If you have never been to one of the annual conferences hosted by the Tourette’s Syndrome Foundation of Canada (TSFC), you absolutely must go. Not compulsively, but absolutely, at least every other year. Skip more than one in a row and the ADHD folks have to start over. “Hi. Have we met? Really? Well, nice to meet you again.” With or without ADHD, I think meeting Touretters is the most important function of the conference.
The best self-esteem booster for someone with TS+ is to normalize, i.e., fit in, if only for a short time. The conference is the best place to do this. People gather from all over to meet other Touretters. We share and learn, cry and laugh, and spend an entire weekend comfortable with other Touretters, and therefore with ourselves. So comfortable, in fact, when folks are poking fun at us, we know it comes from friendship and not fear. I love coming home with my bag packed full of new TS+ humor. “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “OCD.” “OCD who?” “Knock, knock.” And so on… Humor is a great way to rebuild self esteem and take the edge off of living with TS+.
Recognition is another “Top 10” self esteem energizer. Any kind of positive regard helps us through the ticcy days. My personal favorite is awards. It would be great if everyone who attended got an award. Volunteers should get two. The TSFC does a fabulous job handing out recognition. I want to give you an example, but I might change some details to provide anonymity. (That’s a lie – if I change something, it’s because I can’t remember it correctly. Oh, well.)
I will not use my example’s real name; I will call her Bessica instead. When I first met Bessica, at a workshop in Toronto, she was a feisty, opinionated teenager who still wanted to make sure everyone knew she was upset about having TS+. I got volunteered to gather the teenagers for a private group chat. “You parents! Out!” We talked about how TS+ – sorry – sucked. I guess she had never seen Tourette’s through the eyes of someone else who lived with it. The group chat seemed to have a life-altering impact on Bessica. She started a TS+ peer group of her own, and I believe it is still up and running.
Her success with the peer group brings us back to the TSFC giving out awards. At one conference, Bessica received an award recognizing the changes she made in her life, and the impact she had on others with TS+. I look forward to every conference. I hope to run into Bessica, to sit down with her and talk about how our lives with TS+ are unfolding: to meet her again if you will. I know that lots of people who are reading this deserve similar recognition. To that I say: come to the conference, pull up a chair, and tell us your story.