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Gran Pamela hopes to dispel myths about Tourette's

A DUBLIN grandmother is aiming to dispel the myths about Tourette Syndrome, a condition that has affected her all her life.

Pamela Hackett (60) is frustrated by the huge misunderstandings about the neurological condition.

"People think it's all effing and blinding. But only 10pc have this -- echolalia. I don't have that," she explained.

"I have shoulder tics, eye twitching, tummy twitching and shoulder shrugging. I'm an ordinary person, I'm just one of the gang," she added.

She has agreed to take part in the first episode of new RTE series This Is Me, in an attempt to shed light on some of the people affected by Tourette Syndrome in Ireland.

"I went into the filming with a lot of trepidation," she said. "Not everyone knows. My kids didn't know.

For most of her life, Pamela had no idea what was wrong and it wasn't until she was listening to the radio one day in 2000 when she felt inclined to go to a specialist for diagnosis.

"My mum brought me to a doctor when I was a child, but he just said that I would grow out of it," she said.

And she added that when people like Pete Bennett appeared on shows such as Big Brother, it helped to bring awareness, but it is frustrating that the extreme effects of the condition are often mocked.

"It does make me mad that it's all that people know about it," she said.

"I don't like being slagged, I can slag myself. But everyone has something -- you have to laugh about it yourself."

Pamela hopes that the programme, on August 27 at 7.30pm, will stimulate debate about mental conditions.



Taboo

"Before, I didn't want to say that I had Tourette's, I was ashamed," she said. "There is a taboo associated with any mental illness."

Now Pamela has learned to keep it under control and not let it take over her life.

She has a son and a daughter and also looks after her grandchildren Aaron, Kevin and Adam while caring part-time for her mother Rachel (90), who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago.

"I try and lie down every day and do yoga, painting and singing to relax," she said.

Chairwoman of the Tourette Syndrome Association of Ireland Carol Pitcher says there is very little information about how many children here are affected by Tourette's, but it is thought one in every 100 could have the condition.

The organisation is developing their website (www.tsai.ie) in an attempt to provide additional information.

clairemurphy@herald.ie