Healing Nervous Tics, Tourette's Through Creative Expression
How It Works
In my experience, I am fully confident that what broke the cycle of discomfort, in addition to embracing myself in moments of pain, was finding new CREATIVE EXPRESSION. I am a creative person, specifically in terms of physical creativity. It is in my nature to move, dance, sing, and until these natural tendencies were allowed to be expressed, the repressed energy was self-destructive. Here are the creative expressions that were introduced into my life at around age 14 that began to unravel my overstimulated nervous system and sooth my feeling of whole body discomfort. It is important to re-iterate that I view my condition as being a result of unexpressed energy, and I believe any activity that expresses energy would be medicine for someone experiencing what I was.
Before high school, the only sport I played was baseball. Not much physical expression in that sport, especially at a junior level. Football, basketball, track gave me freedom to run, catch, dodge, spin, and be creative on the field
2. Gym Exercise
I began to hit the gym, and this allowed to me get moving, breathe deeply, move quickly, and generally “release” bent up energy.
3. Comedic expression
I gave myself permission to be myself. I was basically of the most outgoing, spontaneous, silly people in my high school. I was named class clown twice, and dressed up for no reason, made weird noises, spoke often in class, made silly videos with friends, acted in drama class, and so on. I embraced a huge creative channel in my life, and lifted the flood gates to my creative comedic expression.
4. Singing, rapping
This should not be overlooked, because the creative energy released through writing, although not all physical, was indeed palpable for me. Writing, drawing, designing, decoration, building, all these allow one to express creative energy.
6. Serious girlfriend
Physical intimacy allowed me to express my body in new ways, releasing bent up energy (not necessarily only through sex, but also through intimate dancing, walking, kissing, etc)
7. Video games
When I played active video games, my tics would disappear as my mind was fixed on the action. This did lead to an imbalanced amount of time spent playing (it served me like a “drug”), but nonetheless it would provide me with comfort when comfort was difficult to achieve.
Find someone to hold space
Find somebody who will listen to you without insistently trying to fix you or give you opinionated advice. This form of love, just listening and supporting, helped calm down my overactive nervous system and reminded me that I am powerful, even if only through the love of other.
To find this person, think of someone who, if you were to “tic” in-front of, you would not feel as embarrassed or shamed. Think of someone that you could let out a big twitch or noise, and they would barely take notice, or just smile and kiss you on the cheek. For another, possibly direct route to healing, also consider what it would happen if you were the one that would calmly embrace your tics. What if you were the person that watched, listened, and was present for your twitches without being annoyed or trying to fix anything? As my healing became complete, my own body became my relaxation station through the grace of self love. I was not only freed from painful cycles of tics, showed the transformative power of my own loving presence. I consider this to be one of the fruits which has been born from my years of struggle.
nor hard Somewhat
My story starts when I was very young 4, 5, maybe six. I was following my mother around the house when I began to notice an uncomfortable sensation. It was hard to pin down. It was just uncomfortable, and it seemed to be spread through my whole body. I cant remember exactly all that I did to try and get rid of it, but eventually I gave up, and I remember looking at my mother defeated, helpless, unable to relive myself of the pain and unable to voice to her what was wrong.
I then became agitated and angry, and it was in this agitation I believe, judging from my memory, that I clinched a part of my body, shook something, or made a sudden movement out of frustration that to my surprise, subdued the uncomfortable feeling. This was the genesis of my “tics”: my attempts to relieve myself of tension and discomfort in my body by contorting, contracting, twisting, and as discomfort intensified, squeezing, screaming and snorting. If my parents were ever to have me diagnosed, I believe I would have been labeled with a moderate form of Tourette’s Syndrome, concluding from the research I have done.
My symptoms, at their peak, included: loud screeching (think fire alarm pitch), snorting, audible swallowing, head shaking, clinching my abdominal and sphincter muscles until I would urinate and defecate myself, tightening of the neck, squeezing my eyes closed until it hurt and I saw colors, squinting my nose, aggressively sniffing/inhaling through my nose, twitching of both wrists, forearms, biceps and shoulders, clinching of the feet, and curling of the toes
I was stuck, in a daily cycle of causing pain in order to alleviate pain, knowing that the pain I self-induced through my tic was my last resort, but also believing that there were no other options. It felt like I was in a tumble dryer, my own energy tossing my body and mind around, with no end in sight.
When I first began the tics, they were experimental. I would twitch parts of my body to see how that could effect my discomfort. All of my experiments offered momentary soothing, but often in the pause between twitches the discomfort would spike and I would have to twitch harder. These are the moments when I would soil myself, or scream so loud that I would disturb myself and others.
An interesting phenomenon developed where I found myself needing to twitch, waiting for someone to loose eye contact with me so that I could squint my eyes, or waiting till I got home from school so that I could scream. My self-applied therapy developed an addiction and a habit. I would twitch sometimes without thinking, but mostly as a result of a conscious choice. I did not want to twitch, and yet I would twitch, again, and again. A battle was underway in my consciousness. Overtime, there arrived a presence in my head that watched with disappointment, frustration and disgust.
From a young age until about the age of 14, there was nothing I could do, or rather that I knew to do in order to fix my discomfort or the habitual tics that were a response to it. I tried to sit down in silence, concentrate on my hands, be still and try to hold my twitches back like one would hold water back from a hose. Eventually the pressure would become too much, and the levies would break, my hold would slip, and I would lose control. Despair, anger, and self-loathing often set in after these moments.
My parents took me to a specialist in California, and he suggested I stay off of dairy. So I did so for a few years, only to see the condition worsen. I was never prescribed any prescription drugs, nor given a prescribed therapy from a licensed practitioner. I was left to my own devices, not because my parents were trying to teach me a lesson or make me strong, but because we simply did not know what to do, and I believe that my parents did not want to limit my complex physical/emotional/energetic condition to a commonly known disorder so that I would be prescribed drugs and special treatment. I also believe they held wisdom which said “if he is labeled with a disease, and we subscribe to that label, he surely will, and his healing that we have faith in will be limited by that label he believes is true about himself. If the disease he is labeled with is deemed incurable, then our son will accept that barrier to his healing”
In this situation, I am confident in hindsight that no better treatment could have been applied than the courageous choice to apply no treatment, besides the unconditional support and love which my parents did so masterfully. Left to make my own perspective of what I was experiencing, I was the one who labeled me, I was the one who treated me, and I would ultimately be the one who healed me. As it turns out, creative expression was my medicine.
I have been healed, meaning I no longer am caught in daily cycle of discomfort-tic-discomfort. I do have a small twitch that shows up in my wrist now and then. It appears when I am writing under pressure, sitting uncomfortably, in some form stressed or irritated. It now is obvious to me that I can use this twitch as a barometer of sorts, kind of like an engine light that alerts me when my “RPMs” are revving too high i.e. : It shows me that I am putting too much stress on the body. It acts as an effective indicator and reminder of the opportunity that I always have to take a breath, slow down, calm myself with words of love/support, and ease into what I am doing again. When I treat it as such, the indicator light has served it’s purpose, and disappears on it’s own. This, had I known when I was younger would have brought great healing to my imbalance. But, indeed, only through my journey with my imbalance was I able to learn this great lesson and integrate this wisdom through my choices.
A big challenge was not understanding what was wrong with me. I had no context to frame my pain in, no box to shove my tics into, no doctor telling me I was this or that. This gave me space to blame my pain on life, my body, and led to toxic self-judgment and victimhood. I would often feel as though I was inherently broken, ineffective, or limited in potential. I felt I was uniquely flawed and dysfunctional. I would question how I would function in the world. I would often have desires to release the discomfort through extreme pain (cutting myself, hitting my head, punching walls), since the moderate pain inflicted by my tics was not enough.
Another challenge was dealing with the reality that nobody could solve this but me. It was a burden that I never wanted, and weight on my back that would not leave. I felt as though no matter what I accomplished in my day, I would always be left with this unresolved issue. It was evidence, I believed, of my weakness, my failure, my powerlessness and my inability to exercise free will. Often I felt like a prisoner in my body, and also the prison guard that locked the gate and refused to let myself out.
I find this period of my life to be integral in my personal development and essential for the core lessons that shape me as an adult. If I were to go back, just for fun, I would tell myself to lighten up on myself. In my worst moments, had I given myself permission to feel and let this energy out, I might have healed faster.
This is an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it.
Joshua, thank you so much for sharing your powerful story. May it inspire anyone struggling with similar symptoms or needing an extra push to trust their instincts as to what is best for them. And may it help parents to similarly love unconditionally and resist labeling and limitations.