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Being a Nurse With Tics During a Pandemic

I am a nurse. I also have Tourette Syndrome.

During the Coronavirus pandemic it’s been challenging to manage the two. I wish I could say that it was the same as every other day, but the reality is my work and tics are impacted by the coronavirus and my tics impact my work. Whether I’m at home or at work, I have unsettling anxiety about what’s going to happen in the coming days and weeks.

I work in a critical care unit as an ICU nurse. There is normal tension on the unit because the nature of the unit I work in and how sick the patients are. But lately there’s been a different anxiety in the air. Nurses and doctors are thinking, talking, and questioning what we are going to do when the pandemic gets worse at our hospital.

Are we going to be safe? Do we have the supplies? How many patients will come? What if we get the coronavirus? As nurses, we have so much to think about before we even take care of our patients. We have the same fears and anxieties as everyone else. Yet everyday we come to work and put them aside in order to give what we can to help our patients.

For me, work has become more anxiety-inducing then it ever has been before. The coronavirus concerns me but, honestly that’s not what’s on mind when I go to work. My tics are on my mind. My tics are currently flared up, worse than I have seen them since I graduated nursing school. The flare is probably in part due to the anxiety I’m currently experiencing.

My newest tic that is the most anxiety-inducing is my sniffling tic. During normal times it probably would not bother me, but this is a different time. As tension grows over the coronavirus virus at work, I cannot help but worry what my coworkers think when I sniffle. Do they think I am sick or contagious? Should I wear a mask, just to say I’m sick and make people more comfortable? By wearing a mask to make others comfortable, am I contributing to the shortage of masks for healthcare workers? Are they going to send me home and quarantine me for two weeks if I tic too much?

Everyone with sniffling, sneezing, coughing and upper respiratory tics is facing the same challenges I face every time we go out into the public. The looks and stares are worse than the normal attention I get when I tic in public. Sometimes, the anxiety of even thinking about what others think keeps me from going out.

I have hope though. I will get through this time and in the meantime, I have an amazing team of people supporting me through this. I have skills and strategies such as my faith, watching TV shows I enjoy, and playing with my cat. Aside from the anxiety, I continue to live my life to the fullest.

To the Tourette and Tic Disorder community, we will get through this pandemic. Our tics, anxiety, OCD, and depression may be flared up during these times, but we will be okay. We are fighters. We are resilient. We overcome our challenges everyday and live amazing lives and inspire each other. Use the skills you normally do to help you get through when your symptoms are flared up. Deep breath, relaxing activities, pick up hobbies, and lean on family and friends, do what works for you.

The coronavirus pandemic will end, things will go back to normal.

Stay happy and safe.

– Katie, RN, BSN, TAA Rising Leader