Over the past months, I’ve learned these things.
- I don’t have Parkinson’s.
- MRIs are really, really loud.
- I don’t have Wilson’s Disease.
- I’m not even remotely claustrophobic. (This wasn’t a surprise, you don’t get to be a puppeteer with claustrophobia.)
- I don’t have a thyroid issue.
- My bloodwork is in really good shape.
- I don’t have any tumors.
- The inside of my head is beautiful.
- And what an Essential Tremor is.
It’s the most common movement disorder, affecting some 10 million people in the US alone. That’s 1 in 30 people, including me. It’s what Katherine Hepburn had. Hers was in her head. Mine is in my hands.
This has, as you might imagine, caused me some consternation. Puppeteer. Writer. Letters. Before either of those, violin and art. I’ve pretty much always defined myself by what I could do with my hands. Now, mine is mild. Really, really mild. My neurologist says that I probably only noticed so early because of what I do with my hands. Unless I point it out to you, you’re not likely to notice the shaking at all. Even on a video monitor.
How do I know this? Because they’ve been shaking, off and on, for at least two years.
But there is a difference between “Hm… I wonder why my hands are shaking right now?” and “Oh. There’s the tremor.” It’s a progressive disorder, which has absolutely no impact on length of life or other health issues. It progresses at different rates for different people. I might stay at exactly this point. There’s no way to know.
To be honest, I debated on whether or not to mention it. My fear was that people in the puppetry industry might decide not to hire me because of concerns that my hands will shake. Realistically though,I’m doing so little puppetry these days that, even if the tremors were obvious, it’s sort of a non-issue.
The reason I decided to go ahead and talk about it is that, it’s such a common disorder and yet– most people don’t know about it. There are a lot of “invisible” disabilities ranging from chronic pain to depression. I’m coming to realize that the more we decide to be secretive about our imperfections, the more we stigmatize and marginalize the people who suffer from them.
As I’ve said, my essential tremor is really mild. But… here. Watch this video from the International Essential Tremor Foundation.
And if you’re feeling generous, donate to the foundation to help fund research.