Helping Others When You Feel You Can’t Help Yourself

Most people know that I have Tourette Syndrome, and it sounds silly but I really don’t mind when people use it as an adjective to describe who I am. I am a lot of things, along with Tourette, I cannot alienate myself from it. It’d be like alienating myself from being a Costa Rican born, or a woman, or short, or brunette, I am all those things. “Ohh Claudia, yeah she is the short, brunette with Tourette, she talks a looot you’ve probably seen her”. There’s no harm in that, I’d describe myself that way if I had too, I probably have done it, if I really have to think about it.

There’s a few lessons my parents gave me growing up with Tourette Syndrome (TS) back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, in Costa Rica, that I would love to share. Just recently I was on the phone with my mom and she said when she found out how to use google she typed: “Tourette Syndrome” and there was nothing she could find. We went to neurologists and after a couple misdiagnoses, we found one that said “yeah that’s TS, but there’s not much you can do for her”; my mom was a little disappointed. The thing about my mama is, she doesn’t like negative answers (take it from me), so she decided to make her own “Tourette Guidelines”, so that her daughter could have the most “normal childhood” experience while validating the fact that she had a neurological condition that would affect a lot of those developmental stages throughout life.

I think when I look back now and when I talk to my parents more openly about it, I am weirdly grateful that there was not a lot of TS information, or parenting guides, or whatever pressuring to do it a certain way or you’ll “fail”…Maybe they would have been too lenient or too strict, and they were just the perfect in-between. Clearly, everybody does what rows their boat, but this worked for them and for me growing up so I figured I’d share.

I call it “Porras Parenting 101”. I was always allowed to feel my feelings, they were valid, but I was taught that I could never let my feelings take control over me, because they might not always be positive feelings. *I saw a therapist consistently through some of my middle school years.* TS can come with a whirlwind of mental health co-morbid conditions, mine worsen in adulthood, but occasionally I had a few bad days when I was a teenager and all I wanted to do was cry, because of my TS. I could be sad and “feel all the feelings”, but after a day of being all mopey, I knew my only option was to keep trucking along with life. Because I knew I couldn’t sit around forever and feel sorry for myself, there was no point in that, inherently I had been taught that through “feel your feelings but don’t let them control you”.

I knew that no matter how mad I was about what was going on in my life because of my TS, and even if I was throwing a massive fit (because I did, plenty, I was 15 y/o) they were still my parents and I was the child; there was a line of authority that I couldn’t cross. There were things that they needed to teach me and I needed to listen, regardless of my neurological condition. My Tourette Syndrome didn’t make me exempt on being taught, gotten onto, grounded by my parents like any other kid my age. I was validated, listened, and loved on when my TS flared up, but it was never a “free pass” for me to get special treatment, because of it when I didn’t need it.

Most of the credit from the “Porras Parenting 101” is owed to my mama, Kattia, because she is tough, when need be, even if that will break her insides. If her family needs her to be tough and strict she will, because all she wants is what’s best for us. She’s a mama bear, but she loves like nobody’s business and if anybody hurts one of her own…just don’t do it.

But my dad, he taught me one thing that to this day, when he reminds me, it makes me tear up. Still in my toughest times, in my toughest days that I have at 25 years old he says: when you are worrying sick about your own problems and you can’t do anything about them and you have the opportunity to help someone else DO IT. Because when you stop worrying about yourself and start helping other people selflessly, the Lord will start worrying about your problems and take care of them. (We are believers, but if you are not change the Lord for whatever it is _______________). It’s the action that matters.

Gracias mamá y papá. Los amo mucho, gracias por hacer la mejor versión de mí.

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