For many of us, the holiday season can represent a mix of emotions and experiences, with an extra helping of complexity for those of us affected by Tourette/Tourette Plus.
On the one hand, the holidays can mean lots of food, time spent with family and friends, and the excitement of gifts.
On the other hand, it can mean lots of food (sensory defensiveness, anyone?), time spent with family and friends (why can't Grandpa just accept that Johnny has Tourette already? And after being in a packed house of 25 guests, here comes the neurological flooding...), and the excitement of gifts (which still have to be done, along with work which hasn't slowed down at all, commuting, getting meals on the table, doctor's appointments, household chores, and the list goes on!).
Perhaps "complex" is putting it mildly. But here's the thing. We can get through this. We can decide ahead of time how to handle potentially triggering situations, and agree to some thresholds that will help provide some certainty for being able to navigate those challenging moments.
Whether you have children or young people with Tourette, or whether you are an individual living with Tourette or any combination in between, here are a couple of examples:
- It may be helpful to sit down and verbally walk through the plan for the day. Taking time to think through a day that may involve a lot of non-routine/high interaction time will allow an opportunity to (a) feel mentally prepared, and (b) identify potential red flags that need a plan.
- Have a plan for how to handle any comments from people who may put a foot in their mouth, such as a confident and calm explanation, "I have/Johnny has Tourette Syndrome, so I/he makes some movements and noises, that are kind of like sneezing. The sneeze is going to happen one way or another, and that's just how the neurology works in my/his brain." Practice a few times beforehand, or have another response at the ready, so when it comes down to that moment, you’re prepared.
- Build in time for dedicated "head space". Before heading to a gathering, small breaks away from people during the gathering (a few minutes of slow, deep breathing in a bathroom, a short walk or step outside for some fresh, cool air), and time after a gathering at home or in a quiet space to bring the "hard boil" back down to a "simmer".
The holidays can be a fun and beautifully messy time, and regardless of where the next few days take you, know that there is a community of people who understands and is walking a similar path. You can do this. And you can make it an amazing time of learning more about yourself and your family, and honouring the needs that arise.
On behalf of the GTA Chapter of Tourette Canada, I would like to wish you, your family and friends a happy holiday season and a great start to 2018. We look forward to an exciting new year, and to seeing you again and/or meeting you, either at one of our support group sessions, or perhaps at the 2018 Trek for Tourette!
Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season,
Malumir R. Logan