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Challenge of Tourette’s Didn’t Stop Librarian Josh Hanagarne

By Jahyra White

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Librarian Josh Hanagarne went through a lot in his childhood, but still managed to make it.

In elementary school, Hanagarne was performing in a class play and noticed that something was wrong. But it wasn’t until high school that doctors diagnosed him with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations.

According to Hanagarne, Tourette’s is just like a sneeze – hard to keep inside – but it’s an everyday thing and it happens all the time.

In school, he was bullied for his Tourette’s outbursts.

Hanagarne is used to his Tourette’s and he doesn’t seem to think he’s any different from anyone else, but his story gets better.

When he met his wife after high school, she became the love of his life.

When he talks about her and describes what kind of person she is, he gets a little teary eyed.

It’s clear that he really loves his wife dearly and is thankful for having her in his life.

It’s hard to imagine being married to someone who has Tourette’s but his wife told him all of that didn’t matter.

A couple of years go by and they decide that they want to have a kid. After trying unsuccessfully and being told they couldn’t conceive, they had a baby.

Now they have a healthy five-year-old son named Max.

Leaving His Faith Behind, He Kept His Family in Mind

By Ambriel Johnson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Josh Hanagarne, a Salt Lake City librarian, keeps a delicate balance between his former Mormon religion and his family, who remain devoted to the faith.

Hanagarne said he first started to question his religion when he had to stop attending church due to his Tourette Syndrome.

As a young man, he was unable to be out in public for about two years because the Tourette’s caused him to have loud vocal tics. Hanagarne said it was the first time he was away from the church and its influence on his life.

Until that moment, he said, he wasn’t really thinking for himself.

“I was taught to believe as much as I was taught how to think,” Hanagarne said. “We are all the products of how we are raised.”

He met his wife Jeanette during the difficult time when he couldn’t speak over a whisper. His mother, who met her through the church, set them up.

Hanagarne said he tried to talk his wife out of going through with the marriage. He told her she didn’t know how bad it would get. Still, she wouldn’t listen.

She told him that not being with him would be harder than being with him, even when the Tourette’s was at its worst, he said.

The two now live together with their 5-year-old son, Max, a boy who is learning to think for himself.

Despite the huge role that religion played in his family, Hanagarne chose to leave it.  It’s a decision that wasn’t easy for his relatives to take in.

“My family are my best friends,” he said. “Me leaving the faith was heartbreaking for them.”

Standing 6-feet, 7 inches tall, and weighing around 260 pounds, Hanagarne uses bodybuilding to deal with his Tourette’s. He recently published his memoir, The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength and the Power of Family.

During a visit to The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford last week, the ‘strongman’ was reminded of his love for reading, something that blossomed when he was just a small boy.

One of Hanagarne’s favorite authors, Stephen King, wrote more than 50 books. He was excited to be part of the security detail at King’s fundraising appearance for the Twain House that night.

“I read my first Stephen King book when I was in fifth grade – way too early,” Hanagarne said. “I was looking around the bookmobile and I found this big book, Misery…”

He said he’s always had the philosophy that the bigger the book, the better.

But Hanagarne’s Mormon mother banned King’s gut-wrenching stories.

“I started having tics when I was six,” Hanagarne said. “Tourette’s feels like you have to sneeze and you can’t let it out. You don’t know what it’s gonna look or sound like.”

It was not until he was a freshman in high school that his parents acknowledged his life-changing syndrome and took him to see a specialist.

“It took them about three minutes to diagnose me with Tourette’s,” he said.

Hanagarne enjoys working in libraries because they help him to control his body, and keep his syndrome under control, something he wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.

He also likes them, he said, because they allow him to think.

Librarian With The Strength to Cope with Tourette Syndrome

By Ashaya Nelson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

“Twitch! Twitch! Twitch!” the crowd screamed when high school freshman Josh Hanagarne stood at the free throw line.

The game depended on him making the shot.

Hanagarne, who had physical and vocal tics that would later be identified as Tourette Syndrome, stood in front of the basket with tears running down his face.

The ball made it into the basket and his team went home with a win. But he didn’t leave without flipping off the crowd.

Hanagarne shares his story with people all around the world.

He visited the Mark Twain House & Museum Thursday to talk about his book, The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family.

Hanagarne, a bodybuilder, said he learned a lot about himself by writing a memoir.

“Wasn’t trying to be a writer, this never was supposed to happen,” said Hanagarne.

Now a librarian in Salt Lake City, Hanagarne always was engrossed in books, and as a kid, tried to find the largest book to read.

He read his first Stephen King book in fifth grade and though his mother banned King’s book from their home, he continued to sneak them in.

Now, Hanagarne said, he barely sleeps, reading a book each day.

The night of that basketball game, Hanagarne asked his parents what was wrong with him, and he got the diagnosis of Tourette’s.

During his childhood, it wasn’t a big deal, he said. In eighth grade it became vocal, and he began to get bullied. As he got older, his condition worsened, and even became violent.

Trying to hold in his Tourette’s, he said, “feels like that most intense sneeze.”

A mysterious man had an impact on his life. Adam T. Glass, a U.S. Air Force veteran who suffered a brain crushing injury, helped him learn to move his body in ways that brought relief.

Hanagarne explained that Glass could somehow see where the pain came from in someone’s body, and how to fix it. Glass helped Hanagarne by having him use a five-pound dumbbell, and by moving his wrist.

Today, Hanagarne is a happy family man. He said his mother came home from church one day and told him she’d found the perfect wife for him. When he met his wife, he could barely speak.

She did not hear his true voice until eight months after their wedding.

After trying for years to have a child, they had Max, a son who is now five years old.

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