Tourette's blogger has a laugh about her tics

Jessica Thom
Image caption Jessica's tics started when she was six and became more serious in her 20s

Public transport can be extremely difficult for Jessica Thom, particularly if she is on her own.

She was filmed recently by a stranger on the train as she let out a string of expletives. On another occasion, the 30-year-old youth worker was left helpless and tearful after staff refused to let her through the ticket barriers when her pass would not work. Again she was swearing.

But Jessica cannot help it. She is one of more than 300,000 people in the UK with Tourette's Syndrome.

She was diagnosed in 2006 and is one of the 10% of people with the condition who involuntarily use offensive language.

Her outburts - or tics as they are called - also commonly include the word "biscuit", but they can also take the form of complex phrases or sounds.

Since the age of six, Jessica has had tics. They started as little noises, before getting more serious in her 20s.

She remembers her behaviour at school being obsessive and impulsive. Yet the school did not understand that she needed additional support.

Now Tourette's dominates her life through a mixture of involuntary movements, words and noises but she is determined it should not stop her doing anything she would otherwise want to do.

There are practical ways Jessica can limit the impact of the tics on her life.

She explains: "I don't use knives, I avoid carrying delicate objects and I try to go to the same sort of places where people know me."

She wears gloves to stop her biting herself and uses cups with lids to stop drinks being spilled when her movements become uncontrollable.

When she does go to the cinema or the theatre, she tries to sit near the back so that she can get out quickly if she starts squealing or swearing.

Despite her tics, Jessica is determined not to be stigmatised by the condition.

"My best friend describes it as a crazy word-generating machine," Jessica says.

Image caption The superhero character created by Jessica is an attempt to share the humour of Tourette's

"I have said so many funny, strange things and I want to celebrate them. There's much more to Tourette's than swearing."

To try to raise awareness of the condition Jessica has started writing a blog and created Touretteshero, a superhero character, who speaks her mind in an inspiring and witty way.

"Writing and thinking about Tourette's is good way of giving me the language to explain it to other people," she says.

"I can be more fluent when writing and it also helps me reflect on the positive and negative experiences."

What she enjoys more than anything is helping other people understand her behaviour and sharing the funny and creative elements of the condition.

Jessica finds that any heightened emotion, like stress or happiness or anxiety, can make her tics worse.

To help control her feelings she has tried using relaxation techniques, which can be helpful. Cognitive behavioural therapy is also seen as one way of reducing the impact of the tics.

But she has decided not to use medication, although experts say it can be used to keep symptoms under control.

Jessica's preferred brand of medicine, it seems, is humour.

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