cut the internet cord! (And I didn’t even need anesthesia.)

That said, when Writer of Words posted this article on certain noises driving her crazy I had to chime in. In it she talks about Misophonia.

What Exactly is Misophonia?

Harvard Health Publishing (from Harvard Medical School) describes it as follows: “People with misophonia are affected emotionally by common sounds — usually those made by others, and usually ones that other people don’t pay attention to. The examples above (breathing, yawning, or chewing) create a fight-or-flight response that triggers anger and a desire to escape.

Audiologists have found that misophonia is an inner ear issue as sufferers have acute hearing. What makes their hearing different than another person with exceptional ears is that unlike a “normal” person, misophoniacs obsess about the sound long after it’s gone. They anticipate when it’s going to come back. And often they cannot sleep for fear of it interrupting their serenity.

Where Does Misophonia Come From

Many folk with OCD deal with this, but it’s not considered a mental health issue. Misophonia hasn’t been researched much, but according to WebMd:

“The age of the onset of this lifelong condition is not known but some people report symptoms between the ages of 9 and 13. Misophonia is more common with girls and comes on quickly, although it doesn’t appear to be related to any one event.”

Symptoms of Misophonia

  • Anxiety
  • Irritation
  • Impulse to run
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Hatred
  • Despair
  • Fantasy thinking

For a long time I didn’t know I had this disorder. I just thought I was nuts. My son’s throat clears and grunts would make me insane with anger. I would either rage at him, begging him to channel his sounds a different way, or I would find myself running away.

Escape took many forms: literally leaving the house, not being present when I was with him, over spending and eventually drinking. Sure drinking took the edge off temporarily, but the sounds only felt more excruciating the next morning with a headache. It felt hopeless.

Relief from Misophonia

After giving up drinking, I was thrilled that my 12-step program had relieved so many of my unhealthy escape patterns and reactions. Hypnotherapy and meditation was also a powerful, natural sedative for my overactive brain, but it didn’t relieve all of it.

It wasn’t until someone in my daughter’s friendship circle was diagnosed with misophonia that I realized, “Oh my God, that’s me!” Knowing my out of control reactions to noise stimuli wasn’t my fault changed everything for me. It was reassuring to know I wasn’t just odd or being an intolerant mom. I had an actual condition! Plus it helped to know that many super creative folk, including Franz Kafka, dealt with the condition. Turns out that the very thing that causes misophonia sufferers distress is the same thing that allows them to so sensitively tap into the human condition.

Personally I’ve talked to many folk since my diagnosis and the one thing we’ve all had in common is that we are more triggered when we are stressed out. It was a sick co-dependent vortex in my case, because my son also ticked when he got stressed. His tics made me more ragey due to misophonia, and that made him tic more. Fun times! What next?

After trying a million miracle cures to “fix” my son (from medication and meditation to gluten-free/dairy free diets and more supplements than Frankie Bergstein has joints) I made a decision to stop the madness. Like in a bloody war battle, I had two choices: My relationship with my family could die based on my insane need for control, or I could surrender. I chose the second and my life has been on an upswing ever since.

The Spiritual Side of Misophonia

In relinquishing my need to manage my son’s noises, I began to control my own issues with sounds. As a sober alcoholic I knew only too well what a lack of discipline did to my life. And just like with giving up alcohol, I knew I didn’t have to handle my diagnosis, and my son’s, by myself.

I leaned on my community and family.

I began a spiritual practice.

I brought in amazing self-care.

I gave myself permission to not be a perfect mother.

I reached out to others who were dealing with a diagnosis they could not change. In helping others, I was infused with such purpose and hope. It turns out you really can’t obsess about your own problems while helping someone else navigate their’s. Plus it turns out that the endorphins from assisting others lasted much longer than any temporary relief from noises. And, unlike Misophonia, they brought about so much peace.

There is some serious humor in God pairing a noisy ticker with a sound sensitive mama, but now I wouldn’t change it for a thing. Tourettes and misophonia forced me to give up any preconceived ideas I had about what I needed to be happy. When I was able to surrender, I channeled my misophonia into listening for the blessings in my life instead focusing with laser beam precision on the negatives. Acceptance and transformation of what was once so ominous has brought about far more joy than any quick fix for these syndromes could.

Hope for the Misophonia Sufferer

Any fellow misophonia folk out there… it gets better. And when you’re struggling, feel free to reach out. You might say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I “hear” ya.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

education, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Where Are You, God? It’s Me, Andrea

I love our church hospitality, in particular the coffee urinals!

I sat down to write a post about Magic Church today, only to find that there was an active shooter at a garlic festival not terribly far from me in Gilroy.

Really? Is this what we have come to? Slaying people at forums whose sole purpose is to eat stinky veggies and forget worries for at least one day?

I know that violence has been going on forever in so many communities. I know that guns and crime and poverty isn’t new. But what IS newer and newer is lack of community. We spend more time on phones than with real people. It’s easy to be up on the latest trends but not notice that people are slipping away from us slowly from lack of contact with others.

I suppose this lack of connection that I sometimes feel in my own life makes me enjoy Magic Church even more than someone who has a big extended family in and out of their life on a daily basis. I can’t get enough of the rag tag worship team, the bell choir in their white gloves ringing in a new holiday or a modern hymn, or today’s post-church luau.

I don’t understand the world lately, but I do know one thing: When we lose our connection to people – even the ones that bother us down to our core – we lose humanity. And when that happens, we get the idea that maybe taking a machine gun and killing innocent people is a better idea than facing our own wounds and healing.

I beg of all of you, this Sunday night, to consider talking to someone in the grocery store. Offer a kind word to your neighbor – even the one that chats too much or uses you for too much flour. Call your mother tomorrow (Yes, Mom, I’ll call you) and stop worrying about shit that doesn’t matter. It’s the shit in our lives that DO matter. Find a community you can heal in.

And if nothing else, you heard it from me: You are loved. You are valuable. You are going to be okay. You are worth a banquet of nurturing. Yup, even the good glasses!

Leave a Comment

You can also like my page, Happily Ticked Off, or join my female only closed Facebook Group, Happily Ticked Off, where we trudge toward happiness one step at a time (focusing on solution, humor and God.)

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

education, faith, God, parenting, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Writing Wednesday: Happily Ticked Off, Chapter 1

4

The the next couple of months for writing Wednesdays I am posting a chapter of my book, Happily Ticked Off. If you like it what you see, you can buy one in the link below. If you just want to read it week after week for free, that works, too.

Why Post a Chapter a Week for Folk? (Um, that’s putting it up for free, Dumb Ass.)

My goal is to get people to think about their own writing projects as well as give some love to moms and dads out there who have struggled with this condition in their households. (Though it was dedicated to the mamas.)

This book was not about fixing Tourette Syndrome. It was about helping people have a transition in their thinking: To know that while they might not be able to change a disorder they most certainly can use it as an opportunity to transform themselves.

For those that just want quick fixes, I say go for it. There’s a ton of resources out there to promise you the moon on that. But here’s the real truth: if you don’t come to terms first with your perspective on the diagnosis… on any diagnosis… you might end up like me: frustrated and discontent when the next weed comes along to ruin your perfect garden.

Life doesn’t always happen to us as we expect. But it’s what we do with our challenges growth opportunities that can make us bitter or make us better. While I’m still unsure sometimes of my path (just ask my bff Tuskany or Amelia) I know that when I remember I don’t know the answers, but God does, I stop struggling and just live in… what’s that word? Oh, yeah. Peace.

And so, with no further adieu, here you go! Let me know what you think and let me know about your projects, too!

book cover

Dedication

This is for you, Mamas.

When my son was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome seven years ago, I encountered loads of disheartening information on the internet about tics, ADHD, OCD and disturbed children with behavior problems.

I found blogs full of victimhood stories and medications gone wrong.

I found a few helpful but ultimately dry informational books written from medical and nutritional viewpoints on how to suppress tics through natural or pharmaceutical means.

What I didn’t encounter, however, was a book on humor, support and most importantly, hope.

So I wrote one.

This book is not just for mamas dealing with Tourette Syndrome. It’s a love letter for all you moms dealing with an unexpected diagnosis. It’s the book I wish someone had written for me when I was hopeless, angry, and feeling so very alone.

It’s my sincere hope that this mom-moir will serve as one giant hug for your fears. May it whisper into your heart, “You did not cause this disorder. You are strong enough to handle it. Your child is perfect despite some medical challenges. You are not alone. I am here. YOU CAN DO THIS.”

For all you mamas out there who are hanging by a thread, I’m asking you to tie a knot and hang on. Happily Ticked Off was written for you.

****

Prologue

Happily TICked Off

 

“Your son has Tourette Syndrome.”

I looked up at a stern woman in her late 30’s. She had her arms folded tightly against her heart. (If she had a heart. The verdict was still out.) Black and silver hair spilled down her white lab coat, covering up her name tag. “Dr. Badbedside Manners.”

Combined with her pale skin and silver jewelry, she looked like a cross between Stevie Nicks and the Bride of Frankenstein. The diagnosis she just handed me didn’t make me less terrified of her.

Stop being a wussy, I told myself.

I glanced at the diploma on her wall and collected my thoughts. I had to admit, only a delusional freak would be surprised by her words. After all, my four-year-old had been referred to her only after I had already depleted every cent of my family’s HMO deductible on allergy testing, vision tests and more pediatric visits than my son had Scooby Doo band-aids. I was hoping all these visits would provide an answer to why my kid would transition from clearing his throat several times per minute to rolling his eyes side to side in rapid succession.

How I loved the pattern of those eyes on my retro kitty tic-toc clock! The predictable back and forth motion never ceased to instill a profound sense of joy and fun as I sipped my morning coffee and stared at them. Seeing them on my child? Not so much fun. Far from viewing it as kooky and eccentric, those eye rolls inspired nothing less than primal fear.

And anger.

Which… I’m ashamed to say… I took out on the kit-kat clock earlier that morning.

Only a bad mother would take out her irritation on a preschooler.  But that cat? She was fair game.

First she lost her tail. Then she was shattered to bits in a moment of pure frustration when my son morphed from eye rolls into unexpected gulps. Those tics, and that cat, had to go.

I tried to squelch the tears brimming behind my eyes. I wish my husband were here to hold my murderous little hand.

He was not. And that stunk.

Perhaps it was because I was alone on that ill-fated day that the revelation hit me so hard. Perhaps if Rex had been there to steady me . . . to wrap me in those strong, lithe arms of his . . . the blow would have felt less intense.

Lucky for me, I recovered quickly. I was the queen of composure.

“Tourette’s? You mean… But how…Wah wah HUH?”

Dr. Badbedside Manners didn’t twitch, and not just because she didn’t have Tourette Syndrome.  Likely she was used to moms like me. Moms who, despite hope against hope … despite seeing the signs themselves for months on end …were banking on a different outcome.

I’d hoped to hear he had a vitamin deficiency. Instead, I was handed a nightmare. With nothing more than a few words about this little known syndrome, I was told to come back in six months.

When I called my husband on the car ride home, I had only one statement: “Nicky has Tourette Syndrome.”

My husband had only one answer. “What happened to the kitchen clock?”

I hung up the phone and sobbed like a baby.

And that, my friends, was the beginning of a hellish six years.

Determined that no mama should go through what I did, I wrote a book.

This is the story I wish someone had written for me. My hopes are that it saves not only people’s sanities, and their marriages, but also perfectly innocent kit-cat clocks. No time-piece, no matter how annoying, deserves that kind of brutality.

This is my journey.

This is my story.

If you’re up upset at your child’s diagnosis, whether it be T.S., Autism or some other spectrum disorder, I want you to know I’ve been there.

I’ll have you Happily Ticked Off in no time. How about we start with a few facts I wish someone had sent to me during the first lonely, dark leg of this journey.

 FACTS and HOPE

 Tics or a T.S. Diagnosis

If you’ve picked up this book there’s a decent chance your child has recently begun to tic or has just been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.  You’re pretty ticked off.

My son was diagnosed at 4 years with T.S.. He’s now 12. He’s well-adjusted, funny and loaded with friends. With the right plan and perspective your child can have a similar outcome.

Freak-out time

You want to believe me, but you’re still panicked. Second only to dismay over this new diagnosis is the regret that you didn’t invest stock in the Kleenex Corporation. You can’t stop crying.

Neither could I. I’d sob to myself, my friends, my family – even bewildered gas station cashiers who simply wanted to sell me a Diet Coke – not hear a dissertation on the boring clinical definition of Tourette’s.

Boring Clinical Definition of Tourette’s

Named for Georges Gilles de la Tourette in 1885, Tourette’s consists of both vocal and physical tics that wax and wane in nature and last up to one year.  I’ll get into more detail later, but for now, let’s move on to something you can really relate to… like whining!

 “What happened to my perfect little boy?” was my broken record, twenty four hours a day. No one had an answer, but I have one for you: nothing has happened to your child. Your child is still perfect. Just hang tight. I survived this initial scary period and you will, too. I promise.

It’s Not Fair

You know life isn’t perfect and this condition could be a heck of a lot worse, but you’re still upset. You can’t see the big picture when you’re living the unsettling, fearful present.

In the subconscious recesses of my mind, I knew Tourette’s would one day be viewed as a present, but that didn’t keep me from spending the next seven years looking for the gift receipt. “Thank you, but no thank you. I appreciate the thought, but I’d like to return this for something else. Perhaps a good case of musical genius, a pitcher’s arm, or the ability to burp the Ave Maria.”

The Symptoms

Maybe you have no official label yet, but something is wrong and you’re freaking out. What you used to see as your child’s occasional quirky habits has morphed into unrelenting blinks, eye rolls, jerky head nods and spastic facial grimaces.

It’s hard to watch your child go through this, but stay strong. Tics are like visiting in-laws who invade over Thanksgiving – they’re annoying, can drive you to drink, and just when you get used to them they take off as quickly as they arrived.

The Nature of Tics

Like the departure of your extended family, you feel immense relief that the tics are gone. But Christmas is just around the corner. You have a deep sense of foreboding that those tics – and those in-laws – will be back. What if this time they bring friends?

It’s true that after a quiet period, tics often return. Sometimes kids exhibit the same tic as before and add a different one. Sometimes one tic goes completely away only to be replaced by a new one altogether. Like your Aunt Sally, tics are eccentric and always changing. At least they don’t wear housecoats and smell like old musk.

The Evil of the Internet

You are a normally well-balanced person, but you begin to worry something more serious is at the root.  After searching like a mad woman on the internet, you’re bombarded with hundreds of frightening outcomes for your child.

Seriously, this isn’t helpful. Turn off the computer. (Okay, fine. Don’t listen to me. Keep researching deep into the night like a crazed lunatic. I did the same. But let me reiterate THIS ISN’T HELPFUL.)

Perspective Lost

You begin to slide down the rabbit hole. In that dark pit, you become dizzy and disoriented. You lose perspective. You go to dismal places like brain cancer.

It’s not brain cancer. Your overworked mama brain, however, is spinning like a jacked up tilt-o-whirl on truck stop java. Stop the ride!  Minus some extra dopamine, your child’s brain is perfectly healthy.

Perspective Gained

In most cases – as will be the journey relayed in this book – T.S. and tics remain mild to moderate until adulthood.  Then like your wonky Uncle Donny and Cousin Frankie, they disappear altogether. (Pssst…it’s such a relief no one goes looking for them!)

Focusing on positive outcomes can really keep your negative thinking in check. If you can’t instantly change the tics, change your thinking.

Severe Cases & Seeking Medical Attention

In extreme scenarios (which you’ll get plenty of if you don’t listen to me and scour the internet into all hours of the night) you’ll find cases of children screeching, spitting, jerking and having to be hospitalized.  This is rare. The thought, however, is understandably upsetting.  As with mild tics, it’s always advisable to seek medical attention.

Start with your primary care physician who can then refer you to a neurologist if needed. Don’t be surprised if, after seeing your pediatrician, they seem very unconcerned. Your “emergency tic OH MY GOD IT COULD BE SEIZURES” situation is very commonplace to doctors. It can take months to see a neurologist. I say this not to frustrate you but to assure you that your child isn’t the first one to ever experience this.

Identifying the Triggers (as well as the ever-important legal term known as “Butt Coverage”).

I am not a doctor. I am not a certified nutritionist. I am not a psychologist. I am, however, a mother who has been dealing with Tourette’s for over eight years. This book will share what has eased my son’s symptoms, what has exasperated them, what has eased my symptoms of panic, and what has exasperated them.

Even if your child is dealing with an acute onslaught of tics, the present doesn’t need to indicate the future. Many mothers, with time and patience, have pinpointed triggers for their children’s symptoms. Once these triggers were eliminated, they were able to drastically reduce the tics.

Medication vs. Supplements

You are not a patient person. You want to stop the tics this instant and are bent on getting a prescription for Clonodine or Tenex quicker than you can say Giles De la Tourette. You want a quick fix, and medication is your answer.

That is a very personal choice and I support you on that journey.  I have considered this possibility for my own son, especially now that he’s in those tumultuous ‘tween years. I’ll keep you updated on this at my blog, http://www.HappilyTickedOff.com.

Self-Esteem

Many of you will opt for a more natural route to easing tics, but you worry about your child’s self-esteem while you work out a game plan. You don’t want him teased. Your heart breaks that some nasty kid will poke fun at his arm-thrusting tic.

I understand your concern. I was crushed at the prospect of some bully tormenting my baby. But I set my emotions aside and focused on a more important reality:  Cruel kids are going to tease other children whether or not those children have tics.  My son’s heart, character and personality would define him, not his tics.

“That’s easier said than done,” you might wail.

To that I will respond with a resounding, “Duh.” But with practice, you’ll learn to focus on your child’s strengths, not his tics.

Mild Tics/Mild Annoyance

If your child has mild tics, there’s a good chance he doesn’t notice them or isn’t bothered by them.

This last statement is hard to believe, but it’s true. Your kid might be happily watching Spongebob, coughing like a bronchitis-stricken seal six times a minute, and his only complaint at the end of the show will be, “Mommy, I could really go for a bologna and cheese sandwich.”

Your Child’s Life Is Not Over

To highly tuned-in mamas like yourselves, your children’s inability to be affected by tics is baffling, because every minor gulp, throat clear and tongue click will be magnified into LOUD! RICOCHETING! EXPLOSIONS!  They will boom like a foghorn in your ringing ears, taunting you that your child’s life is O-V-E-R.

Your child’s life is far from over. Tics or T.S. is not a death sentence. The only thing that needs to die is your old vision of what you thought your child’s life would look like. He can experience as much success as a non-ticking child.

It’s Not Your Fault

I’d lie if I said I have 100% embraced T.S., but with some experience under my belt, I have better days than worse days. I might make my kid eat broccoli on purpose, but I didn’t give him T.S. on purpose. I don’t blame myself for his condition.

Whether your child has a unique case of T.S. or he had a genetic pre-disposition to it, stop feeling guilty about it. Focus instead on passing down other incredible gifts to your child, such as the ability to stay curious about life, the ability to love, the ability to experience endless joy and the ability to tell a killer joke. (Never underestimate that last talent. It far surpasses tics any day of the week.)

You Feel Like You Could Die

“I’m devastated,” you might moan. “Acceptance is about as likely to happen for me as winning the Lottery. And frankly, I’d trade in tics for a million dollar jackpot any day of the week.”

 Unlike tics that often appear out of nowhere, transformation doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need time to both accept this crazy syndrome as well as come up with a protocol that will lessen your child’s symptoms. You need to be patient.

Patience-Schmatience

“How can I be patient?” You’ll snap. “As if I didn’t already have the stress of bills, housecleaning, work and a husband who, for the record, seems eerily unshaken by these tics and has no idea why I’m freaking out, I now have to listen to lip smacking five times a minute for three hours straight?!?!”

To this I’ll respond, “Patience comes when you stop paying such close attention.”

And to that you will respond with something that sounds like “I hate you, you self-righteous –know-it- all- bad-bad-lying-liar-who-lies writer lady.”

Go ahead. I can take it. I can also handle your protests about how you’ve tried not to pay attention to your kid’s noises, but you can’t help yourself.

It Gets Better

“There he goes again!” you’ll complain, as you read this introduction and scan for tics with the obsession of a hound dog sniffing out convicts. (Congrats on the multi-tasking, btw.)

To all this I will heartily add that I have been there. I get it. It will get better.

No one Understands!

You very likely will roll your eyes, wondering for a brief moment if you yourself have tics but then realize you’re simply being catty to me which, again, I forgive you. You will then convince yourself that no one else could possibly understand your frustration and hopelessness.

But I do understand it.  I have been locked in car rides through the desert where no amount of country music could drown out my son’s post swimming throat clears. For days afterwards, similar to Old Faithful, I couldn’t help watching and waiting for his well-timed and unremitting eruptions.

Other People Don’t Notice Tics Like You Do

“Old Faithful is an excellent analogy,” you agree, “because everyone is going to stare at him in public – clapping and jeering at this unique and boisterous spectacle.”

Unlike visiting a national monument, most people are not interested in the incredible national treasure that is your child. They simply will not notice the minor sounds and vocal movements. (Note: As a narcissist in transition, I am constantly working on that last piece of advice myself.)

No Room for Fear

But I’m terrified he will be ostracized by his peers!  What if he barks after busses and curses the F-Word in circle time!”

Get that fear a muzzle, because like your bad high school boyfriend, it lies like a rug. (For the record, less than 10% of T.S. kids uncontrollably curse. So let’s keep this worry in check and take it one step at a time, okay?)

Moms’ Survival Tactics

You consider getting earplugs but figure good mothers would never avoid the sounds of their children. You berate yourself for finding excuses to fold laundry to avoid watching your daughter blink and jaw thrust over her chapter book.

One of the best mothers I know rearranged her houseplants so she wouldn’t have to see her daughter nod her head over and over at the breakfast table.

Many people would call foliage adjustment poor parenting.

I call it brilliant. It’s a perfectly acceptable survival mechanism.

Perseverance

By now you’re not sure if I’ve completely lost my mind, but a small part of your brain is telling you I might be making sense. You agree to try out a little patience, but aren’t sure how to start.

How about right now?

Take a deep breath.

Tell yourself that for just this moment everything is going to be fine.

All you have to do is be your child’s mother – in whatever state he or she is in.

Tell yourself that you don’t have all the answers, but you’re going to try your best to take it one step at a time.

Take another deep breath.

And now allow me to share a little story with you as you take your first jaunt down that long and windy road of patience. This inspirational tale is one I heard long before my Nicky was diagnosed with Tourette’s. On rough days for me – which at the beginning were every day – its encouraging message would soothe my brain like a good cabernet.

Side Note: Drinking

During the early days, a bad cabernet worked just as well. If you, too, find yourself drinking a bit more to calm down at the end of the day, you wouldn’t be the first frazzled mama to do so. But I encourage you to keep it in check. T.S. isn’t going away anytime soon. Does your ticking son really need to be flanked by a slurring mother hopped up on Two Buck Chuck? And really, it’s going to be hard enough to find time to cook healthier meals, schedule in more exercise, shop for supplements and fit in a meditation schedule.  Combined with AA meetings, you’ll soon find yourself ticking, too. Careful, okay?  

Now, back to our regular scheduled programming of inspirational story-telling.

Story Time

One of my favorite all time stories about special needs is called “Welcome to Holland.” I took the liberty of adapting it for my experience with Tourette’s.

One day a family of five boarded a plane headed for London. It was winter, which meant their luggage was filled with sweaters, thick wooly socks, mittens and scarves. The mother, who had dreamed of this vacation ever since she had children ten years prior, had planned out the entire trip in painstaking detail. They would have tea near Buckingham Palace after shopping at Harrods. They would tour the Tate and take a family Christmas photo in front of Big Ben.  They would catch a show in the West End and go to mass at St. Paul’s.

After two hours on the plane, she looked over at her three children who had magically fallen asleep in the seats between herself and her handsome husband. She grabbed her mate’s strong hand, smiling at how perfectly everything had fallen into place.

At one point the captain’s voice streamed over the P.A. system.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for flying with us today. Due to some unexpected orders from the ground crew, this plane will no longer be flying to England. We will be changing directions entirely and landing in Africa. I can’t give you much information other than we cannot alter our course. You will have no choice but to make the best of the new arrangement. We’re not sure when we’ll be able to get you back home but you all seem like capable people who can wing it just fine. So, with that in mind, enjoy your new destination!”

Understandably, the mother was horrified at this news. Her husband remained cool and collected. She was both grateful, and horrified, that he wasn’t as freaked out as she was. How could he be so calm??! How could this enormous error happen? She wasn’t prepared for this abrupt switch of plans! This was not the way her dream vacation was supposed to go. The remainder of the flight was spent in abject misery as she ruminated, sulked, cried, moaned, hollered and generally cursed her fate.

By the time the plane landed, she was in quite a quandary. While this was one of the most unsettling experiences of her life, she also knew that falling apart would not help anyone. She’d have to be strong for the kids. She’d have to lean on her husband when she could. But mostly, she’d have to lean on herself. She’d attempt to make the best of it. What choice did she have?

Once on the ground, the luggage never arrived. Everyone was sweltering in their woolen sweaters and itchy pants. She borrowed a pair of scissors from a ticket agent and cut off the sleeves, which they used as headbands. She took the scissors to their pants, made makeshift shorts and hailed a taxi.

As this disheveled family of five crowded into a cab, the driver had a good laugh at their outfits. It turns out he spoke English and asked what happened. Against her normally private nature, she told him. He invited her family to his home and she said yes. Clearly she needed help and couldn’t rely on herself anymore.

For the next two weeks, her family did not shop. They did not tour museums. They did not eat at restaurants.

They ate home-cooked meals around a plain wooden table with the taxi driver’s wife, her sisters, their kids and 20 other people with names she could barely pronounce on Day 1  but by Day 20, she knew them as well as her own family’s names.

The kids ran around barefoot with  children who didn’t speak their language but sure knew how to laugh.

Her husband helped re-upholster the taxi driver’s car, which earned the family some extra money, which they turned around and used for a goodbye feast when the time came to finally fly back home.

With bellies full of food and hearts full of gratitude, they said their tearful goodbyes and boarded the plane.  As they flew back, the mother couldn’t help but think that Africa was a far cry from England. It wasn’t as civilized. It wasn’t as comfortable. But it was exotic. It was different. And her family bonded more in that two-week unplanned adventure in an African village than they ever would have in a pristine London hotel.

That mama, despite feeling like she would drown in despair, faked a good attitude until a true, authentic joy bubbled up from the pit of her soul. Despite not signing up for it, she made the best of the situation and had an adventure of a lifetime.

You will, too. Grab your T.S. passport. T.S. is an adventure. It might seem scary, but let this book be your road map.

Let me be your tour guide. Let my story serve to remind you that you’re not the first to take this scary trip. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I promise you’ll land safely with your child intact.

Buckle your seatbelt. It’s time to Happily Tick Off.

Until next time,

Leave a comment or write me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

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