Wednesday 26 October 2016

‘He just laughed in my face’: Irish First Dates star (25) who lives with Tourette’s opens up about cruel bullies who filmed him in shopping centre

Published 12/08/2016 | 09:42

Damian and Kai on First Dates. Photo: Channel 4
Damian and Kai on First Dates. Photo: Channel 4

An Irish man who appeared on the UK version of First Dates has opened up about cruel bullies who filmed him in a shopping centre as a joke.

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Damien Friel (25) from Derry opened up about some of the negative experiences he has had to deal with since being diagnosed with Tourette’s on The Ryan Tubridy Show.

The mental health nurse spoke of an experience in a shopping centre soon after his diagnosis, which saw him removed from the premises after he confronted a man who was filming him without permission.

“I was in a food court with some friends and we were standing in line to get served. It was one of the first few times I had gone out and I was feeling really anxious. I noticed then that someone had their phone at their knee pointing at me. At this stage I was really hyperventilating about everyone around me.

“I felt like I needed to challenge any kind of discrimination. So I went to the person and asked them ‘Why would you record me’, that’s really inappropriate and he just laughed in my face. I felt really gutted about it and upset. I told security about it and what happened was I was the one who ended up being escorted out of the place.

“Later on that evening I chatted with my dad about it. I broke down about it but I’ve managed to come back from that,” he said.

Damien revealed that his ticks became particularly bad in 2012, when he was suffering from mental health difficulties in the aftermath of a bad break-up.

“I didn’t really get that bad until I had really bad mental health difficulties back in 2012 and following a tough year in 2013 the ticks become really, really noticeable. In 2012, I was with a partner and we decided to break up, which I took really badly at the time. I ended up in a psychiatric unit. I already was suffering with poor mental health and that just didn’t help out. I stayed there for about two weeks.

“During the first week I began to stammer and stutter, which was something I’d never had in my life and then over the next few days I started to repeat movements. It was basically overnight that this happened.

“For the first few months it was really really disabling. I couldn’t go outside of the house. I was intensely anxious. I felt like people were staring at me and I could see people nudging their friends and pointing. In some instances I’ve had people recording me on their phones and just being nasty,” he said

The nurse became a Twitter sensation as viewers tuned in to his date with Kai from Manchester this week on the hit Channel 4 show, but the pair haven’t met up for a second time due to work commitments. Kai seemed to take Damien’s ticks in good humour, which is something he said is a must in a potential partner.

 "I've found if someone has a problem with it it's not someone I'm going to want to date anyway."

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