Tics – One of my biggest challenges

The second video from ‘A Personal Journey’

The second video in the series ‘A Personal Journey’ – Best selling crime author Joel Goldman tells us how coming to grips with this movement disorder has been one of the biggest challenges in his life.

Episode 2 Transcript – TICs

March 24, 2004

I was in trial in San Francisco and I was standing at the bathroom sink in the apartment where I was staying getting ready to shave and I just began to shake uncontrollably.”

Holy crap! What’s going on?

There was probably a two or three week gap between the first shaking episode and the second. And then they got more frequent and became daily and then multiple times during the day. And that was a pretty frightening period not really knowing what was going on.

It took months …Visits to doctors around the country, endless tests, uncertainty

Finally a diagnosis: A movement disorder similar to Tourette’s

My movement disorder is called Tics. It’s a neurological disorder – unknown cause, unknown cure. What is known about it is that the more of anything that I do the more symptoms that I’ll have.

It’s very, very rare for there to be a mid-life onset of this disorder without some prior pre-existing movement disorder of a similar nature or a traumatic head injury or a two-year cocaine binge or something like that. It’s like winning the wrong lottery. It’s life annoying. It’s not life shortening. And it’s not life threatening. And there are plenty of people who have bigger problems. So, it is what I deal with on a daily basis. But I manage it. And I have a very full and satisfying life. I have no complaints.

Initially, reactions to Joel’s shaking varied. People would turn away. People would stare. Very few would ask.

I preferred people to ask and I wanted to talk about it because I figured the more people knew what was happening to me the more at ease they would be about it. It was really a transformative period of adjusting to my new normal.

As it became more frequent, it became a difficult thing to disguise because it’s hard to pretend that you’re not shaking when you’re shaking.

I remember one morning standing out by my secretary’s station and I just had one of these shaking episodes. And I decided I can’t act like nothing’s happening anymore. I had my secretary and my legal assistant and another lawyer I worked a lot with in my office and I just told them.

Life had to change.

My neurologist at Mayo’s said to me the only choice I had was to try to manage my condition by lifestyle – by regulating my activities – and being a trial lawyer was incompatible with that.

In February 2006, Joel gave up the practice of law and devoted himself to his writing.

I refuse to be defined by this disorder. I know I have to manage it, but I get done as much as I can. I don’t have very many days where I’m productive from when I get up to when I go to bed. Those days are gifts.

Life constantly puts us in situations that range from difficult to seemingly impossible. So – what are you going to do?

A lot of people when something unfortunate happens – the instinctive response is ‘Why me?’ And I never had that response because I knew there wasn’t an answer to that question. And because the question to me was impermissible because it implied that it should be you. And that can’t be.

The right question is: Is there a commanding voice in my suffering?

I write about what happens when things go wrong. How does a crime impact the world in which that crime occurs? Victims, families, perpetrators, police, lawyers, judges, juries. … What happens when things go wrong and how do we deal with that? Well when that happened in my life, I had to answer that question. Is there a commanding voice in my suffering? Absolutely. And what is it telling me? To live a full, righteous life, to make a difference.

You don’t get to choose what happens. You only get to choose how you deal with it.

Coming to grips with this movement disorder has been one of the biggest challenges in my life. It hasn’t been easy. There were times in the first few years where it would just overwhelm me and I would just fall apart and I would sob. I would dread the March 24th anniversaries because with each passing year – even though I know this is the way it is – it was just a further reminder that this is the way that it is. There is not any going back to the way that it was. And I’m past that. I’ve accepted all of that. I’m not angry about it. I don’t get depressed about it. I get worn out. I just … I get worn out. And then I remember the question, and I answer the question for myself and my wife and my kids and I go on. And that’s just the way it is.