Here’s Why People Should Stop Asking Depressed People Why They Are Depressed

When we are depressed, it is difficult to read and it is difficult to sleep. It is difficult to move and it is difficult to think. It is also, frustratingly, difficult to talk about being depressed, not only for the depressed person, but for the people around them. If someone says that they are depressed, it is, in some ways, quite natural to be lost for words, because, in truth, there is relatively little that anyone can say to make it better. 

That’s not say that there aren’t plenty of things you shouldn’t say to someone with depression. There are the obvious ones. You shouldn’t tell them it’s all in their head. You shouldn’t tell them to cheer up. You shouldn’t tell them that they need to meditate. 

I could usually tolerate people saying these things back when I had depression. It didn’t annoy me that much. What did annoy me, though, was when people asked me why I was depressed. 

It happened quite often. A non-depressed person would unhelpfully point out that there were millions of people who had worse lives than me. They would then go on to correctly state that my life was littered with good things, that I was studying for a good degree at a good university, and that I had good friends and good family. Considering all this, why was I depressed? In response, I would invariably say that there wan’t really any known cause, however, this answer would often be deemed insufficient. The non-depressed person would insist that I had to know why I was depressed. It was just silly not to. 

These kinds of conversations were frustrating because, often, the non-depressed person was clearly confusing sadness (the mood) with depression (the illness). 

Sometimes, in life, we have these things called moods. Moods are commonplace. Most of us will be in some kind of mood every day and that mood can be called many things. It can be called happiness and it can be called sadness. It can be called apathy and it can be called amusement. It can be called devastation and it can be called delight. You can feel one mood, or two moods, or even three moods at the same time. There are not really any rules, but in general, moods make sense. 

For example, if someone comes into work one day, saying that they’re feeling sad, it might be logical for their colleague to ask them why this is so. The sad colleague might then explain that their cat has just died, or that it’s January, or that their favourite character has just been callously killed off by an uncaring author. The root cause will normally be easy to identify, and the colleague’s sadness can be explained away. 

Other times, in life, we have these things called illnesses. An illness can also be called anything. It can be called cancer. It can be called diabetes. It can be called flu.

However, if a colleague comes into work, saying that they have cancer or diabetes or the flu, it would be incredibly odd if another colleague then asks them why this is so. The sick colleague might then talk about the cigarettes they used to smoke, or the bad diet they used to have, or the contagious nature of influenza. However, it’s very unlikely that they’d do this, as there are any number of reasons why someone might develop these conditions, and the likelihood is that the cause is a complex mixture of both environmental and genetic factors, and more often than not, we ourselves aren’t exactly sure what the cause is. 

The same goes for depression. 

Sometimes, depression might seem to have a clear root cause. For example, maybe a person only starts getting depressed after a very bad thing has happened. The bad thing could be a death or a divorce. It doesn’t really matter what it is. 

But even then it’s not that clear that this is the cause of their depression. What if the very bad thing that happened actually affected more than one person, and still, this person was the only one who got depressed? Can we still then say that the very bad thing caused the person’s depression? Or, instead, could it be that depression runs in this person’s family? Despite the many unknowns that surround depression, we do know that there is a genetic factor. 

Or, perhaps it was that the very bad thing that happened to him was only one of the very bad things that happened to him in a series of very bad things that happened to him. As we don’t actually know what causes depression, and as we may never know for sure, a non-depressed colleague asking this person why they are depressed will not shed further light. If the non-depressed colleague really wants to know what caused this person’s depression, then they should donate to a charity that funds research in this field. 

When a non-depressed person asks someone why they are depressed, the chances are that they will not mean any harm by it. They are just confusing having a mood with having an illness. As people use the terms “depressed” and “sad” interchangeably, this is an easy mistake. 

But if one day, someone says they’re depressed, it is, at least in my opinion, inadvisable to ask them why this is so. If questions are really necessary, then ask them what the capital of Mongolia is, or what their plans for the weekend are, or ask them what you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question. Ask them anything but why. 

Are You Aware of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month?

The other day I was at the post office, and as is customary, I thanked the woman who had served me. As is also customary, the woman also thanked me, and there our interaction should have ended – her feeling thanked for her service, and me feeling thanked for my custom. Instead, what happened was that I said thank you again. The woman, visibly confused by my repetition, did not ask me what I was doing, but instead went with it and also thanked me again. Sensing a onslaught of “thank you”s coming my way, I quickly made for the door, but in the short journey from the counter to freedom, I managed say thank you at least twice more. This time, the woman said nothing. 

Echolalia – the technical term for repeating other people’s words, phrases and sentences – has been plaguing me recently. As the woman in the post office didn’t know that I had Tourette’s, and as she probably did not know that repeating other people’s words, phrases and sentences is a facet of the condition, she must have thought that I was just a bit of an odd person. 

I’m quite used to being thought of as odd, and I’m also quite used to the fact that many people don’t really know what Tourette’s Syndrome actually is, because before I got the condition, I didn’t either.

Tomorrow marks the end of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month, a month that tries to combat the myths and misconceptions that surround the condition – and there are, it seems, rather a lot of myths and misconceptions. I know this because I used to be full of them. Before I started experiencing the symptoms of Tourette’s first hand, I was unaware of the condition’s diverse nature. I had no idea that repeating other people’s words was a facet of Tourette’s. Like many people, I thought that Tourette’s Syndrome was basically just uncontrollable swearing. On the one hand, this is over-simplistic, and on the other hand, this is just false. Yes, coprolalia – the jargonistic term for the swearing variety – does exist, but only a minority of people with the condition have it – as few as 10 to 15 percent.

In fact, there is an enormous variety of tics, and everyone with Tourette’s will have a unique combination. For a tic to be a tic, all it has to be is a brief, involuntary movement or vocalisation. These movements can be anything, from shaking your head to blinking your eyes or wrinkling your nose. The vocalisations can be anything too. They are often entirely random words, phrases and sentences, but they can also just be sounds. Whenever I am walking by a group of people who are being a bit loud, I usually let out a “shhh”, which is unfortunate, as it must just seem like I’m an incredibly rude person who is intolerant of elevated volumes. Sometimes, I find that random sounds cluster together to form nonsense words. For instance, I once said “ever-naught”, and as to what that means, your guess is as good as mine. Other times, my tics are sounds which are so odd that it is simply impossible to notate them with our twenty-six letter alphabet.

Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month strives to get people more aware of the condition. However, despite annual awareness days and months, a part of me realises that most people will remain largely unaware of the condition, because even if it’s not that rare, it’s just not that common either, and the fact remains that most people will not have a friend, relative, colleague or employer with Tourette’s. Because of this, unless someone is particularly interested in the brain, there is little reason to know about it at all. Tourette’s will remain just that thing they once heard about, or not at all, and they can dedicate their headspace to other worthy causes, and to other awareness days and months – of which there are an abundance.

So OCD

Last night, I was at a dinner party when my tics became more noticeable than normal. As one guest had never heard of the condition, and as there was a disproportionately large appearance from “wanker”, it was only natural that Tourette’s Syndrome came up as a topic of conversation. It was around this time that I mentioned that, on top of having Tourette’s, I also have one of its most common comorbidities: obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD.

Now, anyone who knows about Tourette’s Syndrome will know that this is perfectly ordinary state of affairs. An estimated thirty to fifty percent of people with Tourette’s are also people with OCD, and the two conditions, at least in my experience, feel quite similar. One of my friends, however, found my statement incredible. “Do you?” he asked. 

“Yes,” I said.

Apparently, this concise answer was not sufficient.  How do you have OCD?” he asked.

“I check things,” I said, which was true, although an understatement.

“But it’s good to check things,” he said. “In some ways, I think that having OCD can be a good thing.”

“But I think about things too much,” I said, which was also true, and also an understatement.

“But it’s good to think about things a lot,” he went on. “I think that everyone kind of has OCD.”

It was only when I emphasised that I have been diagnosed by someone qualified to diagnose OCD, and that I have been treated by someone qualified to treat OCD, that my friend finally accepted that I might actually have the condition. “I didn’t know,” he said, before shutting up, after which I didn’t mention that I had actually told him about my OCD on another occasion, during which, similarly, he had not listened.

The conversation I had with this man – who, despite being an incredibly bad listener and chronic interruptor, is still a very good friend – was both frustrating and frustratingly familiar. For some reason, it’s hard for many people to believe it when others say they have a psychological or neurological condition.

Perhaps my friend thought I was a self-diagnoser – a cyberchondriac whose obsession with WebMD has led me to believe I’m suffering from all manner of sicknesses. Or, perhaps my friend just thought it improbable that one person could have so many conditions at the same time. After all, why would he have known that most people with Tourette’s also have something else? It’s not too common a condition. Only around 300,000 of us have it in the UK. Alternatively, maybe his disbelief was due to the fact that, at that particular point in time, I was not checking doors, or touching taps or unplugging sockets. At that dinner party, my OCD was invisible, and it is always just that little bit harder to believe in things we cannot touch, see or feel.

However, the fact that my friend said that OCD might sometimes be a good thing, was, unfortunately, just a little bit ignorant. Yes, I have previously gone to check that doors were closed and found them to be open. I have also gone to check that plugs were off and found them to be on, and gone to check that cars were secured and found them ready for the taking. It is quite possible that through my OCD, I have inadvertently prevented a robbery or a flood or a fire. It is unlikely, but it’s possible.

Of course, it is good to check that your prized possessions are safe. However, it is not good to obsessively seek reassurance, to be plagued by intrusive thoughts, to ruminate about the same thing for weeks/months/years, or to check that your front door is locked even though you have already checked that it is locked several times already.

The misconception that OCD is nothing more than a positive character trait is, no doubt, partly due to the way we misuse mental health terms. In everyday language, “OCD” can usually be substituted by “particular”, “perfectionist” or “organised”. Being particular, perfectionist or organised can certainly be a good thing. It is even something you could put down on your CV. Having OCD, on the other hand, is not.

Unfortunately, OCD is not alone. It’s hard to think of a psychological or neurological term that isn’t in some way similarly abused. I am sometimes amused by the phrase “social media Tourette’s”, by which the user is declaring themselves to be impulsive, spontaneous and not entirely responsible for what they post online. Elsewhere, newspapers might write that the financial markets are “schizophrenic” when they are volatile or split in two directions. More common is “depressed”. Nowadays, we don’t even have to be feeling especially sad to declare ourselves “depressed”, and the way everyone bandies around the term, you would think we were all suicidal all of the time. Likewise, when we are just a bit stressed out, we might declare ourselves to be having a “panic attack”, by which we don’t mean we are having a nausea-inducing, heart-racing and body-trembling panic attack. We just mean we’re stressed. It’s just a hyperbole, a metaphor. 

It’s fine to use creative hyperboles and metaphors. Such features add to the language, enrich sentences and create humour. However, the casual misuse of mental health terms often perpetuates misconceptions. Actual OCD has nothing to do with being an organised perfectionist, anyone who compares sadness with depression is a fool, and having schizophrenia does not mean that you are split in two. Amongst other things, the misuse of mental health term causes people, like my friend, to suggest that OCD might be a good thing. And if you’re going through a bad patch of OCD, that’s not really something that is helpful to hear.

Sooner or later, I suppose all of us might use a mental health term metaphorically. Almost no one will mean to offend by it, and hearing the term misused certainly won’t be the worst thing about your mental illness. However, when the widespread metaphorical meaning of your diagnosis becomes significantly different from its medical meaning, it is a little frustrating. Especially when, as a general rule, we wouldn’t dare do the same thing with physical health terms.

This Is What Tourette’s Syndrome Feels Like

About two years ago, I started to whistle – a seemingly ordinary event that struck me, and everyone else around me, as incredibly odd. It was not so much the fact that I have never been a whistler, but rather that I was whistling without really wanting to. I felt my lips go round, my ears registered the sound, but somehow it didn’t really feel like me.

Soon enough, other odd things started to happen. During an oral exam at university, I blew my examiners a kiss. When travelling on the tube, I looked a fellow commuter straight in the eye before telling him to fuck off.

It felt odd going to the doctor. I was not in pain, but something was clearly wrong. I told him I couldn’t stop jaw clacking, stomach clenching and head nodding. I told him I was bird flipping, lip smacking and eye winking. I told him I was jazz handing, fake laughing and face grimacing. I told him I was bastard-ing and fuck-ing and shit-ing, and I told him I couldn’t help it.

Despite what I thought were incredibly odd symptoms, the doctor was unfazed. “Are you obsessive or depressive at all?” he asked. I answered that I was. “A classical history,” he said, before bestowing me with a diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome. And just like that, I transformed from a person without Tourette’s, into a person with Tourette’s.

Tourette’s: the condition characterised by the presence of simple and complex tics, both vocal and physical. Tourette’s: the disorder normally associated with children, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Tourette’s: the I’ve-heard-about-that, the I’ve-never- met-anyone-with-that, the ha-ha-isn’t-that-the-swearing-thing.

Later, I realised that the doctor had been wrong. The word “classical” refers to the culture of the past. This meant that “classical Tourette’s” was a phrase that meant nothing. The word “classic”, however, denotes a perfect or most typical example of something. This meant that the phrase “classic Tourette’s” would have meant something, but even then I wondered whether that was accurate. Normally, Tourette’s starts when you are six or seven years old. Normally, people with Tourette’s do not have the swearing variety of the condition. Normally, people with Tourette’s are male. I was an obscene twenty-two year old woman who did not seem to fit the bill.

Either way, with classic or classical Tourette’s, ordinary or extraordinary symptoms, I was ticking like a clock, every hour of every day, every day of every week. I tried to get my head around this new affliction of mine, and to do so even ended up starting this blog and called it “How To Have Tourette’s”, as if I were some kind of authority on the matter. The only problem was that I did not know how to have Tourette’s. I had absolutely no idea. There were, all of a sudden, a ton of questions without answers. Could I drive with Tourette’s? Could I go to the cinema with Tourette’s? What about the library? Could I work in customer-facing roles with Tourette’s? Could I work with Tourette’s?

I asked people who knew about Tourette’s as well as the people who didn’t, and without exception, they all told me to live my life as though I didn’t have the condition. In theory, this should have been good advice, because actually, having Tourette’s feels like nothing. You make a sound or do a thing and it does not hurt you or anyone else. The people who live with you ignore it, because they are used to it. And you ignore it too, because you are used it. But at the same time, having Tourette’s feels like a really big problem, or to be more precise, it feels like several really big problems piled up high.

Having Tourette’s feels like people are looking at you. This is not you being paranoid, because paranoia is an irrational suspicion about things that aren’t really happening, whereas when you have Tourette’s, people really are looking at you. However, despite how awkward it feels to be stared at, staring at someone with Tourette’s is a perfectly normal activity. Staring is just a screening process. When someone has a tic, they are, objectively-speaking, doing something weird, and so the general public is just trying to figure out what that person is doing, and trying to ascertain whether or not they are a threat. Hopefully, they will realise the person has Tourette’s: that well-understood, well- talked-about, well-accepted condition everyone is familiar with. Or, perhaps more probably, they’ll realise nothing and just continue to stare.

But then there’s more than staring. Turn on your TV and there’s a chance you will flick on to a show which features someone, fictional or otherwise, with Tourette’s. He (and it usually is a he) will invariably have the swearing variety of the condition, even though study after study has shown that the vast majority of people with Tourette’s do not swear. Maybe he is trying to get a girlfriend, or a job, or maybe he is just trying to make his way through the airport without saying the word “bomb”. This programme will invite you to look at how hard it is for this strange man to do something incredibly ordinary. It will shine a light on to his misfortunes, and turn them into a spectacle so that we are all duly entertained.

Sometimes, when you’re not being stared at, Tourette’s feels like you’re being laughed at. This is not you being paranoid, because paranoia is an irrational suspicion about things that aren’t really happening, whereas when you have Tourette’s, people really are laughing at you. However, despite how awkward it is to be laughed at, laughing at someone’s tics is a perfectly normal activity. It’s just incongruity theory. When you tic, you are saying what you shouldn’t say, when you shouldn’t say it. It’s what is least expected, so it’s funny. It might even be funny to you too – and that’s all good.

However, when writers write scripts in which people with Tourette’s are the punchline, and when production companies produce those shows, and when broadcasters broadcast them, it kind of feels like society is laughing at you. Tasteless jokes happen all the time, because that’s how comedy is. Comedy pushes boundaries, and everyone’s boundaries are different. Nevertheless, most people agree that making fun of a person with a stutter because they have a stutter, or making fun of someone with a lisp because they have a lisp, are jokes that are just not that funny. However, the same does not go for Tourette’s. Tourette’s is fair game. Look out for it, and you’ll see that Tourette’s is a punchline everywhere.

Sometimes, having Tourette’s feels like explaining Tourette’s, like, all the time. This is because, even though the condition is about as common as autism, there are still some people who think it’s not a thing, and some people who think that just because you are not ticking right there and then, you don’t have it. Other times, having Tourette’s just feels like paperwork, because unless you want to be confronted with a lot of red tape, awkward conversations and unnecessary faffing, it is often highly inadvisable to declare it before starting a new job. Undoubtedly, having Tourette’s feels like waiting, because fourteen months on the waiting list for treatment on the NHS is a thing that totally happens. It could also be that having Tourette’s feels like the least of your problems, because there is a good chance that, on top of Tourette’s, you have ADHD or OCD or good old fashioned depression, or all three if you’re a very lucky thing.

There is not much that can be done about having Tourette’s. There are treatments, but no cure. Despite all this, there is little reason why it should prevent anyone from doing anything. It’s not a condition that affects your intelligence or your sense of humour or your personality. It does not mean you are dangerous or weird. All it means is that you have Tourette’s. And this shouldn’t matter. You should totally be able to live your life as though you did not have it, but it’s not that simple, because how Tourette’s is perceived really, really sucks. People think that Tourette’s is ridiculous, that it’s weird, that it’s uncool, that it doesn’t exist. People think that people with Tourette’s can’t work with other people because they’ll annoy them, or distract them, or offend them.

These people are wrong. Tourette’s, in itself, is not disabling, Tourette’s is harmless – it is sounds and movements which mean nothing at all. But when people tell you that your condition is comical, that you’re too unpredictable to work in the same environments as everyone else, or that you’re too odd to be anything other than the centre of attention wherever you go – it’s these ideas that mean something, it’s these ideas that are disabling, and it’s these ideas that need to die.

Great Big Staring Eyes

In one outing, I show a tuna and sweetcorn salad my middle finger, shout the word “BEIGE!” at a man dressed entirely in said hue, and tell the whole of Starbucks to fuck off. Later, in the queue for the toilets, I let out an innocuous (albeit incongruous) “WOO”, and the woman in front actually backs away.

Getting looked at, glared at and stared at has taken some getting used to. Since the onset of my tics a couple of years ago, I have explored a couple of ways of dealing with the unwanted attention.

First, I chose a combative approach, and resolved to stare back at whoever was staring at me. The opportunity to do this arose when I was on a bus, and a sequence of grimaces caused a fellow traveller to look pointedly at me. I, in turn, looked pointedly at him, my hope being that he would back down upon registering the ferocity of my gaze. Alas, I lasted only a lingering second or two before I gave up. A series of similar experiences taught me that I was poor at holding a stranger’s gaze, and I resolved not to try this tactic again.

Later, I decided on a much less aggressive approach, and decided to apologise, especially if I let out a particularly impolite tic. I thought that a quiet “sorry” would counterbalance any annoyance cause by my accidental profanity, kind of like when you excuse yourself after sneezing. The opportunity to do this arose when I was on the London Underground and absent-mindedly looking in the vague direction of a man. Although my “fuck off” was not directed at him, or indeed anyone, it certainly looked like it was. I took the opportunity to apologise, but ended up just attracting more attention. The fact that I had spoken to someone on the tube seemed to be far more disconcerting than any tic, obscene or otherwise. The man looked bewildered and said nothing. I resolved not to apologise again, especially as having Tourette’s is not my fault, and all things considered, I am not sorry.

At a loss, I decided to look into what staring is. I found out that staring is universal, is something that we all do whether they want to or not, and can basically be explained as being a kind of screening process. Every day, we are all constantly and unconsciously scanning our surroundings with our eyes, trying to figure out whether our environment is safe or not. Whenever we notice an anomaly (someone flipping off a tuna and sweetcorn salad perhaps), we stare at it whilst we figure out whether or not this anomaly is a menace.

Simply put, when I tic, I am an anomaly. My starers are just trying to figure out whether or not I am a threat. If my starer responds with a half-smile, then maybe he has decided I am not a threat. If my starer responds by backing away, then maybe she has decided I am a threat.

In many or most cultures, staring is considered rude. This makes sense. It is not nice to feel the gaze of someone else on you whilst they judge you. As it happens, I have got used to turning heads, and have come to not really care. I find it helpful to remember that I, like everyone, am as guilty of staring at others as they are of staring at me.

Sometimes I am reminded of a time I saw a man shouting in a shopping centre. I did not understand why he was making the noises he did. Today, I am pretty sure he had Tourette’s. Back then, I am pretty sure I just stared.

An earlier version of this post was published on the Tourettes Action website.

How Tourette’s Adds Up

Numbers only count for so much. Take it from the Bureau of Australia.  A few years ago, they tried to find out what the traits of the average Australian were. After analysing the 2011 census, they discovered that the average Australian was a thirty-seven year old woman who had two children aged nine and six. She lived in a detached house with 200,000 dollars left to pay on the mortgage. She was five foot four, had European ancestry, and a BMI just in the overweight range. All this seemed believable. The woman described certainly sounded average enough. However, there was one crucial problem with what the Bureau discovered: out of the twenty-two million people in Australia, not one of them matched the criteria. 

There is no Bureau of Tourette’s, but if there were, its researchers would no doubt find out that the average person with Tourette’s is male. His symptoms started age seven, and, as two-thirds of people with Tourette’s find that their symptoms improve significantly by the time they reach adulthood, there would be a good chance that he is a teenager or younger. Although it would be highly unlikely that he would have the swearing variety of the condition (there is only a 10 percent chance of coprolalia – the technical term which literally means talking shit), the Bureau would surely learn that the average person with Tourette’s also has ADHD or OCD, or if he is super lucky, both.

Looking at the Bureau of Tourette’s findings, it might seem safe to assume that I am a teenage boy with some kind of attention deficit and most of my life left to live. But numbers only count for so much. As it happens, I have Tourette’s, but even though Tourette’s affects three to four as many males as females, I am not and have never been male. The condition might not be rare, but I had never actually met someone else with the condition. Equally, despite the fact that Tourette’s Syndrome normally kicks in at around six or seven years of age, my Tourette’s started much later, and even though tics normally lessen in severity in adulthood, nothing of the sort has happened since I have entered adulthood a few years back now. And yes, even though only 10 percent of people with Tourette’s have coprolalia, I do indeed talk shit. I talk shit every day.

The Name Game

There are quite a few problems that come with having Tourette’s Syndrome. First you have the daily embarrassment that comes with saying random things and doing random stuff, coupled with the perpetual worry that at the very worst moment to utter something, your Tourette’s may decide to utter that very something. Then you have the societal ridicule: the sit-coms that use your condition as a punchline, the programmes that voyeuristically marvel at how you get dates or jobs, surprise surprise, just like anyone else. On top of this there is the very real prospect of workplace discrimination, the fact that employers might not want to hire someone who cannot even sit still for the interview. Not forgetting that you probably have to deal with the odd co-morbidity, OCD probably, or maybe ADHD or good old fashioned depression.

So faced with all these obstacles, you might be forgiven for ignoring a very specific, and very insignificant Tourette-centred problem: what to call the condition. And yet, as soon as you open your mouth to explain your tics, you are, inadvertently or purposely, making a choice.

Tourette’s Syndrome is normally called Tourette’s Syndrome, so you probably choose to say that. It would be a natural choice. Tourette’s Syndrome is a syndrome named after a man called Tourette, the Frenchman who wrote the first proper paper on what he called la maladie des tics . However, calling the condition Tourette’s Syndrome is to forget that a man called Jean Marc Gaspard Itard wrote about the same thing a whole sixty years earlier than Tourette. And yet, no one calls it Itard’s Syndrome.

On top of this there is also the illogic of naming a medical condition after a person. Tourette never had the condition, so the habitual apostrophe is a bit odd. Also, the name Tourette does not communicate anything about the condition it denotes, whereas something like “tic disease” actually does. The same goes for other more literal, non-eponymous conditions. Think Yellow Fever (the fever that makes you go yellow). Think Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (the one where you are chronically fatigued). These are simple, easy-to-understand and easy-to-remember, something that is refreshing in the world of medicine, where few things are simple, easy-to-understand and easy-to-remember.

But maybe you are smart, and so you deftly avoid all these problems by simply saying you have TS. You are totally aware that if you approach your average man or woman on the street and tell them that you have TS, they will have no idea what you are talking about. That’s precisely the point. You want to confuse rather than explain. Rather than saying Tourette’s and then proceeding to say, “Yes, the swearing thing, but I don’t actually swear,” you can say that you have TS, and the man or woman can nod blankly and say nothing and you can both move on with your lives.

You do not care that when say you have TS, that you are contributing to the world’s already ample supply of jargonistic initialisms. You also know that your linguistic choice is elitist. You know that to understand what TS is, you have to be in the world of TS. You don’t necessarily need to have the condition, but you definitely know someone who does. Or else, it’s what you do. You research TS, or maybe you work for a charity that represents TS.

There is no simple solution to this linguistic conundrum. As it happens, there isn’t a complex solution either. There are arguments for and against calling the condition Tourette’s Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, or TS.

Basically, you can a) call your condition Tourette’s Syndrome because that’s what most people do, b) call your condition TS because you want to confuse the general public, c) call your condition Tourette Syndrome as a proud symbol of your grammatical pedantry, d) call your condition Itard’s Syndrome as a proud symbol of your historical pedantry (and perhaps also your eccentricity), e) call your condition everything and nothing quite randomly because in a world of inequality, climate change, overpopulation, pollution, and random acts of violence, who cares?

The point is that, in the end, it’s your language, it’s your condition, and so the words you use to describe it are up to you.