Preview: What Makes Me Tic

April 12, 2013

                                  What Makes Me Tic Cover



The Clock Tics Back



“Is mommy okay?” I asked my father as I looked up at the small black and white

television on the wall of the hospital.

The television showed a grim picture.  There was my mom, lying motionless, on a

table inside the treatment room.  A couple of months earlier she had been a vibrant,

young woman, with a promising life in front of her.  Now she led a painful existence.

Every waking moment was spent pondering the future that she most likely would not live

to see.  Doctors told her that her chances of beating Hodgkin’s disease, a form of

lymphatic cancer, were very slim.  Still, she fought on.  She wanted nothing more than to

survive long enough to see my three-year-old brother, and I, who was six at the time,

grow up. Survive she did, even though the pain and suffering she went through made her

almost want to die sometimes.  The road was far from easy.

My mom had to endure months of radiation treatments.  My father was left alone to

care for my brother and I.  Most of the days my mom was confined to her bed.  She only

rose occasionally to go to the bathroom and eat.   When she wasn’t sleeping or eating she

was attending her radiation treatment sessions, which made her very ill.  Her hair fell out.

Parts of her lungs and cancerous lymph nodes were removed during some of the many

procedures that followed.  My mom’s condition slowly improved.  Five months after

being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease my mom walked out of the hospital with her

cancer in remission.

Towards the end of my mom’s stay in the hospital she realized that I had developed an

eye twitch.    I was blinking my eyes in an irregular pattern that was much different than

the regular blinking pattern I had done in the past.   Up until then, I had been blinking my

eyes about once every twenty or thirty seconds. Now I was blinking them ten to fifteen

times in a row, in rapid succession, every couple of minutes or so.  My blinks weren’t

normal blinks either.  I was scrunching up my eyes and closing them very tightly, but

quickly, with each blink.  I didn’t really pay attention to it, but my mom did.

My mom asked me, “Why are you blinking so much?”

“I don’t know,” I answered.  “I have to.”

“What do you mean you have to?” my mom asked.  “What do you mean you don’t


What is a six year old who doesn’t know why they are doing something supposed to

say?  I felt urges to blink my eyes the strange way I did sometimes, but I didn’t know


“I don’t know,” is all that came to mind at the time.

A couple of weeks later, after seeing no change in my blinking pattern, my mom took

me to see an eye doctor.  The doctor took eye test after eye test and found nothing wrong.

He figured that the stress of seeing my mom sick made me develop a nervous twitch.

The doctor assured my mom that it would go away after everything settled down.  He

was right.  The rapid eye blinking disappeared suddenly, just as it had appeared a few

months earlier.  I would find out many years later that my eye blinking episodes were the

onset of Tourette’s Syndrome.

Another word for these symptoms is “tics”.  A tic is defined as:  “An involuntary,

sudden, rapid, recurrent, motor movement or vocalization.”   These tics would become

the bane of my existence.

At around the same time as my eye blinking tic began, my behavior at school and

home became very irrational.  Most of the kids in Kindergarten had many friends to

choose from.  The only friend I had was myself.  In class I kicked or hit anyone who

dared venture too close to my desk.  I flared up so often that my teacher often asked me if

I took Karate.

At home I was very defiant.  I was always hitting and kicking my poor brother and out

pet dog.  I was angry, had a short temper, and a smart mouth.  I talked back, threw

temper tantrums over nothing, and I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.  One minute I

would be fine.  The next minute I would be in a rage.

All of these behaviors are common in children with Tourette Syndrome.

My mom had always asked me to say I was sorry whenever I caused trouble in the

past, which I had always done.  During this new phase the only word I would ever say

when my mom asked me to apologize was the word “no.”

My mother didn’t know what had come over me.  I knew I was sorry each time I had

done something bad.  For most people the words “I’m sorry” would be very easy words

to say, but I flat out refused.

“Get in your room!” my mom would yell.

“I’m not going in there!” I would shout back.

“If you don’t get in there right now your father is going to give you a spanking when he

gets home!” my mom would scream.

I lived in fear of my dad’s spankings.  I had received them numerous times in the past

and the threat of them was the only thing that was kind of keeping me under control.

Whenever my brother or I did anything that warranted a spanking my dad would let u

know immediately.  When my dad first started spanking us he hit us with his open

hand on our bare bottoms.  A few years later my dad graduated to the wooden mixing

spoon.  There were “special occasions” that called for something a little more drastic.

The first “special occasion” was when my brother and I got lost at my dad’s softball

game.  He told us to come back an hour after his game began.  I was eight and my brother

was six.  We didn’t have watches.  We went to play in a creek and lost track of the time.

When my brother and I finally did make it back it was nearly dark and the softball field

was empty. We were worried that we had been left there.  We cried our eyes out for about

fifteen minutes.  Just then we saw our dad pull into the parking lot.  Apparently he had

been just as worried as we had, although he didn’t show it.  My brother and I were so

happy to see him that we immediately stopped crying.  Our happiness turned to sadness

once more when my dad told us that we were in for “it” when we got home.  My brother

and I had gone from sad to happy to sad all in just a few minutes.  Now we were crying

uncontrollably again, because we knew something bad would happen to us when we got

home.  My dad told us about the “beating of the century” that we would receive when we

got there.  We knew we would get severely punished, but we didn’t know how.  My dad

stopped at a grocery store on the way home, which prolonged the agony.  My brother and

I cried the entire way home.  As soon as we got in the door my dad told us to go to our

rooms.  He told us that he wanted us to have our pants down when he came in.  I heard

my dad go into my brother’s room and tell him that his butt would be so red that he

wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.  Then I heard him cry like a baby with each

smack.  The anticipation of waiting for my dad to come into my room was unbearable.

When he did come in I noticed that he had a new spanking tool in his hand.  It was a

small, solid, plastic, white rod.  It was round, about two feet long and about an inch in

diameter.  He called it the “plastic stick”.  I thought about how much it was going to hurt.

Boy, did it.

My dad continued using the “plastic stick” for about two years.  He probably thought

it was the best spanking tool he’s ever had.  I’ll never forget the time he used it on me

one evening when I was nine years old.  I had earned horrible grades at school one

quarter.  His solution for solving the problem wasn’t to start helping me with my

homework more often.  It was to hit me with the “plastic stick”.  By then I thought I was

too old to cry.  During the previous year the only times I had cried were when my dad hit

me with the “plastic stick.   I kept hoping for the day when I would survive a spanking

without crying.  I thought that if I did, my dad would think that the “plastic stick” had no

effect on me anymore, and stop using it.  That never happened.  Usually, after the first

swat I would be hysterical.  I’m not sure which was hurt more, my rear-end, or my pride.

I learned to accept my punishments, even though I never agreed with them.  I never

thought my actions warranted beatings with the “plastic stick”, but my father felt

otherwise.  None of the other kids’ fathers used a “plastic stick” on them, so why did

mine?  I thought it might have been because my behavior was worse than the other kids’.

I wasn’t sure.  I just knew that the man who hit me was my father, so what choice did I


I didn’t know that during the year I turned ten I would finally get my wish.  I went to

my room to wait for the inevitable, just as I had done many times before.  I stood

there, bent over, facing the wall adorned with the jungle animal wallpaper.   My father

brought his right arm back.  He raised it high over his head.  Then his arm and hand

lowered with a quick swatting motion.   He whacked me once with the “plastic stick”.  I

heard it crack as it caught the meaty part of the right side of my rear end flush.  The

“plastic stick” was either so worn out, I was too big, or he hit me really hard.  Whatever

the reason was, the “plastic stick” snapped in two.  I felt like laughing, but I didn’t dare.

If I had laughed, my dad probably would have got something worse to hit me with.  I was

lucky that I had gotten away with only one smack.  I didn’t even cry.  It was the last I

would ever see of the “plastic stick”.  I had finally outlasted it.  My dad never hit my

brother or I, or spanked either one of us again.

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