They treated me like shit until it all became familiar and famous and everyone loved talking about it – and now no one does and their curiosity has been abated and they treat me like shit again – not that I really care though, I’ve found an easy and effective way around all that; still, you have no idea how frustrating it has been to be made this way even if I’m definitely a little better these days, and, I guess, I’ve had enough time to wear this thick skin – and just in case you were wondering, no, I’m certainly not looking for your pity, but thanks all the same.
Used to be different back in the day; I used to be able to beat anyone at squash – and I mean anyone, and – when I am at full strength – I haven’t lost a game of table tennis since I was 6; look, you can see me holding a cup here in this photo taken many years ago; although, in fairness, I don’t play so much any more since meeting Mr Haydol; I used to be one in a million but now I’m just one of the millions – at least most of the time.
To the average person, I am just weird, mentally retarded and a little dangerous, but if only it were that simple. Say what you like, it’s so much more than that though, and I will never be able to completely give up living the great health as it has been called or relinquish this superpower of mine – and neither would I want to – however much those bastards have tried their best to stunt me; trying to reduce me to a mockery of myself and, perhaps, it’s not too unkind to say – they tried to render me a little more like you.
I remember some years back, there was once a doctor – one of the many – who would always tell me with her sickly soft voice that in medio stat virtus – which is just a fancy way to say that we need to find the right balance in life – which is always so easy for you normals to condescendingly say stuff like that to someone “defective” like me while – and let’s be honest – you can’t even manage to do that yourselves in your own so-called normal messed up lives: at least I know I’m mental, so what’s your excuse then?
Was she just trying to help me and reduce the risk of me hurting myself and – more importantly – the people around me? Crazy as it seems, and contrary to everyone else’s point of view, I don’t think she was: she was just trying to help herself, I could see it in her eyes; whether that was for, primarily, the British Medical Journal, a book she was writing or researching, or consequently to aid her own disturbed mind – I don’t know and cannot really say nor do I feel I really have to either – but I know for a fact that she cared little about me and her head was clearly elsewhere – like I said, it’s in the eyes; my superpower has given me plenty of ups and downs and rocked the sanity boat all too often and, yes, I get to live and deal with that on a daily basis, but one thing it also gives me is an uncanny ability to see people for who they really are; to see through the socially constructed shields or awkward masks that you all seem to forget you are wearing – especially when you’re around a “freak” like me.
Until recently, I’d started playing drums in a jazz band again – another thing I’ve always been amazing at – there, you can see a picture of me playing over here too; people simply think Tourette’s is just uncontrolled swearing, but that’s just one common verbal tic of the disorder – the truth is that it gives you lightning-quick physical reflexes and adroitness, blazing thoughts of mind, as well as a phenomenally quick-witted verbal dexterity that even seasoned stand-up comedians, improv actors, and hardcore rap artists can only dream of, and I should know, I’ve challenged the best and have never been beaten yet, although, I might think twice about doing any of that most days since I’ve been weakened and basically trapped by good old Mr Haldol – and thanks again to him, I’ve had to cut down on the drumming too; you normals have no idea how free your minds and bodies are while we are imprisoned and reduced to slaves and forced to placidly interact with all of you and comply to your rules – I still don’t have any idea how you can all willingly live this way.
It drove me mad at first, almost sent me over the edge until I found a way to beat the sentence forced upon me, to live amongst you all with your facades of sanity and to wade through the sea of self-deception you all swim in – thing is, most of the time you do this unknowingly, which just proves to me that it is you who are the freaks – perhaps we are actually God’s intended normal ones and only by some perverse fluke (or brutal culling more like) you guys are now classed as normal; we’ve learnt to embrace our condition; we’ve learnt to see this mental disorder as a gift and not a curse; I have welcomed my speed of mind and my ticcy witticisms – or my witty ticcicisms – as essential parts of my personality, as elements that define my character and I have chosen to include them in what makes me me and to openly reveal them without shame in what has been called (wonderfully, I think) my coarse and brilliant chutzpah: to hell with My Haldol…well, ha, most of the time.
Became such a downer, such a numbing of my everything that I had to reassess my relationship with Mr Haldol – I couldn’t go on letting him slowly kill me; I tried to get that doctor to understand that but she wouldn’t listen and told me that the risks were too great to myself and those around me if I didn’t use Haldol; so, basically, I had to kowtow to the catatonia of Parkinsonism instead of blossoming in the glorious acceleration of my Tourettism; it was a nightmare: I couldn’t concentrate long enough to keep a job down; I could hardly hit a ping-pong ball let alone perform any of my normal surprise shots from impossible angles that had previously made me so invincible; I stopped playing in my jazz band and lost all my love of kinetic melodies – I couldn’t even nip in and out of revolving doors any more and would smash into the thing as if I’d never really learned to walk properly: it was like being a sick, slow baby trying and failing to learn everything from scratch in a bleak world devoid of all colour, music, and, most importantly, a total lack of dopamine. A decision needed to be made, and, much to the dismay of some family and close friends as well as some other doctor I’d started seeing, I slowly and gladly began to cut down on the amount of time spent with My Haldol which freed me from the constraints that were constantly slowing me down – that took away the one thing that truly defines me, of which weaker minds would’ve easily been consumed and possessed by: my tics, I consist of my tics, there is nothing else.
Thing is, it’s not as bad as people think: I live my normal life – just like you all do, just like you all try to do – I go and work in a mundane nine-to-five job, keeping eye contact to a bare minimum on my commute to work and back before settling down to a meal in front of a screen or two – you know, nothing out of the ordinary; and, of course, I responsibly shake Mr Haldol’s hand every day of the week in some sort of subdued arrangement, but when Friday night comes around which heralds the start of my weekend, I leave that idiot Haldol at home and I get to release the real me; a loss of sanity in the Tourette’s world doesn’t always lead to a breakdown, for us, it’s often a breakthrough: I unleash, with immense joy, the surfeit of impetuosity that is me without Mr Haldol, me without your anaesthetized reality you maniacally seem to crave – without your alcohol-induced stupor that smothers and hides who you really are (although you think it’s the opposite); you hide your normal self as if you were ashamed of it, for God’s sake; whereas I, wholeheartedly, acknowledge and accept who I am each and every weekend, and I am not ashamed in the slightest; perhaps, when we really take a look at it, it is us who are really, truly normal and alive in a world of freaks.
Eternally grateful, Mr Sacks (and “Ray” of course).