“I have tourette syndrome”

The episode of True Life I chose to analyze was True Life- “I have an embarrassing medical condition,” which documented the life an 18 year old girl, Alyssa, who was living with tourette syndrome. Alyssa has what are referred to as “self-injurous tics” which cause her to choke and hit herself, and she also can lose consciousness. She takes 5 different types of medication on a daily basis for her tourette syndrome, and also for depression and anxiety. Alyssa has absolutely no control over her body, and her tics can come at any time without warning, making it very difficult for her to function every day. Allyssa’s narrative shifts from a chaos to a quest narrative. She has to live her life with people constantly staring at her and laughing at her when she has her tics, and she has a difficult time being accepted and understood by people. Alyssa explains in her episode that many people who meet her and observe her tics, believe that she is faking her illness, and therefore, they either make fun of her or just ignore her. There does appear to be a stigma associated with tourette syndrome in that people view people with this illness as “faking” and they believe they are seeking attention, when really these people cannot control themselves at all. Although Allyssa takes medication for her illness, doctors say their is not much that can be done to really control her tics, and so she must learn to live with them. Alyssa does have an extremely positive outlook on life while dealing with such an embarrassing illness; she states that you cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you react to it, and she chooses to live as normal of a life as possible and not let her illness control her. Allyssa acknowledges that her medical condition is abnormal, she understands that she needs to take medication in order to control her symptoms, and she is excused from certain responsibilities that may cause her to have tics (Lecture 4.1). Illness narratives are extremely useful for both the patient and family because it allows them to better understand what the patient is going through and how their life with be impacted by the particular illness. The family will feel a sense of relief knowing how to cope with the illness (Lecture 4.2).




Lecture 4.1 Experiencing Illness. Week 4: Experimental Approach.” ANP 204 course website. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp204-us14/week-4-lecture-1

Lecture 4.2 Illness Narratives. Week 4: Experimental Approach. ANP 204 course website.http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp204-us14/week-4-lecture-2/

MTV. “True Life: I Have an embarrassing medical condition”. Director Carlos Puga. MTV video, 39:28. May 03, 2011. http://www.mtv.com/shows/truelife/true-life-i-have-an-embarrassing-medical-condition/1662862/playlist/#id=1662862


This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. James Conwell says:

    The narrative I found followed a young boy named Liam, who has struggled all of his life with Tourette’s syndrome. His narrative and story can be found in this video . Many of the experiences between the two patients are similar. Both patients experienced unexpected ticks that interfered with their daily lives. Liam’s ticks included him hitting himself in his chest, as well as involuntary shouts. Liam was often subject to being made fun of by his peers, and did not have friends because of a lack of understanding, Further, socioeconomic status was a factor in Liam’s journey to recovery. For example, his family was able to afford a brain surgery that would send electric signals to the problemed areas of his brain, which helped greatly with his tourette’s syndrome. This is a difference from the story of Alyssa in the True Life episode, because her doctors could only provide a drug treatment for her ticks, and not much could be done medically beyond that for her, which may be a result of there being little research at the time into Tourette’s syndrome treatments.
    I think it is obvious that society influences the experience of this illness. Beyond the physical discomfort of the ticks, both patients were bothered by the social stigma of having Tourette’s syndrome. In fact, after getting out of surgery, Liam was most looking forward to a normal life, where he would not be made fun of. Similar to Alyssa, the narrative Liam had was more of a quest narrative, because he was able to see his journey as him getting better and a happier life after his treatment. Overall, the experiences of the illness were similar in both groups, and it was clear that there were socioeconomic and societal factors at play with these two individuals who were working to be healthier from their Tourette’s syndrome.

    “A Teenager’s Battle with Tourette’s Syndrome,” Youtube Video, 8:33, Posted by “Today Tonight,” November 12, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YvgZQMnT_c.

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