The trials and tribulations of a troubled young man.
This is one condition that, in particular, has both fascinated and perplexed me since I was a little kid. The first time I encountered someone with Tourette’s was when I was around 13 and inside of a Kmart with some friends. We were stealing candy or perpetrating some other sort of low-level crime that unsupervised young boys get into.
He was a few years older than us, maybe 15 or 16 at the most. He was cursing up a storm, yelling at his mother and twitching. Other than that, the only thing that I can recall from that unexpected experience was thinking something like ‘he’s not very nice to his mom.’ or ‘he’s a bad boy.’ as I was shoving snack-sized Snickers and Kit-Kats into my underwear.
Since that encounter I have met a few people with the syndrome — most are quite pleasant depending on the severity. But even the one person I knew (let’s call him Sam) that had a pretty severe case dealt with it in an amazing way. For at least a while, that is.
The first time I met Sam, he came right up to me at the bar and quite calmly said “I have Tourette’s. I don’t mean to disturb anyone. Nice to meet you.” Then he just kind of started to mosey away like that was a normal thing to do in a social situation. Like it was an everyday affair for him. Which it was, I suppose. But not 5 seconds later I hear “FUCK! Bip, bip… CUNT, SHIT, FUCKER!!!” coming from a few chairs down and realized this guy most likely wasn’t just fuckin’ with me.
extensive pseudo-expertise on the subject, I determined at the moment that Sam was legit. And, as it turned out, he really was. We became, well, I wouldn’t say friends, but we had a solid acquaintanceship for a while, until he up and disappeared about 6 months later.
Tourette’s syndrome — named after physician/neurologist, Georges Gilles de la Tourette — still baffles the scientific community to this day. This neurological disorder is one that is extremely hard to live with, both internally and externally. It not only affects the person themselves, but everyone around them. So, one can imagine how incredibly taxing it must be to deal with the simplest of social interactions. Just everyday tasks that you and I do — without even really thinking about — can become a mental torture to those with Tourette’s.
Sam dealt with it in a playful way, and would try to make it humorous for himself and those he was with. Which is a great approach, but I could tell he was deeply depressed most times. It got to a point where it was just too obvious (to me at least) that what he was doing was just a facade — a show to put on so people didn’t judge him too harshly, or even feel threatened by him. After-all, he was a big dude, and he definitely did come off a bit scary if you didn’t know him.
After he disappeared, the word through the grapevine was that he began to start self-medicating with heroin, meth (the last thing he needed) and whatever other shit he could get his hands on. To be honest, I was both happy and sad that he was gone. Happy because it was really tough and awkward to be around him in public, yet at the same time I was sad because I knew he was genuinely a good person and I enjoyed his company — in moderation. It’s an odd dichotomy, I know.
The last I’ve heard, Sam was living in some shithole with his mother in Newark, New Jersey.
I haven’t had a chance to view it yet, but I did watch The Boy Can’t Help It (2002) and I Swear I Can’t Help It (2009) a few years ago and they were great. Now, the only problem for me is that those are both follow-ups to the original, John’s Not Mad. So, apparently I am watching them in reverse chronological order. That’s all right though, I’ll just pretend that he’s Benjamin Button.
As I mentioned, I haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll be watching John’s Not Mad along with you guys. Give it a spin, check out the others, and let me know what you think.