TV star Aidy Smith wrote to Santa asking to be ‘normal’ as he battled Tourette symdrome – Mirror Online

Posted: September 15, 2020 at 2:56 pm


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TV presenter Aidy Smith explains how his vocal and physical tics have helped rather than hindered him.

It was Christmas eve and I was eight years old. As I finished my letter for Santa, my wish wasnt for presents. The envelope contained a note of desperation from a little boy who didnt understand what hed done to deserve being like this.

Please dont give me presents, Santa. All I need is to be normal.

Three weeks earlier, I had been on the train when a burst of anger exploded across the carriage. Will someone shut that child up!

My mother began to scribble a note to explain I wasnt being difficult and that the little noises I made were tics caused by a neurological condition that resulted in involuntary movements and vocalisation Tourette syndrome.

The man raged down the carriage with the paper in his hand: Is this meant to embarrass me? My daughter is a psychiatrist and knows all about these problems!

Problems, I remember thinking. Thats all I was, a problem. When youre eight and the root of so much embarrassment, anger and hurt your family are made to go through on a daily basis, life isnt very happy.

Little did I know back then that my Tourettes isnt a weakness. Now, aged 29, as a drinks journalist and presenter of an award-winning series, The Three Drinkers, I realise its my superpower. Because when I focus on my passions, tics all but vanish. Watching me, youd have no idea I even had Tourettes.

Most peoples first interaction with TS was likely someone shouting a profanity on a comedy sketch or video. This is called coprolalia, but affects only around 6% of those with Tourettes. For the rest, they take the form of any movement or sound. Mine, which began at seven, took the form of a cough, loud whooping and neck jerk.

From then until 13, school was tough. Name calling was frequent.

I have memories of getting to school early and hiding in the canteen until lessons began. A group of sixth-form students noticed my tics and took me under their wing. That act of kindness has never left me.

While some teachers were amazing and went out of their way to research my condition, others were oblivious and there were occasions where I was made to be a complete laughing stock.

Aged 12, a substitute teacher shouted mid-class: What is wrong with you, boy? Once shed been filled in by staff, she pulled me up midway through the next lesson. Why didnt you tell me you had something wrong with you? Youve embarrassed me in front of everyone, she scathed.

The humiliation of these situations was unbearable. I wanted to disappear.

I remember my neighbours hosting a birthday party for their child. After an hour I was told it was an adults-only event and asked to leave.

I spent the rest of the day by my bedroom window listening to kids having fun playing on the bouncy castle.

Not enough understanding has led to those with TS hiding away due to the fear of being judged in public.

So at 13, on my first day of senior school, I asked the headmaster to announce in assembly, to more than 800 kids and staff, that I had Tourette syndrome and explain it. This was going to go one of two ways dramatically worse or significantly better.

Thank god I made this decision, because it was the second. But as I listened to my teacher that day, what I didnt realise was that he wasnt telling them about my problem, he was telling them about my superpower.

It wasnt until I turned 15 that I began to understand that when I channelled my energy into what I loved theatre studies, DJing online and acting my tics slowed and, in some cases, disappeared. And this allowed me to excel.

I began teaching myself cognitive behavioural therapies. Meditation, sensory stimulation and a positive mental attitude allowed me to begin to control my urges and rechannel my energy into what I loved.

By 18, Id got accepted into Lancaster University where I began learning how to disguise my tics. Now I present my own series on Amazon Prime, write a drinks column and travel the world to host events.

My tics have changed over time (my cycles last around eight months) and are at their worst when I am emotional, stressed or unwell. I frequently get migraines, muscle pains and insomnia.

Dating is another hurdle theres always a fear youll drive people away given your oddities; at what point do you tell someone you have TS? Im still figuring this part out.

But am I happy? Yes. Extremely. I have daily struggles, but having found my superpower I can now say Im one of the only TV presenters in the world with Tourettes and Im confident that I wont be the last.

For those with TS, I want to say, your life is not destined for failure. Once you find your passion, you will soar.

For the parents who are scared for their childs future don't be. Dont shield them from reality, we need to experience those funny looks to get ready for the world. Help us find our superpower and watch us flourish.

And for everyone else who sees people like us twitch or make a noise as we go about our day, dont stare. Simply smile, acknowledge it and continue on.

The Three Drinkers airs on Amazon Prime. Follow Aidy on Instagram or Twitter @Sypped

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TV star Aidy Smith wrote to Santa asking to be 'normal' as he battled Tourette symdrome - Mirror Online

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September 15th, 2020 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Mental Attitude