So, I went over to him and I explained my syndrome, and I apologized that it was not intended but that he should know that it might happen again. He actually has a medical background and he’s like, “Oh, my gosh, I had no idea. Thank you so much for telling me. I’m so sorry.” I said, “Don’t be sorry.” It’s one of my favorite stories and I was able to have this great conversation. It’s almost like being starstruck because again, this is a prominent member of the church who I look up to and respect, but it was great to have a conversation starter and to be able to make a connection like that. Something that could be taken as hurtful or something which people might take offense to, people are actually much more understanding when we’re open and explain how to utilize those situations rather than running away from them.
That’s a great share. Paula, what would you say differentiates you and your approach to Tourette’s from others?
Paula Jean Ferri: I think a lot of it comes from the fact that I did not start vocalizing or making noises until I was 17 years old. I was a senior in high school as opposed to most children. Statistically, people with Tourette’s will start kicking around the age of 4 or 5 and it’s harder to see what’s going on. These kids are told to stop being disruptive. They’re often called bad kids. I have a completely different mindset because at that point I was able to effectively communicate. This isn’t something that I have control over. I thought it was a hiccup for a long time and I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 24. I made more noises that I couldn’t control and so I don’t have the same story or background that most children have. It actually really irritated me before I was diagnosed because people would say, “Well, how do you stop it?” They treated me as if I was broken.
Being older now, I understand who I am and who I want to be, and I understand that I’m not broken. Most children who have Tourette’s are being told that there’s something wrong with them and that’s what I want to help them avoid. I also want to help those adults who have been told the wrong things to realize that they’re not broken.
What is your ultimate goal with this series of books that you’re publishing?
Paula Jean Ferri: The ultimate goal is to show people that they have more control over their lives than they realize. Tackling the things that hold us back – the fear of sticking out, the fear of being awkward, the fear of being hurt and fear in general – is the next book that I want to publish. I want to help them realize that fear is normal but there are ways to overcome it so that they can take control of their life and feel confident and capable in moving forward and reaching their goals and their dreams.
Aside from your books, can you give a sneak peek of what you have coming up?
Paula Jean Ferri: I’m working on coaching, so that I will be able to talk to people one on one because Tourette syndrome can vary so much from individual to individual. I would want to speak with people and figure out how exactly to help them and meet them where they are coming from. That’s something that’s very important to me.
I’m also working on creating kits. There’s another comorbidity that I didn’t mention earlier that tends to affect a lot of people and that is anxiety. I want to create the best technique that I’ve seen for my anxiety and for the anxiety of several of my friends and it’s to have something available that you can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. It’s meant to pull you out of your head and reground you to take in your surroundings and to decrease that anxiety. The kit is meant to have something for each sense, so that whichever one is being overwhelmed, the affected person can get something that they can touch or smell or look at and have their anxiety to decrease.
In closing, if you had the opportunity to speak to someone right now with Tourette’s, what would you say to them with regard to your book and the support that you would like to give them?
Paula Jean Ferri: I would say that they are capable of doing so much more than they ever thought they were capable of, and it’s not just because they have Tourette syndrome. In general, human beings are incredibly profound and powerful and are capable of doing more than we ever thought. We are capable of pushing ourselves. It’s hard and it’s uncomfortable but with the right support, the right help, the right coaching, people have been able to do amazing, even almost miraculous things that just were never seen as possible before. People with Tourette’s have that capability within them, as well.
Where can people pick up a copy of your book?
Paula Jean Ferri: It’s available on Amazon.com in paperback and in the Kindle store. I’m working on an audio version.
Perfect. Please share the titles of your books again, as well as your website.
Paula Jean Ferri: The books are called Awkwardly Strong: From Insecure to Inspirational and Tragically Strong: Navigating the Change When Life Turns Upside Down. My website is paulajeanferri.com.
Well, that concludes our interview. Thank you.
Paula Jean Ferri: Thank you.
To learn more visit: http://bit.ly/pjffree.
Paula Jean Ferri is one of the most awkward people you will ever meet. She often screams and makes animal noises in public, sometimes even during work meetings and church services. Having been in multiple awkward situations, she has become a master at the weird and uncomfortable. While always an oddball, the uncontrollable noises started her senior year of high school. At age 24, she was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.