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Page last updated at 10:13 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 11:13 UK
Tourette sufferer raps for control

We all have those days where we might feel less in control of our behaviour than we want to be - but for most of us, it doesn't get as severe as involuntarily running into roads or shouting swear words at passers-by.

Brent Zillwood
Brent's condition started when he was 15 years old

But that's what Tourette sufferer Brent Zillwood has to cope with.

The 17-year-old from Dulverton has been living with the condition since he was 15 years old. For him, the condition sees him involuntarily tick and swear.

While at work, he is not allowed to wash up knives in case he twitches and hurts somebody.

"It started ticking with my neck and then it grew stronger and swearing and then it got to a point where I'd run into the middle of the road out of nowhere, just sprinting. It was very scary at the time," he said.

The condition started very slowly and was triggered by the stress of exams. He said everything built up inside of him and then "bam! It all came out in the way of Tourettes".

The condition can also be passed through genetics and Brent believes his mother has it a little bit, particularly when she has road rage.

Brent has to explain he has the condition to people before he even says hello as he does not know what he is going to say.

Affects one in a 100 children
It can wear off in late adolescent in half of those cases
Thousands of people have it and do not realise
Most cases are mild, can involve blinking and twitching
Swearing is used in 10% of cases
There is no cure or drug treatment

"Some people are ignorant of Tourettes Syndrome and come up and shout at you and start on at you," he said.

"Some people know it's Tourette Syndrome without even asking, some know as I'm twitching while I'm doing it and sometimes you've just got to remember that Tourette Syndrome is in different forms, it's not just swearing.

"In small towns like Dulverton, not many people have heard of it but a lot of people know me so it's a win-win situation."

He said the condition has been difficult in some situations, namely when he is around people of different races or with disabilities as he can involuntarily say the polar opposite of what he wants to.

"I don't want to say any of the words I say but I do but I have to control it."

Brent has discovered a coping mechanism that allows him to control his condition - rapping.

"Every time I'm walking past somebody that I think 'oh jees I'm going to say something' I start rapping as I'm walking past them and they're looking at me as I'm rapping past them rather than saying something racial."

He raps on public transport to try and control it.

Brent used to rap before the condition started. His lyrics talk about things relevant to his life and for people of his age.

"It's a different perspective on the hip-hop movement as a lot of rappers go on about violence and drugs and women and all that stuff, well mine's more about ignoring that side and is kind of more positive things."

He is going to Plymouth University where he hopes to meet other people with the condition and will continue rapping.

"I can't stop rapping as then the Tourettes will get worse."

A CD mix-tape called "How To Change The World In 15 Beats" (produced by A-Z Style Beats) is on sale at Taunton's Black Cat records and also for download from Datpiff .




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