Former UFC fighter, and PFl heavyweight tournament winner, Antonio Carlos Junior is currently a housemate on Big Brother Brazil, one of Brazil’s most watched television series. During the show, which airs live and has viewers vote for their favourite housemates, ‘Shoeface’ has won over legions of fans.
Junior has done this through both being extremely likeable and for being open about aspects of his life that he had previously been able to keep hidden. Specifically, Junior has disclosed what it’s been like for him living with Tourette’s Syndrome (a condition he shares with the writer of this article).
Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) is a tic disorder that has an unknown cause and no real cure, though in most cases the symptoms can be managed. Tics are involuntary actions which can be defined as either ‘motor tics’ or ‘phonic tics’. Motor tics include things such as blinking, sniffing, twitching or a host of other things. Phonic tics involve making sounds, which can include whistling, coughing, clicking or speaking entire words and sentences.
Technically, TS is a Tic Disorder that is defined as having at least one motor tic and one phonic tic that lasts for over a year. However, there are many people who have tics that don’t fit this narrow definition.
Popular media has long perpetuated a falsehood that all people with TS utter curse words uncontrollably. This is not true. That symptom of TS is among the most severe of symptoms of TS (because of how society reacts to it), but it is very rare. Most people with TS have far less noticeable tics. Though, being less noticeable does not always mean they take less of a toll on one’s mind, body or general reception by society.
For Junior, his most noticeable tics are blinking. And on Big Brother, where there are cameras that capture every moment; spare trips to the bathroom, his tics have been on full display. And Junior has taken that opportunity to educate his housemates on his life with TS.
People with TS often have other neurological disorders, too. ADHD, OCD and Anxiety disorders are very common for people with TS.
On Big Brother, Junior has also shared his struggles with anxiety, which have manifested in panic attacks in the house.
Eu vendo o cara de sapato tendo essas crises de ansiedade me da uma aflição. Só quem sofrer de ansiedade, sabe como é insuportável e sufocante. #BBB23 pic.twitter.com/XCupb8bSKb
— Tai. (@whotaiii) January 23, 2023
Personally, I avoid sharing my video on zoom calls because I’d rather not broadcast my most noticeable tics (sniffing and eye rolling on most days, things I’d been long bullied and scrutinized for). So I can’t imagine how stressful, and anxiety inducing, it must be to have your tics captured from multiple angles, 24 hours a day, and beamed to millions of people.
Junior’s brother, Mario Figueiredo, has spoken to some outlets in Brazil about his brother and what he’s going through in the house.
“When he was 9, he started to show some symptoms and later on he was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome,” said Figueiredo to Quem magazine (translated by BE’s Lucas Rezende). “The anxiety crisis came later.”
“Out here, psychologists and specialists have been treating him for many years now. The discipline that comes from the sport and keeping his mind busy with other activities help a lot.”
There are medications and even surgeries that purport to ‘correct’ TS. However, these often come with major risks and side-effects. Many cases of TS can be successfully managed with counselling and holistic approaches to mental health and well being.
The Big Brother house is certainly not conducive to the kind of relaxing and controlled environments that are best suited to folks with TS and/or anxiety disorders. One way it has negatively impacted Junior is by preventing him from getting a good night sleep.
In the house Junior has found some support, though, in the form of his other housemates.
“I’m feeling anxious. I’m feeling anxious,” says Junior in the video above.
“Why?” answers his housemate Amanda. “Give me your hand. You’re going to sleep. I’m here. Close your eyes. You were so sleepy. Sleep, it’ll work. Breathe. Relax.”
“Thank you. Sometimes I have this at night,” answers the MMA champ.
Figueiredo spoke to media about this incident, too, celebrating the support his brother was able to receive.
“I’m sure Amanda’s help has been crucial at that moment,” he said. “She has shown herself to be a true friend and companion for him. He doesn’t even consider quitting. He’s an athlete. Athletes have great physical and psychological (aspects) to deal with this. Their friendship has surprised everyone positively. She has been really good for him in the game. They’re getting stronger and they’ve got each other’s back.”
Junior’s popularity on the show could lead to him being there for a long time. Housemates who avoid being publicly voted out of the house are set to stay for a whopping 100 days.
100 days of confinement is an epic trial for Junior. However, in doing so he’s showing millions of people a true face of TS and is helping to fight against a stigma that has, for a very long time, made Touretters too embarrassed to seek help or community.
As someone who grew up seeing Maury Povich exploit kids like me for shock-value and ratings, and endured awful representations on South Park and many other so-called comedy shows, I say thank you Shoeface for being open and showing us all it’s OK to tic.
About the author: Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. He has lived with TS for over 30 years and will fight you if you pick of kids with tics. (full bio)
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