It’s been a few months since I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor, and as I have mentioned in other blog posts, I have good days and I have bad days. I also mentioned that – thanks to modern medicine – my good days usually outnumber the bad days. But that being said, today was a bad day, and at the risk of regaling you with “Too Much Information,” I thought that I would take a moment to explain what that’s like.
Throughout the day, dozens of seemingly-trivial tasks were made difficult by miniscule tremors that caught me completely off guard. In each occasion, either my fingers would tremble, or my entire hand would tremble. To anyone nearby it might seem as if nothing was happening, but each instance was terribly frustrating for me.
Here is one example from earlier this evening: my wife and I were standing in our kitchen, and I held up a jar of salsa to dip a chip into it. But when I turned the jar on its side so that it was parallel to the ground, my hand started to tremble so badly that I could barely hold the jar. I certainly couldn’t be trusted to try dipping a chip into the jar, so I quickly set it down. I attempted the activity again – with the same result. I looked at my wife and chuckled helplessly, but I usually only get tremors in one hand, so I thought that I would just change hands to work around the problem. However, I soon discovered that my other hand yielded the same outcome – my hands were simply shaking too badly to be reliable.
I was briefly annoyed at my own inability to accomplish this ridiculously-simple task, when I thought of a workaround: I could hold the jar on the kitchen counter and simply lean it on its side. This worked brilliantly, and it reveals a lifestyle behavior that I am having to employ more and more commonly these days: I use something else for stability.
Quite often I find myself running into situations where my hands are shaking, and even though I mentioned earlier that my physical dilemmas are probably imperceptible to those around me, I cannot help but feel embarrassed by my circumstances – either by my hands shaking or by my inability to do something simple. However, I increasingly find myself working around the problem by leaning my hands against something else for stability; occasionally I will quickly push my hands down onto a table when I find that cannot hold a fork or spoon steady while eating, and other times I will pull my arms to my chest so that I can complete a task with a relative degree of stability. These situations are very frustrating to experience, but I am doing my best to cope with them and find workarounds when possible.
Another annoyance that I have discovered is how these micro-tremors in my hands seem to sap my strength. The tremors are not actually making my hands weaker, but it seems that way because my fingers shake as I try to use them, and as a result I cannot accomplish my intended activity. (If you’ve ever had your hands shake because your blood sugar was crashing, it feels a lot like that.)
Here’s a case in point from earlier today: I received a DVD from Netflix in the mail, and when I picked it up, a quick set of micro-tremors in my fingers made me lose my grip on the envelope and it went sailing through the air. This happened a couple more times, and when I finally managed to force my way through my symptoms and I had a firm grip on the package, the tremors made it impossible to slide my fingers through the seal on the envelope and open it. (That’s when I decided that it was time to go find a set of scissors…)
So this is what my life is like on bad days: I find myself plagued with what seems like a never-ending stream of tiny tremors that are making average, day-to-day activities far more difficult than before. But I am attempting to keep my spirits high as I soldier through my occasional predicaments, and whenever possible I am trying to find workarounds for my setbacks.
(One final note: you wouldn’t believe the number of typos that tremors caused while writing this blog.)