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LIVING WITH TOURETTE'S syndrome

The media can sometimes tend to incorrectly portray all manner of syndromes. Schizophrenia has been sensationalised as a violent, split-personality disorder. Asperger's syndrome sufferers are portrayed as geniuses who are incapable of showing any form of empathy.

Tourette's syndrome is synonymous with Dalek-like recitals of "f***, s***, b*****s". The latter is in fact known as coprolalia and, though it's the most publicised symptom of Tourette's, it's one of the least common forms of it.

Even so, the media will usually cast the spotlight on the most controversial aspects of an illness, which is why documentaries often feature Tourette's sufferers whose tics would make Rab C Nesbitt blush.

Perhaps that's why I spent the better part of This Is Me waiting for the documentary's subject, Pamela Hackett, to belie her graceful demeanour and deliver an encyclopedia of expletives.

She didn't and RTE has to be praised for depicting what Tourette's really means to the majority of patients: insufferable tics.

Bizarrely, Hackett was only diagnosed with the condition 10 years ago after listening to a health report on RTE1 in which Tourette's sufferers described their symptoms.

She contacted the Mater Hospital and within five minutes of her appointment, she was diagnosed with Tourette's.

For fifty years she lived with what she considered to be a mystery condition. As a child she was sent to her room when the tics started. In school she was bullied and called 'hatchet face'.

The cameras chronicled Hackett's day-to-day life with the condition. Remarkably, she doesn't tic when she's involved in tasks that require concentration such as driving, singing and painting.

The documentary revealed the admirable strength of Hackett, who, at 60, still has the drive and energy of a teenager, but it failed to show the limitations of the syndrome.

How has it affected her romantic relationships? What is her grandson Adam's understanding of the syndrome? Has it made it difficult for her to find employment?

At one point the interviewer asked her if there was "an upside to Tourettes". "Would you get a grip," she laughed.

Kudos to her for smiling through the suffering, but surely she has her bad days. The programme should have been called: 'This Is Me... When I'm Relentlessly Upbeat'.

The next programme I watched was a departure from the sublime to the ridiculous. TV offerings were thin on the ground, my excuse for watching Bulging Brides, a programme devoted to helping an overweight bride slim into her wedding dress.

The ritual humiliation the subjects of these shows put themselves through never fails to shock me. "Catherine needs help before those spaghetti straps snap," announced the personal trainer while the stylist warned that the "little zipper is holding on for dear life".

Next a portion of mac and cheese was brought before her. "What part of your body does this remind you of?" asked the nutritionist.

"My butt," answered the bride-to-be, who was fast developing the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.

"Yeah, I can see why you think that," sneered the smug, lycra-clad guru.

If a woman's biggest worry is slimming into her wedding dress, I would advice her to spend a few hours in the company of someone like Pamela Hackett.

Suddenly her problems will seem very, very small indeed.