Vagal Tone and Tourette’s Behavior

“Can we create Tourette’s?”

What a strange question to even ask. I pose this question because of a recent abdominal surgery I had. Have no doubt that even when done laparoscopically there is a lot of mucking around that goes on inside with probes and tools in order to get to what they are trying to reach and remove.

Let’s talk about the location of the Vagus nerve. (Vagus=Vagal, same name.) The Vagus nerve begins in the lower part of the brain and travels down the body, branching to many organs and arteries, touching in on our very essential way of being. It gently and purposely branches all the way down to the bottom of the belly. It is a very important part of our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Which is popularly known, “Fight, Flight and Pooped Out System.”

If the Vagal nerve and its branches is disturbed or injured it can effect anything between digestion, emotion, sleep, or overall wellness. Our immune system depends on the Vagus nerve being healthy and its ability to transmit information up and down its highway from our belly to our brain.

Fast forward to my post abdominal surgery healing. Using lots of beautiful hands on work with my very dear friend, Linda Tellington-Jones, who flew here to be with me and work with me several times a day to help heal my insides and out. I will share more in another post. It was truly a gift and so beautiful. Everyone deserves to be treated in this way. Bless you, Linda.

Sometime around the third week after surgery, I finally made my way out of the house to meet my husband for lunch in a restaurant. The waiter brought out the food. I was so thankful to be out enjoying the day. But, as soon as I bit into the food all kinds of overload happened almost instantaneously.  “Woop! Ick!” Funny high pitched sounds out of my mouth along with twitchy movements of my shoulders head, neck and eyes” and out came the food as quickly as it went in. My right arm even flow up in the air. My husband looked at me in shock, and I looked back at him with shrugged shoulders like, “Sorry, don’t know what that was.” It happened whenever I tried to eat out of the house. Finally going back to eating my homemade food again. I did not have this problem with home cooked food, only restaurant food. Too many flavors for my mouth to handle. The nerves from the lower part of the brain also richly innervate the mouth. It is part of our course of development and survival. Apparently, mine were not completely back online yet. 

Then this is the real clincher. When I thought all was healed post 5 weeks and at a workshop-training out of the blue I got totally overloaded by someone’s voice and tone. Things like this would never have effected me in this way at all. As a matter of fact, I’ve never had a twitch a day in my life!

I had such an adverse reaction from her tone and staccato I had to leave the room. Barely making it out the door with ‘shiver me timbers’ up and down my body and head.

I intended to “walk it off, walking down the hall. But noooo, I had many stops making my way down the long university hallway. Right hand would shake, head tilt, awkward ‘woop’ sounds, all totally unfamiliar to me in every way you could think.

Finally I got to the end of the hallway and just leaned the top of my head on the heavy door. Trying to gently press the crown of my head into the door, I hoped it would give some feedback into my head and down my spine. For a brief moment I had a very short reprieve and breath of relief.

But it started back with the same fury and vengeance wracking through my body. This time adding new dance sequences of shudders and quiet yelps of what seemed like begging help.

By his time I was close to tears as it was actually ramping up my nervous system of fight and flight. Certainly not my desires at all.

Thank goodness for all the fortune in the world a colleague and dear friend came out into the hall and slowly touched me and verbally guided for me what I can do. But first my need was her, as a real human being, with all her gentle kindness in her voice and hands. I felt her safety, and mostly I felt her touching my lower legs believe it or not and this started the beginning of the quieting of my crazy Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. Thank you.

Little by little she talked me through, changing my thinking by bringing my awareness to my non reactive areas, like my lower legs.

She gently cooed me with her calm and loving voice. I can still hear her now, hours later.

She talked to me like a human being, like a loving mother, like a caring teacher, like an good old friend.

As my body and especially my Vagal tone began to reorganize and I was feeling better and more of myself, I had to ask her, “What do I do when I go home and what if this happens again, what can I do for myself?”

Now, please mind me, but I teach a lot about our Vagal nerve and still in this very crazy upside down dance I could not seem to be able to find my psyche and upright myself. At least it is what it felt like.

With her smile on her face and her heart she said, “Elinor, you do have the tools. You have your hand on your heart and belly and do the gentle work you know.” 


Thank you for reminding me in the craziest of moments that we do have tools for what we can do for ourselves.

But have no doubt, we are beautiful creatures not meant to live our lives alone in seclusion.

There is that age old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it really make a noise?”

It takes witness, it sometimes takes a friend or other living being to remind us who we really are and the great and wonderful potential we carry to help ourselves. 

Thank you for being there to witness me, to guide me through it and to remind me I still have the ability to also do it for myself.

Quietly, I went back into our class, sat in the back of the room still reminding myself,

“This is good, I’m good, I’m good, yes. I’m breathing, I’m good.”

You know what? After all that, I was. 

This bodes the question here, “What really is Tourette’s?” Is it only chemistry? Can it be Vagal tone? And can we help by teaching people how to better use our Vagus nerve to be on their side. Now, here lies some very rich thinking and discussion.

In health and wellness, always–Elinor

One Comment

  1. Wow! What an intense experience! I hope each day your Vagus nerve is supporting you to heal.

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