Adult-Onset Tourette’s: It’s Perfectly Okay to Not Be Perfect

I often strive for perfection… Working as a full time academic, towards the seemingly unreachable goal of obtaining a PhD, I know what it takes to criticise yourself endlessly, editing what you do until it feels just right.

Being perfect, to me, felt like a safe space. It felt like a space where I could breathe… My own safe harbour to come home to. If thoughts concerning the unattainability of this perfection came to mind, instant chaos would lurk in the shadows, threatening to overtake my reality, and take control. Combatting this, I’d soothe these fears by promising myself I’d work harder, longer, better…

This is how I lived my life until I began to be drowned in stress – feeling as though my nervous system was on fire – and be met with a familiar wave of depression that turned my chest back to that heavy feeling of lead.

In a state of exhaustion and pain, I could no longer fight off what I’d kept at bay for so long. Chaos was free, creeping out of the shadows, consuming my existence, and eclipsing my pitiful attempts to attain perfection.

What it did changed my life in an unimaginable way…

My body would start jerking uncontrollably, words and noises poured out of my mouth, such that I became a puppet to the impulses of my brain. What was happening to me? My mind told me it was my fault… I was being punished for not working hard enough, not doing well enough – not being perfect enough.

Of course, this was ridiculous… This intrusive thought pattern was not only untrue, but it was harming me in an unimaginable way.

In reality, what was happening was something amazing, rare, bizarre, strange, and challenging, but something that had absolutely nothing to do with being imperfect. I had developed adult-onset Tourette’s. A neurological disorder that most likely went unrecognised as a child, had now come to show me, for the first time, that I couldn’t control everything.

My tics became so severe during this period that most of my body would jerk, twitch, shout, and writhe, while my mind was enveloped in this new, all-consuming chaos. I wondered how this had happened to me when I had been doing so well, trying so hard…

While my obsessive traits had always been there, I had never known… Thinking the intrusive thoughts to be a real and accurate reflection of reality, pushing me to safety. Rather, I would come to realise they had often caused me fear, pain, and exhaustion.

I began to search for others like me, other adults living with this fear of being imperfect, or who had been swallowed by a world of chaotic tics. In my search, I realised that I hadn’t reached out to others for a long time… I had let my work take over my life, becoming a slave to my obsessions, trying to attain the impossible.

The very thing I was so afraid of, a complete lack of control, happened to be the very thing that saved me from myself and my way of life. It showed me that, as well meaning as I was, I couldn’t be perfect. I couldn’t control everything. While I could achieve what I wanted to, and that it was good to be motivated and want to do well, there would be times when mistakes will happen, times when I will lose control…

This opened my eyes to the prison I had been living in and showed me the power I had within me, at any time, to break free…

I’ve now begun to harness my obsessive behaviours to work towards helping others who are neurodiverse and facing their own adversity. I’m kinder to myself too; allowing myself to make mistakes. I’m putting myself out there more, instead of hiding myself away for fear of what other’s would think of me for not yet attaining perfection.

While I still face challenges, and of course, not everything is perfect, getting Tourette’s (albeit a little late) has allowed me to see that that’s perfectly okay.






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