chalotteCharlotte's story

Read about kindergarten teacher, Charlotte, and her experience with tremor.

Growing up I was always aware that I had ‘the shakes’. My earliest memories of having a tremor are being a child and other people commenting on it. Initially, it was thought that my tremor was due to the high volumes of asthma treatment I was having at the time and it was left at that. I remember during primary school I didn’t really feel much concern about it, other children would ask and I would tell them, “It’s because of my asthma inhalers”.

Going into senior school I became naturally more self conscious; being unable to write the title of a book on the whiteboard and a few members of the class laughing before I started a presentation stands out. Telling a boy I didn’t want to go out with him and him saying, he was only joking and never really wanted to go out with me because I shake. My teenage years then became a constant obstacle course of me trying to think how I could hide my tremor. I would be in cold sweats when I noticed someone noticing my shakes while I was writing, or taking a drink waiting for the dreaded, “why are you shaking” and not being able to give them an answer.

When I got to 15 I decided I’d had enough of it. I wanted to be like everyone else so I went to the GP who sent me to a child neurologist, I was diagnosed using the spiral test and answering a few questions. It was relief to finally have a name for it, but at the same time a huge disappointment to learn there was not going to be a quick fix due to the experimental nature of treatment for Essential Tremor. The appointment and doctors note did mean I was given extra time in written exams at school, often my hands get tired writing for a sustained period and I’m not the quickest writer!

I was offered propananol as a starting point and given some techniques to ease anxiety as this was also exacerbating my tremor. I then went through the process of realising I couldn’t have it all, propananol made me feel lathergic and at the time my friends were all going out for the first time and drinking alcohol I didn’t want to be the one lagging behind so I decided to stop taking it and to manage the best I could. I’d also found that it hadn’t had the instant effect on my tremor that I had been hoping for.

After finishing school I went onto university to study teaching, I absolutely loved the placement parts of the course and knew I had made the right decision. During one of my placements I was being observed by a deputy head who gave me an outstanding observation report but commented that she had to lower it slightly due to my handwriting on the board. It was hard to hear but I decided to use the technology we have now during a lot of lessons I did following this and I would type onto the interactive whiteboards rather than write onto it directly.

Going into teaching as a profession I have had to get over barriers that have made me anxious due to my tremor. One of them was how parents would react in parents meetings if I was shaky, which I usually am due to it being a more high pressured situation, I’ve also thought about the reactions of employers. Over time I’ve learnt that being the first one to address my tremor to others makes me feel both more in control and puts others more at ease and makes it so that people are more open to asking questions if they feel need to. I’ve also been able to assure some parents that just because their child’s pencil grip isn’t automatically ‘perfect’ not to worry, we all adjust to make things work best for ourselves!

Getting it out in the open is the same technique I usually use when meeting new people, it was one of the first things I told my partner about myself because it’s not as if I can hide it! Being able to laugh about it has been something I’ve learned to do, partly as a protective barrier, if I’m laughing along then I’m not feeling laughed at, but also being able to laugh is a good medicine when I’ve spilled a drink for the 5th time.

I’m aware that essential tremor is progressive and that in time I may be back to thinking about treatments, but for now I’m quite ok with accepting it for what it is and being open about it with others, which is part of the reason I created the Facebook group, “Essential Tremor in Young Adults”. I’m hoping that it will be somewhere people in my age bracket are able to open up and share their experiences or vent on how annoying it is when a drink gets filled to the top of the glass!

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this story, get in touch.