Someeethinng Yoou Shouuuuld Kknow Abbout Mee

Have you ever heard of an Essential Tremor?

I hadn’t, until mine presented at age 14. The frequency of it was a telltale sign to the doctor that it is a benign tremor: I do not have Parkinson’s Disease or any diseases (of which I know) that cause involuntary movement. In most people who inherit the genes responsible for this neurological movement disorder, the symptoms don’t present until around “mid-life”.

When you and I meet, you may notice my hands tremble when I pick up a cup of coffee or a pen. You might think I’m a drunk, coming off of a drinking binge, or on illicit/illegal/dangerous drugs. My graduate school director, Steve Masiclat, thought I had a coke problem until I started presenting quality work at which point he asked me what is up with my hands. I always appreciated Professor Masiclat’s straight honesty: if you don’t want to know what he thinks, don’t ask him! He’s a smart man, so his initially silent conclusions probably represent what others think, but don’t say.

A common exercise for people with ET to demonstrate their condition is to draw a spiral.


The tremor doesn’t show in my everyday printing. We find ways to adapt and compensate.

I’ve had to to tolerate the spectacle of it. It is easy to forget I have it because it is just so very ever-present. I’m reminded when someone asks, “Are you okay?” I’m sure I was okay until they asked if I am okay. Typically, I give them a pat response about my disorder. If they are a Nosey Nellie I might make up an elaborate story just to mess with them 😉

March is Essential Tremor Awareness Month. I’m in a support group on Facebook for it; there are more groups for it than I could keep up with. That reflects the percentage of the population afflicted with the disorder. There are about 10 million of us in the U.S.

My late Grandma Ruth had this movement disorder. People take for granted that “old people shake” but she wasn’t elderly when I was a toddler. I remember watching her paint her artwork with a an unsteady but purposeful and determined hand. To my knowledge, I am the only descendant who won the genetic lottery on this … and I have a relatively large family.

Beta blockers, generally indicated for high blood pressure help keep the tremor to a minimum. Propranolol is the one many of us are on. Those of us with this affliction learn to adapt. When last I checked, I can still cue up a record, sign my name, and type at with blistering speed. But then, there are some days when, I cannot fill out official forms with any legibility. This is one reason I am a pro at document digitization and have pre-written signatures in my stationary folder.

I haven’t written this to complain or whine, simply to inform. It’s better knowing, going in, that I shake like an off-balance washing machine sometimes and it is for no reason but a differently-wired brain. I always say: “At least it doesn’t hurt!” 🙂

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