How to ease the symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome and start drawing again, without spilling ink all over the carpet!
Guest Fish Lee tells me about how his local TV weatherman played a key part in his getting to the bottom of a mystery illness that had plagued him physically, emotionally and behaviourally since he was a child, and how that diagnosis helped him to start drawing again, without spilling the ink.
Fish's Tourette’s Syndrome was not diagnosed until he was in his thirties, after many years of being told he had been faking symptoms for attention. His diagnosis did not, of course, mean he was cured, and his next challenge involved working out which medications and in which doses worked best for him, as well as learning to ‘ride the waves’ of Tourette’s, rather than trying to fight against the symptoms, which would always make things worse.
Fish also learned how to manage his stress, get enough exercise and sleep, and eat regularly and well.
With his life achieving more balance, he was able to start drawing again, and found digital tools helped him access his creativity and start earning money from his art after a long hiatus.
Drawing and storytelling in return helped him to manage his symptoms and feel useful again – for many years Fish had been frustrated with his inability to physically help his family when his illness left him unable to move for long periods of time.
Find out why it took so long for Fish to get a diagnosis and how he rebuilt his life and artistic practice once things started falling into place.
Clubhouse: @clairewaitebrown and Creativity Found Connect club
Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet
Before I introduce today's guest, I want to say a big thank you to Seychelle Travis for being the latest lovely listener to financially support the show through the super easy to use link in the show notes of any episode on whatever app or website you're listening on. Seychelle listens in Munich, and told me she is working on projects where she would like to tap into her creativity, and that she really likes the podcast and wanted to show her appreciation. Well, I really appreciate your appreciation. Seychelle, and I'm overjoyed that you are enjoying the show and getting value from it. If you feel similar to Seychelle, simply scroll down the screen, wherever you're listening, and click on the words support the show, you will be guided from there. Now, back to the usual format. Today's guest is fish Lee, who tells me about how his local TV weatherman played a key part in his getting to the bottom of a mystery illness that have plagued him physically, emotionally and behaviorally since he was a child, and how that diagnosis helped him to start drawing again, without spilling the ink. Hi, fish, how are you?Unknown:
I am wonderful, how are you?Claire Waite Brown:
I'm very good. Thank you. Please start by telling me what your creative profession and passion is.Unknown:
I am a professional storyteller. I get paid to illustrate comic books for other people. And I am now doing my own comic series Green Zone life in the blocks that I get to completely write and illustrate myself. I got to create this amazing world and chase down all these little rabbit trails to see where everything goes. It's super exciting for me. But you know, yeah, when I'm not doing my own book, I'm drawing other people's comic books. So that's a pretty awesome job.Claire Waite Brown:
Fantastic. Were you creative as a child and was that encouraged in you at home or at school?Unknown:
When people look at me and say, Oh, you're this amazing artists, you've got this God given talent. I'm like, Okay, I was the best artist in kindergarten. But that only means I could draw the best dragster out of a triangle and two different size circles. And I would put little scribbles at the back for dirt. And that made me better than the other kids. Most of what I've got is because I spent 40 years hyper focused on art and training myself to get better. My mom was creative. My mom liked to paint and draw and my brother and sister had both like to draw and we're very creative. So when I was little, they would give me tips and stuff on how to draw like a very basic superhero figure. And I would draw that same figure a billion times and put different costumes on it and make different characters out of it. And they helped give me a leg up because they were better than the other kids my age, but it really came down to years and years. is focusing on copying things out of colouring books and just teaching myself how to do it.Claire Waite Brown:
So were you focused on then sounds like you were the kind of popular culture was your inspiration,Unknown:
my imagination was caught up with the things that they were showing me on Saturday morning cartoons and stuff like that. And like I remember I spent a long time learning how to perfectly recreate this one image of Smurfette out of a colouring book. And I got all the line weights down, and all the little dots and all the little details and how many strands were in her hair. And I could reproduce a thing like a copy machine. Now, Smurfs aren't really my area of expertise. They're not really my passion, you know, but at the time as a kid, I was obsessed with them. And I wanted to know why did this image look cooler than this image? Why does this line taper here and get thicker there. And so I was studying all this stuff. And you know, eventually it stuck.Claire Waite Brown:
Mine was Garfield, I used to do a lot of tracing of Garfield.Unknown:
I was fascinated by the look of Garfield, and what an amazing character they caught in that in such few lines and such simple design. And it just amazement. Everybody in the world loves Garfield. And I wanted to do that I wanted to learn how to capture that and make something that people are going to love so quickly and easily. It fascinated me.Claire Waite Brown:
Yeah, brilliant. While you were growing up, you had certain behaviours that had your mom taking you to the doctor, can you tell me more about what was going on in your private life in your health,Unknown:
I was always just kind of written off as a weird kid. For a long time, I was very awkward. I didn't know how to make friends, I was overly obsessed with the things I was obsessed with whether it was Space Ghost, or Smurfette, whatever it was, I would be completely obsessed with this. And you know, the other kids don't want to play Space Ghost every day on the playground every time we go outside. And I could not understand why they did not want to play the obvious superior game of being space goes because that was awesome. I would be obsessed over these things. And I just came off as a weirdo. But as I got a little bit older in school, I would have these bouts of what we thought was some mystery illness that we couldn't figure out. And I would get really weird symptoms that would do weird things. And sometimes I would be itching all over. And you know, I remember one point, I got obsessed over the commercial jingle, fill it to the brim with brim for brim coffee. And I would say that over and over and over again. And one day, the little neighbour girl who was my best friend at the time, came over to play with me and I'm jumping up and down on the bed screaming at the top of my lungs, fill it to the brim with brim over and over and over again. And she told me she was going to go home and she wasn't going to play with me anymore if I didn't stop. And I really wanted to stop because I wanted to go play on the swings. But I couldn't stop myself. And I just kept doing it over and over again. And she finally got mad and left and said she wasn't gonna be my friend anymore. And I remember jumping up and down the bed crying, screaming fill it to the room with brim. And not understanding why I couldn't make myself stop. So I could go do the thing that I really wanted to do. And and I had all these weird symptoms that didn't seem to add up and we would go to the doctor's over and over again, you know, a couple times a year it would get really bad. And we would go to the doctors and I'd be missing school. And they would test for juvenile diabetes and all the things that are easy picks for kids to be sick with. And it wouldn't be any of those and then I would do something weird. Like particularly weird. Like one time I remember my eyes crossed for a day or two and I couldn't get him to uncross and the doctor said, well see obviously he's faking it for attention. Anybody can cross their eyes. And I remember afterwards I'm sitting in bed crying and I can't grab the drink off of the nightstand by my bed because I can't get my eyes to uncross so I can grab it and my mom's yelling at me to quit faking it. I have to go back to school. And I would have done anything to get to stop. But I didn't know what was wrong and I didn't know why it was happening. And so yeah, that made life pretty tough growth.Claire Waite Brown:
Yeah, I think Oh, poor little you trying to get out of this and nobody believes in you as well. You know, you've got physical things happening, but you've also got these psychological things where people aren't on your side, you know, through no fault of their own perhaps That's really sad. We're gonna come back to those symptoms a bit later because it takes a while for those to be understood. You know, now that on top of those symptoms, you have autism, that you didn't know that I know, I know that as a young man, you took on a certain persona. Who was that character? And why do you feel you went down that route at that time,Unknown:
I never could figure out how to make friends. It's like everybody else was speaking a foreign language, and I just don't understand it. And, you know, I would try and try to mimic what they did. But it never seemed to work, or it would work for a second. And then somebody would see through my disguise and realise that I don't really speak this language, and I don't know what's going on, you're a weirdo go away. And then we moved around a lot after my parents got divorced. And every time I thought up, here's my new chance to start over a new bunch of people, I can be a new guy and you know, make new friends, every time they would catch on that I was a weirdo, and that I didn't get this social interaction that everybody else got so easily. And finally, you know, moved to Arkansas where my mom was from, and we moved to a little town. And where I would get dropped off for school was where all the thugs hung out by the smoking area, because we still had smoking areas at junior high when I was a kid. And I would get dropped off with these kids. And I would hang around the outskirts for a little while, and I would watch them. And then I'm hanging around the thugs at school. And their social interaction is real simple, like toughest guy wins scariest guys in charge. And I had always been bigger than everybody else, which had usually made me a great target. Because I didn't know how to fight back, I would be bullied by kids two grades lower than me because they thought it was fun to bully somebody that was twice their size. And then one day, I tried to interact with this group. And one of the kids got up in my face and was threatening to beat me up. And I was scared. I mean, I've been beat up a lot of times up to this point, I was scared. And I just decided to hell with it. And I stomped his foot and I shoved him which sent him straight on his butt into the mud. And suddenly I was the king of this group of thugs and I was the leader as Oh, this is easy, I can do this. I'm already bigger than everybody else I can be scary. So I became the meanest scariest dude, I could. And like we didn't really have a name for goth back then. But I'm wearing the long black trench coats and dog chains and spikes and you know, long earrings and grew up this really long Mohawk. And I would wear these black shades that covered my eyes all the time, I would never take them off. I got sent to the principal's office so many times for not taking them off in class and just built a persona of being the scariest dude, I could. And it gave me so many benefits, that I didn't even realise how much it was helping, like all the heavy clothes were a great weight on my body, which really helped soothe a lot of my sensory issues, and made me feel not as on edge all the time, the sunglasses blocked out having to make direct eye contact with people which took out a whole lot of anxiety and inferiority feeling. Because making eye contact with somebody was this incredibly personal thing that I I just can't do that with just anybody. And I didn't even realise how much I was insulating and self soothing myself with this persona. And the scarier I am the more people stay at a distance. Nobody's going to get close enough to hurt me if they're too scared to get near me. And everybody stays away. Everybody does whatever I say, you know, suddenly people aren't giving me a hard time about having a weird name anymore. And it was great. It wasn't the kind of coping mechanism that's going to function long term. And it came with a whole lot of negative side effects. I was constantly getting pulled over by the cops. I was constantly being followed and harassed by the cops. I was so tired of that. So eventually I had to make a change. But it worked for a long time. It worked for a long time.Claire Waite Brown:
Yeah. So you did change that persona. But that was obviously quite a good protection for you for a while. Yeah. What about then after high school, which is also a kind of protection in that you're not quite out in the big wide world yet? What was Fisher going to do when High School finished?Unknown:
Oh, man, everything fell apart for me at the end of high school. I basically I had to leave town and go start over all over again. An acquaintance that I had known at one point had invited me to come down and stay with his family in Louisiana. I lived with them for six months treated me like family. They're still family to me. My door has always been open to anybody who needs a place to stay ever since because they took me in, I was a foster parent, because they took me in I have my first two adopted sons, because they took me in made a major impact on my life. That was when I started trying to figure out who was I going to be after this, you know, I could see from plenty of people in my circle in high school, I know where this is going to end up. If I continue on this, and I'm going to either end up in prison or dead, I did not expect to reach 27. I knew this wasn't going to end well, if I continue this way. So I had to figure out, am I going to continue to be this guy? Or am I going to create a new personality to be I finally walking the streets of Mississippi, like 93, I think, in the middle of the night, I came upon the decision that I was going to become the dude from the country songs that works hard all day and comes home to his wife and loves his kids and plays with his dog. And I was just going to be the dude that works hard tells the truth, you know, the guy that you can trust, because I wasn't the guy you could trust, I was the guy everybody was scared of. And I was tired of that. And so I changed everything about my life, I set a whole bunch of new rules for myself, which with OCD became ingrained in stone and like, now, 30 years later, I cannot lie. My wife, my new wife thought it was funny when I mentioned that at first when we started dating that I can't lie, and she thought I was being silly. Now sometimes it kind of aggravates her. So like if you don't want me to slip something to the grandbabies or a daughter in law, you can't tell me because like, if she asks, I'm gonna say it. And I have to leave my Christmas presents to the last minute, because I feel like a liar if I buy you a Christmas present. And I don't tell you that I got you this thing. So it's kind of funny now. But I set up a bunch of new rules, I started being this new guy. And I realised now looking back that my whole life has been trying to learn how to mask to fit in with neurotypical society, and you know, hide who I am and put up a persona that's easier for other people to interact with. So building a new persona to do that was uncomfortable, and I didn't like it. And I didn't like change, but I could see the value in it, as opposed to where the other one was gonna get me. So I did it. The thing is, I have been masking for so long. Now. I really don't know what the fish behind the mask is like anymore.Claire Waite Brown:
Yeah, it must be quite tiring to create these personas or live within these personas as you were trying to navigate your young life. You were diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, but not until the age of 30. I think it was.Unknown:
Oh, yeah, it was fun. Yeah.Claire Waite Brown:
So you've told me before about your symptoms? So do please fill us in more on that and how it was affecting your whole life. But why did it take so long to get a diagnosis? How did that actually come about? In the end,Unknown:
the main reason that it took so long for me to get a diagnosis is twofold. One, I'm one of not a small number of people, but the smaller amount of people that their Tourette's continually gets worse as they get older, where a lot of people it gets really bad and childhood really bad around adolescents. And then most of them learn how to live with it and cope to the point that maybe people don't notice they like to say, Oh, you'll you'll grow out of it, you don't really grow out of it, which is unfair to say because then people grow up and they're like, it never went away. But you get so much better at handling it as you grow up that most people wouldn't notice unless they know you really well or spend a lot of time with. I'm one of a subset where it's just continually gotten worse. It wasn't as severe when I was a child. As the autistic symptoms and the OCD and stuff were that was a much bigger problem for me as a kid. And then when I would do tics like repeating something I heard off the TV over and over and over again. You know, that just seemed like stuff normal kids do. I would obsess over one thing like he man or Thundercats like well, that's just you know, that's what kids do. That's his thing. And then a lot of my other tics would be stuff like holding my breath tugging on my clothes digging stuff under my fingernails like always be digging at the hems of my shirts to get them under my fingernails. Like little weird things my clothes are always feel like they're off centred and I'm always adjusting little things like that rubbing my nose, the corners of my mouth, scratching it my ears things that didn't seem abnormal. I wasn't screaming out swear words. I wasn't barking like a dog. I wasn't convulsing on the floor. So those things didn't draw attention. And as I got older, the tics kept getting worse and worse and worse, until eventually I would have a lot of very strange tics that aren't as common. My left arm would just go numb on me, and I just can't move it. Sometimes it will be the whole left side, sometimes it'll be my whole body, or big chunks of my body will quit taking signals, but like two strands of muscle in there will. What's the point in that I can't move my arm with one strand of forearm that's working, making my middle finger Twitch like that doesn't do me any good. And so all this time, we still don't have an answer. The only answer I have is, every time I've gone to the doctor for this, they told me I'm faking it for attention. And my heart would race and drop down really low to nothing, it would race up high and then drop down and I would pass out, it would go up and down, up and down, up and down. And all my other symptoms are going crazy. And I'm doing all these weird things. One side of my face might clench up and I can't move it. One of my most common tics now is when things start to get bad, my jaw locks up. And now I can't speak. And it's hard to think when you can't open your jaw. I laugh that my kids second language is grunt because my boys all know how to speak grunt. And they know what I'm saying and what I need. Because they've grown up listening to it, my new step kids have no idea why. But all these things kept getting worse and worse, I would go to the doctor. And, to his credit, my new doctor that I started seeing in Conway, when I moved up here, said, I don't know what it is, but we're going to figure it out. And he started sending me a specialist. And he sent me to a heart specialist because the heart racing was obvious that was easy to see. And he tried me on some heart meds to regulate my heartbeat didn't do me much good. But he assumed that all the problems must be because of my heart. So for several years, I thought, okay, it's my heart. And we tried different heart medications, that didn't really work. And finally, I just got off of them because it wasn't helping. And then things got really, really, really bad. And I couldn't work anymore. I couldn't do freelance work anymore. Even if a job only was going to take me an hour to do, I could not promise that I was going to have an hour in the next two weeks that I was steady enough to be able to draw this for you. So eventually, I had to shut down my freelance business. And I'm just sitting there as a burden to my ex wife, and we can't get an answer to what's going on. I'm still playing the drums at church, which was nice. And it didn't matter to me if my eyes clamped shut, and I couldn't see because it's my drumset I know where everything is I don't have to be able to see. And we played a Christmas Eve service, I just so happened to be on a heart monitor from a new my new heart doctor, and I played a god off the drums. And then I fell to the ground having this gigantic what looked like a seizure. And they call the ambulance and they call me off and they read the heart monitor and you know, good news, you don't have to be on the heart monitor anymore, because we've seen enough problems here to know what it is. And he put me on a new medicine to control the electrical signals going to my brain and all the symptoms stop. Okay, we've got the answer. It was my heart all along. This is wonderful. And it worked like a miracle cure for a year. And then the tics started coming back, you know, my heart is doing fine. But the tics are all coming back. And he was like, Well, I don't really care about any of these symptoms. You know, these aren't what I'm treating you for. I'm treating you for the heart and the passing out. And you know, as long as your heart is doing fine, I'm not upping this medicine and stopping your heart just to try and stop these other things. I don't care about that. So I'm still seeing this other neurologists that I've been seeing for years. And he was dead set, he was going to find the answer. And then he gave up and he decided I was faking it for attention. And I asked to get sent to a movement disorder specialist. We had to wait six months we had to pay like 600 bucks copay to get into this dude and finally get into go see him and this guy was so good. He had me diagnosed before I walked in the door as faking it for attention. So I gave up on ever finding an answer. I just have a mystery illness and nobody's going to ever figure it out. And then lo and behold, the local weatherman does a special on TV about what Tourette syndrome is because he's coming out admitting that he has Tourette's and the night before he came out and admitted they did this show and they had this doctor on there talk about Tourette's and everybody it's earch starts calling me like crazy. You've got to watch this on Channel Live and this you've got Tourette syndrome. I was like, No, I don't. The doctor told me I don't cuss and I don't bark like a dog. So it can't be Tourette's. And he's like, no, no, that's not it, you need to watch this, this guy looks just like you. I go on to YouTube, I pull up the video, and I'll be damned. He looks exactly like me, the big fat guy with a big long beard. And he's sitting in this chair just thrashing around wildly like I did all the time at this point. And he tells all about what Tourette syndrome is how it works on the brain, that it's not the misconception, most people have just yelling out swear words, it's misfires in the brain that can come out in any number of different forms. And it can be things as mild as sniffs and rubbing your nose and coughs and things that come off as allergies to little hums and things that get passed off as odd idiosyncrasies all the way up to major thrashing and convulsions and can't walk can't see all the things that I'm doing because at this point, I'm on crutches or a wheelchair to get anywhere because I shake so bad. So constantly, I cannot walk, I can rarely, you know, feed myself, it was absolutely miserable. And this guy is just sitting here telling me, oh, it's Tourette's. And I've been told for years that it can't possibly be Tourette's. And by this time, my Tourette's was more severe than most people's gets to, as I've learned more about the community and met more people, I could count off 30 friends right now that are in the exact same boat that I am that have, you know, gotten worse and worse and worse as they've aged, but they don't do studies on that. And that doesn't get into college books. So I go see a new neurologist, and I'm sitting on the table just to shake him away ripped a hole in the paper that I was sitting on. And he walks in the door and was like, How long have you had Tourette's? I was like, I don't he's Oh, yes, you do. And he sent me to a specialist, an actual movement disorder specialist in Dallas. And she officially diagnosed me because he couldn't give me an official diagnosis without watching me for a year. Because it's part of the thing it has, you have to have it for over a year. And she could be like, Oh, yes, this is absolutely Tourette's and started me on different medications. And it helped a lot. And just understanding what I had meant the world to me, we drove away from that meeting, and, and my wife is just crying, my ex wife because all she heard was, there is no cure, and it's never gonna go away. And this is the worst case I've ever seen. I'm laughing as I'm packing my head into the window as we drive down the road. Because you know, what I heard is, there's a name for this condition, a lot of other people have it. And while yes, you may be the worst case I've ever seen. The good news is it can't possibly get any worse than this. And I thought I was dying for years. So the thought that I'm gonna get see my kids grow up. That's awesome. If I have to do it from a wheelchair, hip hip, hooray, I thought I was gonna be in a casket and a year. And so I was ecstatic, she was heartbroken. And that pretty much laid out the way the rest of our marriage was gonna go.Claire Waite Brown:
And that's funny that he would have to watch you for a year, whereas you having this, you've been watching yourself a very, very many years. It's just systems. So it must have been, as you say, a great relief, to know that this is a thing. And it's not a mystery anymore. But of course, as you said, that doesn't mean it's got a cure. When you were ill, you felt a sense of loss for the kinds of things that you wanted to do, but that you couldn't do any more. How did you readdress your emotions around your situation, and ultimately get back to artwork, which we know that you are able to do now.Unknown:
I consider myself very fortunate that I got my diagnosis. When I did. I got my diagnosis as an adult. I didn't get it as an emotional team that didn't know how to deal with his random emotions and his temper and everything else. I didn't get the news as a child that I had an incurable illness that was never gonna go away. You know, I was a grown man. I knew who I was. I knew that I had all these skills and abilities like my artwork and my creativity and my talents as a storyteller and a carpenter. I knew that I had great value that went beyond how well my body works. I did have to deal with a lot of loss. Like I loved kayaking. I had built my own canoe. My medication had gotten a lot better and I was a lot steadier and I could walk around without a cane for good periods of time. So I spent a couple of weeks taking it easy and refinished my canoe, sanded it all down, repainted it and I took it out on the water and I was so excited that I was finally going to be able to get on the water again and start to regain Little bit of who I was. And I got out in the water. And I made a little circle and came right back to shore. Because I was shaking so bad. I kept dipping one side or the other the canoe in the water. And by the time I made this little 20 foot arc, the canoe was full of water. And I realised while I can stand up on ground, my core is not strong enough. And I have all these little ticks in my body that nobody sees. But that made the boat go crazy. And I realised, I'm never going to be able to do this again. And I got heartbroken and I sold my boat and some lady bought it and turned it into a planter. And and I was very heartbroken and having to let go of some of these fundamental parts of who I knew I was going to be, was hard, I had to let myself suffer through the grief of losing it. But I also couldn't let myself just wallow in that grief forever. There's other stuff to do, I've got kids that you know, still need to be raised. I've got soccer games that I've got to go to all kinds of stuff that needs to be done. I can't just give up and wallow in it. Now I've got to still be there for my kids. And sometimes all I could do to be there for my kids was to be stuck in my recliner in the living room and talk with them when they got home from school. And, you know, remind them to get on their homework and remind them to do their chores and tell them that I love them. And you know that I'm proud of them and that they're beautiful. You know, sometimes that was all I could do. And sometimes I was very dependent on them just to be able to get food because I could not get to the kitchen and back with a drink without dumping it everywhere. I can't remember the last time I drank out of a cup without a lid and a straw. Because I can't be trusted with them, I will dump them. And but as long as I focused on the things that I still had and the blessings that I still had, I had a lot of good friends that had surrounded me, I counted the fact that my ex wife didn't leave as a blessing, she didn't stay. There's a difference, she did not choose to stay, she chose not to leave two very, very different things. But I still counted as a blessing because I wasn't on my own for a while. And I had three amazing boys and I got a whole gaggle of kids and daughter in laws and grandbabies. And, you know, if I had never got my ability to walk back, I would still be blessed. I've made a lot of friends in the trans community, I learned a lot from them, I learned how to surf the waves of Tourette's more than just standing in the ocean and try and fight against the waves. Because if you stand in the ocean and try and find it, you're gonna lose. But if you learn to ride the waves and go with it, and let that one tick come out, then that one tick comes out, it's done. You wait for the next one, and you ride that wave. But if you just trust it, stand there trying to fight it, it's going to overwhelm you. And next thing you know, I'm thrashing around on the ground and a giant tick fit. So learning not to fight it was a huge help learning to manage my stress learning that I need to get enough exercise and I need to eat regularly and I gotta get enough sleep. All these things helped make it better, finding a better mix of medicines that had side effects I could live with and good benefit was a huge help. And all those things together have got me back to the point now where I can walk around a good while with a cane. The idea of going to like a comic book convention without a wheelchair was an impossible idea five years ago, and now I go all the time that walk across some of those buildings kicks my butt, but I can make it to my table and sit down and work all day. Go visit friends on the floor, it kicks my butt, but I can do it without my wheelchair and I praise God forClaire Waite Brown:
creativity. found.co.uk is the place to go to find workshops, courses, supplies, kits and books to help you get creative. So if you're looking for your own creativity found experience, go have a browse to see what's on offer so far. And if you can help adults to find their new creative passion, please get in touch on social media or through the contact details on the website. So it's quite a difference and a long way that you've come because you've talked about being in the recliner and unable to do anything other than you know, talk to your children. At what point when you're negotiating your symptoms and figuring out what works for you. Were you able to or encouraged to or decided to pick up her pen if that's what you work with and start drawing and writing.Unknown:
You know I've always been a prolific artist and creator and would fill sketchbook after sketchbook after sketchbook and I was always looking for the right opportunity, the right connection, the right way to get into comics and just couldn't find it from Arkansas. And then once I married my ex wife, she shot down everything that I tried to do. And with all the stresses of life, it didn't take a whole lot of discouragement to knock me down and get me to quit trying that one, I'll try something else. And for years, I really couldn't do anything, I couldn't hardly draw a line, much less draw a character, eventually, I would get to where I'd have little bits of little bits of good time, you know, for maybe a half hour, 45 minutes. And I would draw just for the fun of it, because I missed it. And then eventually, I got on a mixer meds, not the one I'm on now. But it had a pretty good, pretty good effect, I was still pretty shaky, I still couldn't really walk around and stuff very well on my own. But I could draw in my sketchbook a lot more. And I was wondering if I could possibly start doing a little bit of work. Even if it was only booking like an hour's worth of work a week, I started to wonder if I could do this. And then I started watching more and more about people that draw digitally and the tools that they would use, and I wondered if maybe that would help offset some of my shakiness and some of the stuff that I can't do. Now, I used to do amazing work with a fine brush and a bottle of ink. I can't do that anymore. But I see these guys getting brushstrokes on the computer. And they don't have to worry about dumping ink all over themselves and all over the carpet. It got me wondering, so I begged and begged and begged my ex wife to let me take part of the tax returns one year and get a laptop that I could draw on. And she finally relented I got the laptop and it took a while to learn how to do it. I had started drawing on like a Kindle Fire and realised okay, there's something here then once I got better software and I could adjust the settings on the brushes and I could adjust adjust the post correction so it would it would offset my tremor in my hand and I could get smoother lines. And I started realising you know, I can do this. This is work somebody might pay for. I still didn't know how much I could keep up with and Tourette Syndrome Awareness month was coming. And so I decided I was going to challenge myself to draw something, some little one something every day for 30 days. And I had a couple of jokes about Tourette syndrome that I wanted to draw out so I drew them and I shared them in some of the threads groups. And it grew into a cartoon called Tourette's life that I did for a couple of years that was all about my life with Tourette's because I realised very quickly when I would show some of my tics on a generic cartoon person. People would come at me screaming, that's not what Tourette syndrome is, you're lying to people. But I'm like, This is my life. This is exactly what I do. So I realised I've got to make this me. And then it's just my autobiography. You might not be on crutches like I am in this picture. You might not be in a wheelchair like I am in this picture. But that's what my Tourette's is. And this is what it does to me. And so that helped cut out a whole lot of the This isn't what Tourette syndrome is tresses put you in a wheelchair. So I started doing Tourette's life. And eventually it became like a daily thing. And a friend was like, you've got to set up a fanpage for this and get it off of your regular Facebook page. So I did. And I was like, you know, when when Tourette Syndrome Awareness month is over, if there's 30 people following this thing, I'll keep doing it. Within a week I had like 1000 followers, and then like 2000 followers, and then some of the cartoons I did have been seen by like 800,000 people around the world and stuff, which is really cool. So I kept doing it. And I did it for a couple of years. And it got a little bit less than fewer far between as we went and I realised I'm spending all my time in this cartoon, telling people that they can do whatever they want to do, and they can chase their dream. And I realised I'm not chasing my dream, I'm not doing the thing that I really want to do. And what I really want to be doing is telling stories, I wanted to be telling my own stories, I had all these characters and all these worlds, I had 30 years where the stories piled up in my head that I wanted to tell. So eventually I had to say, Okay, I'm stepping away so I can start focusing on doing what I really love. And I'd had a friend that had been pressuring me to see if I would draw one of his comics for him. And he was a local kid, and I was like, Sure I'll give it a shot. It'll see if I can do it. I knocked out his book very quickly. I was knocking out two or three full colour pages a day. The artwork was simple, very 90s styled but I was like, Oh man, this is great. I can do this. And so I started offering more of my work online and started getting more commissions. And next thing you know, I made some friends on my first job that ended up giving me more jobs and introducing me to more his friends. And then next thing you know, I'm working full time as a comic book artist. And when my ex just up and disappeared one day, my friends in the comic book community gathered around and we're like shouting everybody out, like, Hey, I know somebody has been looking for work from fish, he could use some Commission's right now. And next thing, you know, I was booked up with like six months of prepaid work, just waiting on me, all I had to do was do it. And then I can move the money to my bank account. And I'm having to pick and choose and not just take whatever I can get anymore. And that's an amazing feeling. I could not be happier with my life right now. I mean, it'd be nice not to have Tourette's, I guess. But I would also lose all my creativity and my speed, I'm so much faster. You know, I would lose all of that if my brain didn't work the way it did. So I'm grateful for it, ultimately.Claire Waite Brown:
And do you think that the artwork, you're saying in some ways the Tourette's helps the way you work? Do you think that doing the artwork, helps you in other ways, benefits your health, maybe or your general well being lifestyle,Unknown:
usually, I mean, as long as the job is easy, and the team's easy to work with, sometimes they're difficult. Sometimes there's other things, you know, that make it a challenging job. But most of the time, my jobs are absolute fun, and is just sheer joy to get to do all day. It's just such a fun job. And I enjoy it, I get to use all the parts of my creativity. And when I get hyper focused on my work, it puts all my tics on the back burner for a while now sometimes they come back with a vengeance once I quit. Once I put the work down, I start ticking really bad afterwards, sometimes. But all day long, I've been able to work and be fine. Now, some days, that means like, when I stopped for dinner, when my wife gets home, and I realised Whoa, I can't walk to the dinner table, I'm too shaky. So she has to bring me my dinner in my chair and eat and we sit and visit for a minute, and I'm too shaky and Tiki to get up and do laundry. I'm too shaky to get up and clear the table. So sometimes the only thing I can do to really be of service to my family is go back to work for the evening. Because I know when I hyper focus on my work again, the tics are going to subside for now. And then when I quit, I'll dance my way to the bedroom. But you know, I can do something right now that will earn us money that can pay the rent that is beneficial to my family, since I can't get up and do the dishes right now. And I'm still sitting in the same room with my wife, and we're watching TV and we're talking about what's going on. I'm just, you know, drawing people beating themselves up in their underwear while we're doing that, which is hilarious. I love my job. It is so much fun.Claire Waite Brown:
That sounds fabulous. Tell me about your plans for your own books.Unknown:
Oh, I am so excited for my book, Green Zone life in the blocks. It's published through freestyle comics. I published my very first comic myself, ran a Kickstarter to fund it, shipped it all out, did all the ordering and stuff myself. And I realised I hate being a publisher don't like it stresses me out. That's not stuff. I'm good at organised lists, making sure everybody gets exactly what they ordered. That sends my anxiety and my OCD into overdrive. And I have to check everything 50 times, and it's just far too stressful. I just spent three months filling orders and taking orders and no opportunity to draw and that time. And I realised right then and there, if I'm going to do this again, I gotta find somebody else to help with this, because I'm not good at that. And it's a story I've been working on for a long time. You know, I imagine what would it be like, if people were actually just randomly born with superpowers like they are in comic books, if there really were mutants or in my world genomes that are just born with superpowers, I did not think that would go over very well. So in this world, after some tragedies at schools with, you know, Genomes getting bullied and blowing up out of the, you know, stress or the powers going off and too many people turning to a life of crime, because you know, they're living in poverty and robbing a bank is easier if nobody will give you a job because you shoot lasers out of your elbows. I didn't think it would go well. So in this world, it's illegal to have superpowers. And if you're a genome, you know, as soon as you get found out, whether that's at birth, or you mutate later in life, you lose all your citizenship, all your rights, and you get shoved into green zones. You get put in the blocks, which are these giant overbuilt, heavy concrete ghettos, you know, so you can't fireball your way through the walls and you get forgotten about and you just live there in squalor. I mean, you can work illegal jobs and try and work an illegal food card or something or work construction there. But you can't really leave the green zone, you can't make a better life for yourself. You can't vote, you can't own property, you can't register a business unless you get your citizenship. And the only way to do that is to prove that you're not a threat to humanity first. So you have to serve the greater good for five years, either in the military fire department, or in this case, the police force. And so we're following a group of new recruits on the police force on their first shift. It's a group of people that are very poorly equipped to be police officers, but they desperately want out of the blocks, the humans look at the genome officers as mall cops at best, and the genomes look at them as race traders that have turned against their own kind. So it's a no win situation. Everybody hates you. It's brutal. But you know, do you want your citizenship bad enough? You gotta follow along to find out you can follow along the freestyle comics that FSK now website, you can buy the issues there that are already out. You can follow along on news you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all that stuff.Claire Waite Brown:
Speaking of which, give me your handles fish. Where can people find you on various platforms?Unknown:
I am Mr. Fish comics everywhere. Sometimes it's Mr dot fish dot comics. Sometimes it's an underscore, but a Mr. Fish comics on Facebook tick tock. I'm having to rebuild my Instagram account again from scratch. But I'm on tick tock and I'm on Facebook. And you can find me on the agents of Geekdom network all the time, because I'm on the five star Friday show. I like to jump in and fill in with other people and their shows a week of shows just about every night for something and a bunch of us have come together from different publishers and different groups and put a watch all our shows together so you can find a bunch of entertainment in one spot. We got some talented folks andClaire Waite Brown:
really Yeah, that's exciting. Thank you so much for speaking with me today finish. I really enjoyed this chat. So thanks for sharing.Unknown:
Thank you. I appreciate it.Claire Waite Brown:
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