Tourettes – I Swear I Can’t Help It Review: Tics All The Boxes
TOURETTES – I SWEAR I CAN’T HELP IT: Thursday 28th May, BBC 2, 9pm Alert Me
I approached this review like a naughty school boy in the headmaster’s office; desperate not to laugh.
Fortunately the makers of this thoughtfully put together programme obviously anticipated the puerile preconceptions of the public at large and have masterfully steered juvenile viewers like myself in the right direction.
There is no cure for Tourettes syndrome, an illness which causes uncontrollable nervous physical impulses which are almost impossible to suppress.
Often these ‘tics’ take a verbal form with sufferers shouting out random words or phrases that come into their heads. Other times the tics can be physical such as hitting out or grabbing hold of something.
OK, the idea of a person shouting out all the random stuff that pops into their head on a daily basis seems like a ‘hilarious’ premise for a Eddie Murphy comedy, but the cold hard reality of it is that this is an affliction which rules peoples’ lives.
At 16, Scottish caretaker John featured in a programme about being a teenage Tourettes sufferer living in a society that knew very little about the illness. Back then he was teased and ostracised in school. Now in his forties, John has been dealing with Tourettes for most of his life yet still feels the isolation of being subject to his daily tics.
To combat his feelings of isolation John organises weekends where fellow Tourettes sufferers and their partners can come and socialise without fear of being judged. Here, I felt that the programme makers, and those with Tourettes, felt free to enjoy the wacky side of the illness such as when a discussion about minders solicits an ‘ARTHUR DALEY!’ from the crowd.
In contrast to John we also meet Greg, a teenager who developed Tourettes when he was just 7 year old. As Greg describes what the onset of his illness was like for him he paints a picture of a terrifying and debilitating ordeal. At one points Greg’s tics involved losing muscle control of his entire body except for his eyes.
Overall the subject is very well handled and the programme clearly shows how suffocating Tourettes can be, yet how far we have come as a society in accepting and understanding it. Next time you hear someone screech ‘I’m a chicken!’ behind you in the supermarket queue, have a bit of compassion.
It may sound funny but it’s no laughing matter.