Two years ago simple tasks like tying his shoe laces could take Adam Belcher up to five minutes rather than mere seconds. In fact most days he just wore jandals rather than go through the ordeal of putting on socks and shoes.
At the time Adam was living with one of the most severe cases of Tourette Syndrome of anyone in New Zealand.
Tourette Syndrome is a genetic neurological disorder characterised by involuntary vocal and motor tics.
For some individuals living with Tourette Syndrome can be debilitating and, in Adam’s case, incredibly frustrating.
“My life used to be all about damage control. If I wanted to have a glass of water I would have to tell myself not to smash the glass, not to hit myself with it,” he explains.
Then in 2015 Adam became the first New Zealander to be granted a prescription to trial Sativex, medicinal cannabis spray.
“Without a doubt it improves my quality of life,” says the 30-year old from Tauranga.
“Like everyone I have my good days and my bad days, but the Sativex lessens the intensity of the tics on those good or bad days.
While Sativex isn’t a cure-all for Tourette Syndrome it does make life easier. Adam reckons that his quality of life has improved by at least 50 per cent and everyday challenges he once avoided are now achievable for him.
“I see the Sativex as being a kind of band-aid. On a good day I can put my shoes on in two to three minutes instead of 15,” he explains.
“Before my tics were so exhausting and stressful. I was so embarrassed because I couldn’t stop my body from doing the things that it wanted to do.”
These days Adam is able to do a lot more of the everyday things that many of us take for granted – sitting down to have a coffee with a friend or even just a telephone conversation.
It was coming to Camp Twitch in 2014 that gave Adam a new outlook on life and started him on his journey to try medicinal cannabis as a treatment option.
“I was really interested [to come to camp] to see what it would be like meet others like me. I had never seen Tourette’s in action before. I knew how people reacted to my tics but this [camp] was an opportunity to see it in others,” he explains.
Like many people who attend the Tourette’s Association of New Zealand’s annual Camp Twitch, Adam had never before met anyone with Tourette Syndrome.
“Being with others like me I saw that it wasn’t a big deal to have tics, that life was ok. Meeting Renee (Harvey) changed my life. She taught me to own it. We had fun with our tics and eventually I made peace with living with Tourette Syndrome.”
These days Adam is proud of who he is and far he has come. He now flats with his brother and now that he can manage his tics he is hoping to find part-time work to support himself.
He says he will continue to come to camp every year as he hopes that his story and life experience will help young people come to grips with life with Tourette Syndrome.
Get an insight into how difficult life is living with Tourette Syndrome by watching “CAMP TWITCH”: The Documentary on TV2, June 26th at 8.30pm
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