There is a very unfortunate situation happening in one of my children’s classrooms. We live in a lovely suburb with fantastic public schools, but unfortunately no school district is immune from emotional problems in the classroom.
I can not and will not get into the specifics of the situation, but I can tell you that it is causing my child anxiety and fear by proxy. The school and district have their hands tied to communicate about it, by privacy law, which makes resolving the issue nearly impossible.
I bring this up because, in dealing with it, I had an acute case of what I like to call, ‘Cancer Tourette’s.’
I had a difficult phone call with my district’s superintendent. We were basically talking in circles around each other because he was so confined by confidentiality and I was begging for a solution timeline that he couldn’t give me. I mama bear-ed it out for a solid 30 minutes of competent and compelling argument. Then the Cancer Tourette’s happened.
I had no intention of mentioning my cancer, but lo and behold, it flew out of my mouth like I imagine happens when a person has a neurological disorder. I couldn’t stop myself. What came out of my mouth sounded something like this:
“I had cancer all last year and my child has been to hell and back watching his mother suffer and family life as he knew it fell apart (insert weeping here). After everything this child has had to endure, I refuse to allow him to go to school and feel unsafe on any level (sobbing, but trying so hard to hold it back causing a really rough vocal situation).”
Ugh. I didn’t intend to refer to it. Sure, you can find a way to pull it into almost any conversation, but this was certainly not a time that I was planning on using the C card.
What happened next was an adverse shift in power, as the male superintendent told me that he will, ‘add me to his prayers.’ Ugh.
Any discussion of my child’s anxiety about his classroom was steamrolled. I was so beside myself that I got off the call as soon as possible. I feel like I failed in trying to help my kid by pulling the C card, becoming emotional and losing any authority in the dialogue.
This is Cancer Tourette’s.
Usually the CT doesn’t manifest itself in quite as dramatic a fashion as discussed above. A much more typical CT moment is when, say, someone compliments my hat. A normal person would just say, ‘oh thanks!’ Not me. I find myself practically running after the stranger and borderline yelling, ‘I had CANCER and so my hair is short and now it is growing back all funny and so I have to wear this hat!’
The poor, poor stranger. They just wanted to put something nice out into the world and now they have a crazy lady chasing them in the parking lot yelling about her cancer.
I have started to remind myself to cool it, but sometimes it just comes flying out and I can’t stop it.
I was at the boxing gym the other day when I overheard a stranger talking to the trainer about how she wanted to get in shape. I was not involved in this conversation. In an almost mental blackout state, I walk over and say, ‘I had CANCER, but I’m getting back into shape now!’
What do you say to the weirdo lady who inserts herself into your conversation about boxing to announce that she had cancer?
What happens immediately after a CT moment is just as awkward. I have to snap back to logic and find a way to extract myself from this conversation that I just started, that neither of us wanted to have. It usually goes badly and I end up winding around the topic as I try to stumble back to reality. At some point either me or the other person just have to abort and walk away. I am so awkward.
When my father died 3-ish years ago, a similar thing happened. Whenever I remembered that he died, I found myself involuntarily shaking my head ‘no.’ From what I have been able to deduce, it was part me trying to deny the truth and part physically trying to shake the memory from my mind. I am sure people noticed this tic, but it was truly involuntary. Sometimes I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
None of these bizarre actions are done intentionally to evoke sympathy. And I certainly don’t want to shock people. I can only guess that perhaps this is some extremely mild form of PTSD? Like, I almost can’t believe this happened to me so I feel compelled to say it out loud to anyone who will listen (or gets stuck in my verbal line of fire)?
You guys, I might need an intervention. Or maybe some kind of shock therapy to stop me? Or perhaps it is healthy that I am expressing myself so naturally?
You’ve be warned. If you see me out in the wild, engage at your own risk…