I don’t remember exactly when I first noticed my tremors, all I knew was that my hands would shake. Before I retired, I had trouble with my left hand whenever I would try to type. My hand shook and made corrections to every word necessary. I decided at my next doctor’s appointment that I would ask about the hand shaking. I was hopeful there would be a simple explanation such as too much caffeine, or too much typing and not giving myself a break, but as I held out my hand before him, he just looked and the trembling and said, “Hmm, that’s interesting.” Nothing else.
I left the doctor’s office more confused and sadder than before. What if it got worse? Would I be able to type in my job. Many duties required me to type even though I was a receptionist at a busy non-profit organization. In between answering 200-300 calls a day, I was expected to address envelopes for other organizations across the state, as well as type up letters for busy CEO’s.
Back then, I had no choice but to keep my problems to myself and hope the trembling would just go away. I was in my 50’s then and the idea of starting over was not in my future. I simply hid my tremors as best as I could.
As years passed, and no amount of doctor appointments offering an explanation or a diagnosis, I realized, early retirement would be my only next step. I didn’t want to give up an opportunity to earn more towards my retirement benefits, but I just couldn’t keep on as things were. In December 2005, I left employment for good and the struggle to keep up with the demands placed on me. Retirement wasn’t and still isn’t easy. I have a modest pension, and Social Security, which I find becomes less secure everyday! But there was hope on the horizon, somewhat. I found a GP who decided to send me to a neurologist in a nearby city. After years of being left to wander what was wrong with me, I was diagnosed as having a condition known as Essential Tremor. I was told it was not Parkinson’s Disease, as I had feared. I was also informed there was no cure and no treatment other than medication. And so, my journey was now labeled, but the rounds of various meds, nerve conduction studies, and feeling like a zombie after every “new,” medicine vowed to relax my tremors, made me feel like a lab rat.
I have cried endlessly. And some nights, I find sleep impossible. The life I once had is gone forever. I can no longer enjoy the simple day-to-day tasks that others take for granted. I can’t trust myself with making meals as my hands shake and dropping plates, cups, and food has become normal. I don’t want to visit restaurants as my shakes can come on so quickly and holding up a fork or spoon to my mouth is sometimes impossible. I have sat on my hands in an attempt to control the shaking, but this only makes things worse. I have actually slapped myself in the head numerous times and have been unable to control my hands once I have a grip on something. I almost always have to ask someone to help me with simple chores. My daughter, whom I live with, helps me in times of need. She tries to console me, but it doesn’t help much. Living with essential tremor is not something one can understand if they haven’t experienced it for themselves. People stare, and I wish I could just stand up to them and say, “What’s wrong with you people? Haven’t you ever seen an old woman shake before!?”
So, this is my journey so far. I know there are many more people suffering with essential tremors. I hope by sharing my experiences, tears and daily struggles, I can give someone understanding in a very not so understanding world. If you would like to comment, please do. I would love to hear from others and your experiences as well.
Love and hope to everyone, Nina