I was about nine years when I started to have the strange behaviours. I would blink my eyes repeatedly, twirl in doorways, spit inside my school-shirt, touch something with one hand and then have to even it up by touching with the other, I’d feel the urge to break things and then have to comply, I’d bash my head and back so hard against the bedroom wall until it felt better, I’d jump up and down on the spot until it felt right, I sniffed and mimicked others and I shouted out random things. When I was around 13 years I used to shout sexual swear words so loud and so fast that it came out like: “Bop!” If my parents had known what I was actually saying, I’d have been in real trouble. I recall one day while carrying the flag at Girl’s Brigade – walking the aisle in my local Cathedral, I kicked my leg out and shoved my head back as far as it would go. I heard my mother cackle from the back of the church. She was used to my strange ways and it always gave her entertainment. For me, it was harrowing. I thought I was mentally insane, one of the mad ones that got away. I felt like I had escaped detection and if I was discovered they would, as my mother often told me: “They’ll put you in the funny farm.” She liked to remind me every time she saw me tic. I later realised I had Tourette Syndrome and it gave me such a sense of relief. I diagnosed myself while watching a television programme about a little boy who kept swearing. I heard my parents talking and agreeing that if he was their child he’d get a bloody good hiding. That’s why I didn’t tell them what was wrong with me. I had already heard their reaction. The swearing element of the condition is called Coprolalia, and that stayed with me for less than a year – and then it was gone.