Let Me Speak

By: Madeline Bell

Therapy. What an odd word. A word that entails problems that you can’t solve yourself. A word that only applies to people with enough money to get other people to solve their problems for them. Therapy is such a bitch. It can make you feel better, or it can make you feel like you have even more problems than you did before you went. I don’t care much for therapy. I’ve gone to every therapist my parents felt had enough arrogance and over-exaggerated their career just enough to be able to help. It, of course, didn’t do anything but give me more to stress about. You may wonder why I even go to therapy in the first place. I have this little thing called Chronic Motor Tic disorder. It’s a neurological disorder that I won’t explain much in fear that you lose interest in my tragic life story. Basically I have trouble controlling my own body. 

It was just a normal Monday in a normal therapy session. I was missing math which added to my anxiety which in turn added to the worsening of my tics. The room was pale and silent. The kind of silence where it seems like there’s a ringing somewhere in the background, but you’re not sure if it’s really there or if it’s just your mind trying to make up for the fact that you can’t hear anything. It smelled like chemicals and rubber gloves. All the smells you would find in a hospital. I heard footsteps of a doctor pass by the door, and I waited to hear the squeaking the door being opened. It never came. Another pair of footsteps came by. Then another and another. Still nothing. I heard the sound of my father breathing next to me, half asleep. I looked over and saw the bright pink bed that was in the room with the little roll of paper above it to pull down when someone was forced to lay on it. It was the only pop of color in the room. It hurt my eyes. I looked out the window and saw the condensation on the window, and the drops of water that left trails of transparency along the window. 

 “Ok, honey, you know how it goes. Hold your pointer finger up when you feel a tic coming on,” Dr. Hill said. 

 “I got it,” I mumbled. 

 “So how’s school going?” she asked 

 “It’s going.” 

 “Anything exciting happen recently?” she tried again. 

 “She recently got an 100% on her Biology test,” my dad chipped in. 

 “Very nice!” Dr. Hill complimented. 

 “Thanks,” I said. 

I held up my left pointer finger. I’m right handed but my right hand was busy clenching and unclenching. 

 “Good job doing your exercises,” Dr. Hill said 

I looked at my feet. Did I mention I was 14? I picked at the purple duct tape holding together my right shoe with my other foot. 

 “I’m getting married on Valentine’s Day,” I blurted, desperate to change the subject. 

Dr. Hill and my dad looked at me. 

 “A good friend of mine said we should do it as a joke, but then she took the joke too far, and now we’re actually doing it. I really don’t want to, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings by saying no. I’m honestly dreading it. This isn’t the first time I’ve been dragged into something I don’t want to do. I do not like playing soccer at all, but there wasn’t enough girls to play on the team. The coach kept begging me and I couldn’t say     no . . .” I stopped talking when I realized I was rambling. I hated opening my mouth more than I had to with Dr. Hill. 

 “Well that’s very kind of you.” Dr. Hill said. 

 “Thanks,” I said. 

A moment passed. I hesitated and looked around at the white room. The feeling then became too much. I put my finger up. My leg kicked out. Pain shot up from behind my knee. 

 “Good job doing your exercises.” 

My cheeks flamed. I felt hot all over. 

Later my dad and I got into the car to take me to school. 

 “I don’t wanna go back,” I said. 

 “Why not?” my dad asked, not shocked but confused. 

 “Just don’t want to.” 

 “We’ve only been at it for a week.” 

 “I know.” 

 “How about we give it a little more time, and then we’ll see if we want to continue.” 

 “If I want to continue,” I corrected him. 

 “Just give it a little more time,” my dad begged. Sometimes I wondered if he was more desperate to get rid of my tics than I was. I wondered if he was tired and embarrassed of having an abnormal daughter. 

 “Okay,” I said. 

When I got back to school I had art class. We had a project to make a collage of something we felt deeply about. Some kids were making one with pictures of their parents. Some kids were doing more political pieces. Others were doing birds. I was doing more academic type things. I couldn’t do much that day though because I was too busy thinking about my stupid therapy session. I started to get irritated about it, and in turn my tics got worse. I held my fist and stretched my arm out as if I was trying to elbow someone. Maybe my therapist. The guy I was sitting next to, Will, knew about my tics. His brother had Tourettes. 

 “You okay?” he asked. 

 “Yeah I’m just annoyed,” I sighed. 

 “Another bad therapy session?” 

 “Yeah,” I confided in him. He’s pretty much the only one who understands how to deal with people with tics. He’s really close with his brother. I talked to him about everything concerning my tics. He was a better therapist than my actual one. That still didn’t mean I was going to tell him everything I was feeling, but he helped me calm down. I simply couldn’t tell him what was on my mind. At least not to the fullest extent. I could only tell people what they told me they saw first. 

 “Well if they start to hurt, I have Advil in my backpack,” he offered. 

 “Thanks,” I smiled at him. I started to calm down. 

 “Whatcha talkin about?” Charlie chimed in. I immediately felt all the annoyance and anger from this morning return full force. I sighed. Charlie was a hyperactive kid with the energy of a puppy and the attention span of a fly. He was probably the nosiest kid I’ve ever met. He didn’t know when to let things go, nor did he understand the fact that not everything was his business. He was one of the kids doing birds. 

 “Nothing that concerns you, Charlie,” I said. 

 “Are you talking about your tics again?” There he went again. The only reason he knew about my tics was because . . . well I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count. 

 “Yes, Charlie,” I sighed again. He really needed to learn when stop. 

 “How long have you had those? I’ve noticed you doing them for a long time now.” He really, really, needed to learn when to stop. 

 “They started when I was seven, and it’s been hell ever since,” I snapped hoping he would drop it. 

 “Ya know . . .” he started, “I feel like if I had these tic things, they wouldn’t bother me as much.” 

I dropped everything. I glared at him for a long moment. I wanted to take a piece of paper, cover it in glue, put it on his face and rip it off like a waxing strip. I wanted to scream. 

 “Oh, shit.” Will muttered. 

 “What the hell?” I said through my teeth. I started to stand up with my scissors in my hand, but Will stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. He told me to calm down and take deep breaths. I did. Some kids looked over at me weirdly. Probably because I was breathing like I just ran a 5K. I eventually calmed down, but Will watched me like I was a wild animal for the rest of the class. He slowly slid my scissors away from me. Charlie had moved away, and I didn’t even notice. I wanted to scream. I wanted to say everything that was on my mind, but I couldn’t. Everything I wanted to say was lodged in the back of my throat along with the scream. I didn’t remember much from the rest of that day. 

A week later, I was sitting in science class while we were talking about hormones. My tics that day were really bad because of another awful therapy session with my awful therapist. Anytime someone said, “Good job,” to me, I wanted to explode. 

We started to talk about female hormones and how boobs grow. Suddenly the male population of the class seemed much more interested. It looked like they were taking notes but were really probably just writing “I♡BOOBS” in all caps in their notebooks. One of the boys started using a highlighter. I guess he felt the need to color it in, or maybe add a graphic image. 

My neck lurched to the side then back and a sharp pain went down my spine. I was used to this. I looked around and noticed the kid next to me staring. He was the only boy in class not paying attention to the presentation. He was probably gay. 

 “Are your tics a hormonal related thing?” he asked. A few days ago my parents e-mailed the school about my tics and how they were getting worse. The principal then held a lecture with our tiny private school class to stress not to make fun of me or ask about my tics in general. They talked about my tics and how to avoid them like the plague. Will glanced over at me with nothing but sympathy in his eyes. When I focus on my tics they get worse, meaning that throughout this entire lecture, all the kids were staring at me like a monkey in a zoo. And I danced for them. 

 “Are your tics a hormonal thing?” he asked again. 

 “What?” I blinked. 

 “Well in the presentation it says that obviously males and females have different hormones, and I’ve never met a guy with your type of disorder, so I thought maybe it was a female thing.” His voice was nasally. 

 “I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in general that you’ve ever met with ‘my type of disorder’ so I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I was about to get super pissed off and this poor boy didn’t even see it coming. 

 “I was just wondering if you have this disorder because you’re a girl, and maybe if you were a guy you wouldn’t have it. “ 

I wanted to take my pencil and stab it right through his hand. Or his eye. I wanted to scream, but I didn’t. I couldn’t if it just stayed in my throat. Instead I just settled with punching him in the face. Suddenly I heard chairs scraping the floor and people yelling. There was a loud chatter in the room which I didn’t like. I never liked loud noises. I was told to go to the principal’s office, and I got detention after school for a week. I could’ve gotten away with no punishment if I used the simple “It was my tics” excuse, but I would rather die before I ever blame my tics for something they didn’t do. 

My parents sat me down a few days later. Their “parental intuition” told them something was up with me. They tried to get me to tell them my feelings. I think deep down we knew that wasn’t gonna happen. I wanted to tell them. I needed to tell them, but I couldn’t. I needed them to guess. I needed them to speak for me. They needed to tell me and to know how I was feeling because there was no way I could tell them. If they could just somehow figure out all the words I wasn’t able to say, but they couldn’t possibly know that much. 

A while back my therapist offered a medicine I could take that would hopefully control my tics better. She said it should stop my tics or at least slow them down and make them less frequent. It ended up not working. When we told Dr. Hill, she looked disappointed, supposedly because she was hoping they would work and she just wanted to “heal” me. I just think she looked disappointed because she wanted to be able to say she was good at her job. She wasn’t though, and even if the meds did end up working, that would have nothing to do with her. I was kind of glad the meds didn’t work. Part of me didn’t want to let go of my tics because they were part of who I am. It was like the annoying sibling that people always say they want to get rid of, but if they were ever presented the opportunity to actually do it, they would always say no. I didn’t want to try any more meds, but it obviously wasn’t up to me. It was up to my shit therapist who was still for some reason trying to convince my parents she was qualified for her job. I started taking another med that was supposed to help. It didn’t. 

One of the side effects of this pill was trouble with finding words. Meaning there were some simple words that I couldn’t come up with for the life of me. I wanted nothing more than to completely forget about it, but my therapist told me not to worry and that it only really affected older folks that way. I didn’t believe her for a second. My parents had her sign off on the prescription. I wanted to cry. No, I wanted to start bawling my eyes out. This wasn’t fair. People already believed me to be incompetent enough due to my inability to control my own body. My intelligence was the one thing nobody ever doubted me for. It was the one thing I held on to. Now I was going to lose that too. I wanted to scream. I wanted to tell everybody to stop for just a second and let me catch up, but every damn word stayed right where it was. In the back of my throat. On the tip of my tongue. In the front of my mind. 

For the next month of my life I had trouble coming up with words like banana, pencil, forehead, and an abundance of other words I used to be able to spell backwards with my eyes closed. 

 “Hey can you hand me that?” I asked Will pointing to our table full of school supplies. 

 “What?” he asked. 

 “That” I said trying to make my point more specific somehow. I didn’t want to let on that I didn’t know what it was called. My class already knew about my forgetfulness thanks to another lecture telling kids not to make fun of me. At the end of it they all looked at me waiting or me to say something. I forgot how to say “thank you”. 

Will tried his best to see where I was pointing so as not to embarrass me. He started moving his own pointer finger to things in the general vicinity of where mine was pointing. 

 “The green thing” I said. Luckily the were only two green things on the table and one was in the opposite direction I was pointing. 

 “Oh . . . ” Will said, handing me the notebook. 

I stopped taking the meds the next day. The funny thing was that they weren’t even helping my tics. In fact, the meds were actually making my tics worse because of the frustration they caused. We stopped seeing my shitty therapist the next week. I hope she got fired. 

I was so ecstatic to hear that I never had to go back there again so I decided to switch things up. I moved the furniture around in my room. My tics still were not getting any better, so it took longer than it should have. I was moving my lamp to my desk when I had to stop, plant my left heel on the ground, toes up, and lean back as if I was trying to touch my toes to my face. I straightened up again expecting to be able to continue my journey to my desk undisturbed. Then I got another feeling in my back. My hips lurched forwards and my legs went stick straight. My knees made a horrible licking noise. Suddenly my body was jerking in all different directions. It was really just my lower body, so I waited for it to pass. This happened sometimes. I would have these episodes where my tics just rolled and rolled through my body without giving me a break. I usually started to get really sweaty, and my heart rate went up by a tenfold. Then the worse thing happened. My arms and hands started to tic. My hands that were holding the lamp were dying to start clenching and unclenching and move as if I was trying to channel magical powers. Then my elbows started to lurch out, and suddenly I couldn’t take it anymore. I dropped the lamp and it shattered. A piece of glass cut my leg right on the front part of my shin. It cut a diagonal line down the entire front part of it. The pain only made my tics worse, and I was on the ground. I was lurching in all directions, my body contracting and stretching as if something inside me was trying to get out. The sight was probably terrifying. I had blood dripping down my leg and on my hands, probably all over the floor too. The fact that it hurt like hell was all I could focus on. I always told my dad that if my whole scientist dream didn’t work out, I could always play a demon in some exorcist movie. 

I banged my head on my ground. I planted my chin and listed the rest of my body up. I felt like some part of my skin would just tear apart like if you pulled a seam too hard. Something from the back of my throat was trying to claw its way out. I felt like there was some animal slithering up the back of my throat needing to escape. I was trying to force my mouth open and let it out. It was a feeling I was unfortunately familiar with. It usually came as a package deal with my tics when they got bad. I felt like screaming. 

I screamed. 

I remember my dad came rushing up the stairs to see me in all my glory. He looked terrified. I remember him rushing over to me, seeing the tears and snot running down my face. Then his eyes traveled to my leg. I remember him yelling something that I couldn’t hear over the sound in my ears. If someone asked me to describe that sound, the best I could do is say that it was silent. It was quiet. Not the kind when you’re in a room alone or you’re next to someone being quite. The kind of quiet when you walk outside and all there is is snow packing all the sound inside its thick layers. The quiet where you simply can’t hear anything. There might have been a distant ringing in my ears, but I don’t remember much. 

Two weeks later, I found myself sitting on a stiff couch. My dad was next to me, half asleep. I tried not to look at the bandage on my leg that covered the stitches. I looked around at the tan room and the green couch on which we were sitting. I looked at the small, rectangular table with magazines scattered across it. I looked at the green. One person sat across from me with a little yellow notepad and pencil. I looked at the paintings on the walls. They were the kind of paintings that were nice to look at, but really they were just a bunch of colors mixed together that anyone could really do in five seconds. Which was why they found themselves on a therapist’s wall and not a nice art studio. A mug of hot chocolate was placed in front of me. 

 “Good morning, sweetheart,” Dr. Eperstein said. 

 “Good morning,” I said and elbowed my dad awake. 

 “How are you feeling?” she asked me. She always liked to get right to the point. 

 “Angry,” I answered. 

 “Why?” she asked. 

I shrugged. Dr. Eperstein smiled. She looked at me the same way a parent would look at their argumentative child. She smiled as if she was saying it’s cute you think you have a choice. It was somehow comforting. It gave me reassurance that she would get it out of me eventually. That she would strip away my lies until I was left bare in the open with nothing but a cold bucket of truth. No matter how much I lied to myself, that was something I not only desperately wanted, it was something I needed. I looked up at her smiling face and opened my mouth. She let me speak.