Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Exploring my Tourette's through the lens of neurodiversity

I recently learned about a concept called neurodiversity. The idea is that a lot of public attention and effort has gone into searching for ways to cure folks with autism, ADHD, Tourette's syndrome or other neurological anomalies. Yet, having one of these can also come with positive things. For example, one article I read claimed that people with Tourette's tended to have a strong capacity for memory, a stronger than average ability with grammar and the ability to hyper-focus on tasks.

While I'm sure more studies are needed, its interesting to me because I do have Tourette's and several of these positive traits (for the most part, I still can never remember where I left my keys). It's really gotten me thinking about how I've been conditioned to think about my tics as something that I should desperately want to cure. Living with even the mild form of this condition takes energy to manage. I liken it to an anti-virus program that is always whirring in the background taking computing power but not showing results on your screen. My mind is always reserving some part of it's energy in the background to manage my tics-- either to suppress them, to ignore them or to move them to a more acceptable outlet than the way they want to express.

I love the idea of thinking about what my condition has potentially brought to me and my personality versus what it takes away. What am I getting in return for all that spent energy? If I were able to take the available drugs that treat Tourette's, which I can't because of my particular constitution for the side effects, what would I be giving up? Would I be able to make the connections my mind makes as quickly as it does? Would I still remember the specific ending of a movie I saw twenty years ago or the directions for making chocolate chip cookies with a recipe I've never written down? Who would I be on medication versus who I have always been?

The concept of neurodiversity is something to really think about. Should we be focusing on finding cures, helping people appreciate and live more fully as who they are or some combination of both as we tackle the realities of living with these neurological differences? It's a big question and one I don't think I've taken enough time to sort through in my own mind yet.

And, of course, as an author it has me thinking about how we represent these differences in our stories. I haven't written a character with Tourette's yet. Each time I imagine doing that I shirk away. It feels so personal. Maybe it's time to take that jump. If it can help someone else see the total complex package of appreciating their own condition maybe it would be worth it. My Tourette's hasn't slowed down my life or my career. I'm happily married, a mother, a college graduate, a successful executive and an aspiring author. What could embracing my own neurodiversity and sharing that with the world translate into for someone else?

I think it might be time to find out.