Tourette's Syndrome Awareness Day 2022
Date: 07 June 2022
To highlight Tourette's Syndrome Awareness day 2022, 20 year-old Artist Emily Bridges shares her experience of having the condition, and how the support from the dedicated service here at The Walton Centre is helping her pursue her career in art and teaching:
At age 18 I started to develop severe tics. I remember sitting on the bus one day on my way to college when my head suddenly started jolting to the side. I recognised it was very unusual but I tried to rationalise it by labelling it as a nervous twitch, maybe due to stress. Later on in the day, in conversation with one of my teachers, my face began uncontrollably grimacing; my eyes, mouth and nose scrunching repeatedly. I was so embarrassed and I couldn’t explain to them what was going on, because I, myself, didn’t know. I tried to ignore the problem, convinced it was my fault it was happening, until I started making involuntary sounds. I went to my GP and they referred me to The Walton Centre.
During my first assessment with the specialist team, I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome. I was glad of the clarity on what was going on, and thinking back to growing up I could see other tics, more subtle ones like eye-rolling and shoulder shrugging, had been there all along.
I’m very adamant on taking a therapeutic approach to the management of my condition and for the last two years, since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve come to really understand my tics; what exacerbates them and how I can adapt for them. I’ve learnt how stimulation impacts my tics, positive and negative, like heightened emotions of excitement or anxiety, or loud noises and busy environments can make them worse. I’ve also realised the impact of simply taking care of myself: eating well, getting enough sleep, practicing meditation and knowing my limits, because when I don’t take care of my mind and body, my Tourette’s retaliates. In not seeing Tourette’s as the enemy but more as a part of me that requires compassion and care, I believe I’m finally in a place of acceptance.
But to begin with it was difficult. Now that I was suddenly blurting out words and profanities, my arms flailing about and my legs continuously falling from under me, it took a huge mental and physical toll. I hated the attention it brought to me. It became the first thing people would notice when they’d meet me and that hugely impacted on how I perceived myself. I got so used to others knowing me as ‘the one with Tourette’s’ and nothing more, that I began to see myself as such. I stopped seeing my other qualities and only saw my condition.
But I realise now that I am so much more than Tourettes.
I am an artist. My art practice is heavily focused around installation - producing immersive, large-scale, stimulating settings that connect us with our senses. I wish to produce an enriching and visceral experience for people that prompts reflection and awareness of the present moment. I continuously explore meditative processes as part of my study of the connection between the mind and body, of which is very therapeutically rewarding for me and my Tourette’s.
I aspire to teaching Fine Art at degree level, possibly becoming a lecturer, whilst also continuing to be a practicing artist and taking my art into the community. Although I have my worries about my Tourette’s being a barrier, I’m determined to work hard, achieve my goals and prove that Tourette’s doesn’t have to hold me back.
I’ll be studying Fine Art at university in September which will be an exciting yet daunting experience, but I feel security knowing that The Walton Centre will be continuously supporting me as I enter this huge stage of my life. Dr Da Costa has been incredibly useful, as he’s helped me understand my condition, and provided therapy and techniques I can use to minimise my tics. I’m grateful that I’m able to benefit from this amazing Tourette’s service.
Dr Antonella Macerollo and Dr Antonio Da Costa, who provide the Tourette's Syndrome Joint Clinic here at The Walton Centre have created a short video about the condition, which you can watch here.
Notes to editors
Further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact the Communications Team at The Walton Centre on 0151 556 3397 or email@example.com
The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust is the only hospital trust in the UK specialising in neurology, neurosurgery and pain services. Although the majority of patients come from Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, Lancashire and the Isle of Man, for some specialist treatments of complex disorders we see patients from all parts of the country, referred by their GPs or other neurologists, neurosurgeons and pain clinicians.
The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust was rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission. The independent regulator of all health and social care services in England published its rating on Friday 21 October 2016, following announced and unannounced inspection visits to the Trust in April 2016.
For more information please visit: www.thewaltoncentre.nhs.uk or follow the Trust on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Lower Lane, Fazakerley, Liverpool L9 7LJ
0151 525 3611
To highlight Tourette's Syndrome Awareness day 2022, 20 year-old Artist Emily Bridges shares her experience of having the condition