If the prospective doctor Stella Lingen is interrupted or unexpectedly spoken to, she sometimes reacts spontaneously with "shut up". Out of the blue, she rolls her eyes and scolds "son of a bitch", calls out "Hitler" or "I have Corona" - all of this without intention and without being able to control it.
Lingen does not want to offend anyone and is not corona positive either. The 25-year-old has Tourette's incurable neuro-psychiatric disease. Her exclamations are tics, an expression of her illness. The diagnosis has been clear since she was 21. Nevertheless, she continued her medical studies. At the end of this year she wants to take her exams, later do her doctorate and eventually open a practice as a general practitioner.
The Essen native is currently working in the emergency outpatient clinic of the Essen Huyssenstift, her next station is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. The tics hardly bothered me at work, says the young woman in the white coat. "I'm concentrated in conversations with patients, they hardly ever show up." Most of the time she also manages to suppress tics. "I can do almost everything, including motor skills, such as placing accesses," she says. She also drives a car – when she worked in the emergency services during her medical studies, she even drove the ambulance.
"Stella Lingen is the first prospective doctor with Tourette's syndrome to complete her practical year with us," says her boss Dr. Andreas Grundmeier, Director of the Clinic for Emergency Medicine
Tourette's disease usually occurs in childhood, but Lingen's disease only became apparent in young adulthood, initially with a slight wince, as many people experience when falling asleep. Later came stronger arm movements and then also verbal tics, first clearing my throat and whistling, later also uncontrollably uttered words. It took a year and a half before she was diagnosed - a time of personal uncertainty, for example with the question of whether she could continue studying medicine, she says.
In the meantime she has come to terms with the illness and her self-confidence has grown. She gave her illness a name: Steve. Medical colleagues inform her of her own accord when she comes to a department. She doesn't tell patients at first if the situation doesn't require it. Even long shifts with lack of sleep are not a problem, she says. "Lack of sleep is even positive. It reduces tics."
In principle, there is nothing wrong with a demanding job for people with Tourette's syndrome, says associate professor Dr. Daniel Huys, specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy and chief physician in general psychiatry at the LVR Clinic in Bonn, who has been offering special consultation hours for people with tic disorders for years. "We see some sick people here who work in management positions: for example as management consultants, hotel managers or ship captains."
The decisive factor is how severely impairing and stressful those affected perceive their illness themselves. And a fulfilling job like being a doctor gives people a lot of positive things in return; its structuring effect has also been shown to have positive effects on mental health.
Of course, the pressure of the illness is still there - simply through the effort to suppress tics and occasionally through conflicts with the environment. Lingen says that she once got into a fight with an older woman on the bus because she had called out "Hitler" several times. When the woman verbally attacked her, Lingen racially abused her fellow passengers – without meaning it and without being able to do anything about it.
"That wasn't my intention, Hitler isn't in my mind," she says. But outsiders sometimes don't understand that. Lingen therefore wants to use her medical expertise to provide information about the disease - and not always dead serious.
The doctor has contributed to several contributions for the well-known YouTube channel "Gewitter im Kopf - Leben mit Tourette" by Jan Niklas Zimmermann and Tim Lehmann, in which there is sometimes a lot of laughter. For some time she has also had her own YouTube channel with more than 17,000 subscribers. "Stella - The license to swear," she called him.