Two Tales of Betrayal & Comeuppance
I Promise I'll Always Let You Know When There's a Velociraptor Behind You

I'm Just Gonna Shake Shake Shake

So let's talk about weird health things. I have a weird health thing to talk about. 

I mentioned recently (around the time I Q-U-I-T mah J-O-B) that my hands shake when I'm nervous or anxious. That's kinda only the half of it. 

When your hands start shaking uncontrollably, your brain immediately starts thinking of Big Bad Things, like Parkinson's, or MS. And that's what was happening. I would feel fine, sitting there with friends, with no reason to feel anxious about anything. And then I'd bring my glass up to my mouth and suddenly my hand would be all:


And someone would notice, and ask me if I was okay, and I would admit that I didn't know. It was just something that was happening a lot. 

The good news is that it's NOT any of the Big Bad Things. It's a common movement disorder known as Essential Tremor.

It apparently used to be called Benign Essential Tremor to differentiate it from the more vicious, debilitating disorders, but "benign" was eventually dropped because HEY YOU KNOW WHAT THIS ONE STILL FUCKING SUCKS. 

Writing with a pen or pencil, putting on makeup, just about any small task involving my hands is almost unbearably difficult these days. Despite being an extrovert, social situations make me incredibly nervous now because I'm so embarrassed by the shaking (which of course just gets even worse when I'm nervous gaaaahhhhh). I used to talk with my hands; now I keep them pressed tightly against my body to keep them still so no one will notice or ask if I'm okay because I'M FINE I'M FINE STOP ASKING YOU WILL ONLY ANGER MY NEURONS. 


(I use straws a lot now.)

When it gets worse, I have problems typing or holding on to my phone or small objects. My head will bob in a barely-perceptible "yes-yes" motion. Sometimes you can hear it in my voice, a shaky tremble of my vocal cords. On the very VERY worst day I ever had with it (which so far has thankfully remained a one-time thing), I felt like my entire nervous system was vibrating, and unsteady on my feet. 

Later that same day, however, I was perfectly, totally still. 

There are some medication options (beta blockers, anti-seizure, etc.) but the first course of action is to focus on stress levels. Which, COINCIDENTALLY ENOUGH, have been at an all-time high for me lately, and rising in perfect lock-step with my symptoms. Fatigue and caffeine also make ET worse.

Considering my life cycle for the past six months was to freak out all day about work, sleep like complete garbage all night thanks to anxiety dreams and a brain that wouldn't shut off, then wake up and chug coffee all day to make up for the lack of sleep...welp. No reason I should be shaking like a leaf there! It's a damned mystery for the ages. 

So. Yeah. I'm trying. Slowly cutting back on the caffeine. Deep breathing exercises and meditation. I've upped my workout to an hour of weight lifting and take a walk outside every day. I break my day down into small reasonable tasks and won't prioritize work tasks at the expense of the ones related to my mental and physical health. I even downloaded a goddamn app for stress and anxiety, because this is America in 2015, apparently. 

/small voice it's actually a really helpful app two thumbs up/

I'm still shaking. Today not too badly, and yesterday was pretty good too. I know most of you will probably never see me in person, but for those that do: Yeah, I'm okay, I'm fine, please just ignore what my hands are doing. And to the fella over there with the hella good hair, won't you come on over baby we can shake, shake, shake. 




It's been a good loooong while since I've commented but my first thought was CAFFEINE, cut out the caffeine! I thought I was having some sort of terrible health crisis and anxiety attacks about 6 motnhs ago and it was the STUPID CAFFEINE. The withdrawal process *sucks* but I figured anything that made me have freaking withdrawals to begin with probably wasn't so awesome anyway.

I hope that your plans helps you shake, shake, shake way less. Good luck!


Yep, my mom has one. Always has. Totally not helped by caffeine and fatigue. Sounds like you're doing everything right at the moment. Keep at the good stuff!

Sue W.

Let the haters hate, hate, hate. You just shake, shake, shake. I'm glad you have an answer and it's nothing too serious.


Well, see, I thought I was just being selfish about being glad you quit your job - more blog posts for MEEEEE!- but now I see that it was pure compassion on my part, because that cannot be fun.

I get it every once in a while, too, but it's very very mild at this point. And I have a friend that it happens to quite frequently, and you know what? None of us really notice much anymore. So get out there and socialize with folks that love you. You'll feel better. And selfish or not, my-Internet-person-I've-been-reading-for-forever, I do want you to feel better.


I have always had a tremor. I am a nurse and can do my job just fine and have never sought treatment, but if ever my fine motor control deteriorates to the point I can't, I guess I will. I know how embarrassing it can be!


This sounds like it must be very scary and difficult to deal with. Sometimes our bodies have to do some crazy things to get us to right ourselves. (Mine is a lovely case of IBS- sexiest affliction ever, hello new profile headline.)

I'm so sorry you're going through it but knowing how smart, funny, capable you are and that you're surrounded by a loving family makes me think you're going to come through this like a goddamn champ.

Plus there are *so* many songs these days around Shaking It Off. (Too soon?)


If you do try the anti-seizure meds, be really careful of Topamax. I've been on it for migraine prevention (it's one of the anti-seizure meds) and it'll make you Tired. Like, first trimester of pregnancy tired. Frigging sucks.

Hope you find something that works, soon.


Glad it is a "benign" problem. Hopefully you can find a combination of relaxation (with 3 kids? ha!), caffeine and exercise that is really effective for you.


I hate to start with the assvice, but have you had your thyroid checked? Tremors can be a sign of an overactive thyroid (along with anxiety!)

I hope Operation Calm goes swimmingly :)


My mom has this exact tremor. (As did her mom. And yes I've starting noticing a mild version in my own hands, oh goodie.) She tried the medicine and for her it didn't help. But I WILL recommend with the glowing praise of my mom who will not stop talking about its magical powers... The liftware spoon. Google Liftware and yes it's expensive but it's a spoon that lets people with tremors eat liquids without splashing them all over their face. This isn't an ad, I promise, just a daughter who saw a MAJOR change in her mom's happiness. (To be clear it doesn't correct the tremor at all, just adjusts to your tremor so you can eat.)


No advice - just validation - that must be ridiculously frustrating on so many levels. I'm inspired by your focus and dedication to stress reduction - I need to do that as well, I think I'll start on the Amalah stress reduction plan too :)


i agree with the assvice about getting your thyroid checked. Also, consider looking into adrenal fatigue. There's a simple, at home test that you can do, plus tests that a doctor can do to rule it out. I hope you continue to get better!


I was nodding along with the first part - MS! ALS! Parkinson's! It's worse in stressful situations and exacerbated by caffeine. I saw a neurologist who doesn't think it's MS or anything else mentioned but I think you've just helped me diagnose my shakiness. Thank you!


So sorry you're going through this! It sounds really difficult. That said, I'm glad it isn't something with a worse prognosis. Sounds like you are taking all the right steps to get it under control.

It also has all the hallmarks of something that's scary and isolating at first, but that time will turn into no big deal. Even if it continues to happen every now and then, your family and friends will know the score, and you won't feel self-conscious anymore about explaining it to people. You're already on your way there - the shake it off joke will be just one of your confident, expert moves to put THEM at ease. You're awesome and hilarious and pretty - you will already be at ease.


Hmmm, Shake, Shake, Shake Your Booty was my first reference. I guess Taylor will do although KC was cooler.

(Wait, were you expecting a serious response? Psh. You're fine.)


My husband has this as well-apparently it can be genetic as his dad and grandfather had it too, but neither of his brothers? Anywho, I know he's always talked about the worst part being the whole "oh god, are you ok?!" which of course just makes him shake even more. Caring people can be the worst.

sarah c

Everyone on my mom's side of the family has it to varying degrees, including me, and unless you're having a really bad day you just kind of get used to it. Unless it becomes debilitating, meds just kind of made everything else worse without noticeable benefit (in our cases). Once things level out a bit you probably won't notice, but it's a bitch when you're stressy.
(stress takes a long time to recover from, too)

Um. I guess my point is that it'll be ok? It's ok.


Amy, have you ever tried acupuncture? I've struggled with stress for years and have found it to be amazingly, surprisingly effective. Could be worth a shot for this as well.

j castillo

I highly recommend acupuncture.

j castillo

I highly recommend acupuncture.


I've got essential tremor too. I almost never select the soup when I'm out to dinner.


I was given this as an actual Christmas gift this year, and I do not have ET. I have what's known as a case of the spillsies. I have two, one of which I will share with you when you come over for wine. #problemsolved




So sorry to brother in law was diagnosed with this several years ago and it has totally changed his life. Meds are a nightmare, trying to get the right combination, and dosage, and even then they do little to help. An attack usually sends him to bed, and he's out of commission for the next 24 hours or more.

I really hope that you have a mild case, and you can get it well controlled with medication. Get a support system that understands, that will help so so so much. My sister in law doesn't believe her own brother has anything wrong with him, that he's lazy and just wanted to be on disability.

I wish you the best and you will be in my thoughts as you deal with this.


Very interested in the anti-stress app. I saw it recently and wondered if it was too...foofy rah rah for me? Or too much work? But really, at this point I need to do something. I've always been tightly strung, but the mounting physical symptoms do make you sit up and notice.

I'm glad your prognosis is good and you've found some strategies that work for you.


Ahhh Chihuahua hands. I have a friend who has "Chihuahua Hands" and always and refers to them as such when people ask what's wrong.


My 60+ yr old MIL started the shaking right around the time we got married due to the stress of her own elderly mother. She complained that it was always worse if she was tired or stressed, etc., but it was finally an all the time occurrence. One night she was up late watching PBS or something, and saw that eliminating gluten from her diet could help with this (sorry that I have no more context than that). So she eliminated all gluten for a bit and it all went away. GONE. She does have gluten from time to time but mostly avoids it and I haven't seen her shake in 18 months.

Karla Brizzi

Our son (33) has Essential Tremor, diagnosed 9 years ago. His neurologist told him "you won't die FROM essential tremor, you will die WITH it." In other words, it won't kill you but it will be with you the rest of your life. I suppose that was meant to make us all feel better..... In any event, like you, he has learned to manage it (somewhat!) by paying attention to his caffeine consumption and employing good sleep practices. His tremor does become more pronounced when he is stressed or excited. Quitting your job was a good step, Amy. Take care of yourself!


My husband has ET. And yes, like you said, it gets much worse when he is stressed out. I hope it calms down for you soon. And yes, telling a woman with three small boys in the house that is a bit of an asshole thing to do, I realize.


A good number of the women in my family have an essential tremor, myself included. For me though a beta blocker has completely controlled it.

Lisa R

My Dad's side of the family all have ET. Makes total sense to me that you are feeling selfconscious about it, and that people are wondering. But I'd just like to echo everyone who says it'll just become part of life eventually. Soon everyone will be used to it, including you!
Take care!

Katie H.

OH. MY. GOD. This is exactly what I've been going through for like a year! I had no idea it had a name or anything, I just thought it was the medicine I'm taking (for anxiety, no less!). Wow. LIGHT BULB! The only good thing about it is my vibrato when I sing is GORGEOUS! ;) Hope you (and I) can get it under at least some control. HUGS!

Angela (@Aferg22)

I am so glad it wasn't one of the big scary diagnoses, but I am sorry you are dealing with this. My dad has this, and he would shake so badly when he would begin to write that his pen would rip the paper. He taught himself to write with his non-dominant hand, and the tremor is much less pronounced and his handwriting is actually legible. I don't know if you are having this issue, but you could try holding your wine in your other hand. :-)

Suzy Q

So frustrating! I know because it happens to me, too, sometimes. But still better than something horrible.


Tell people when you see they are looking.... removes their concern. Yes, genetic, familial. Yes, slowly progressive with aging. Then others relax and ignore it and you feel less silly.
Yes, I once had to hand a cashier the check to make out BEFORE I signed it ... but people really are generally quite helpful once they quit worrying that it might be contagious or escalate in front of their eyes!!!
One of the big CA computer company execs's father has it and work is underway to develop a self righting spoon/spork to make eating easier when shanking makes that a problem.


Here's more assvice - just stick it in the back of your head until you're ready. Google "deep brain stimulation" or DBS for essential tremor. I work in neurosurgery and DBS is a procedure we do for ET and Parkinson's. I know it sounds scary, but it's a life changer for patients. If you want more info (and not from teh interwebz), please email me.

Not Beehive

For a while I was taking vitamins before I went to bed. I took a multi, magnesium, calcium (which I also took in the morning), and fish oil. And every morning around 4 a.m. I'd wake up with twitchy feet and legs. I eliminated all but the calcium and the twitching went away. I've been too afraid to add any of the others back.


Thanks for sharing your journey; my dad's hands have always shook -- more so when people look or he is doing a close task. He pours his coffee into the saucer and drinks from it --- his father did the same.


Have you tried biofeedback? It is very effective at reducing stress and anxiety, and takes just a few sessions to get the hang of it. Best of luck


I have them as well. I always enjoy performing surgery with a new assistant just so I can watch the horrified expression they wear as they watch: "Are you OK? Are you nervous? Should I call someone in to help?"
Nope, I'm fine...although I probably should have had one less cup of coffee this morning...

I will say that a low dose of propranolol on an as needed basis has been helpful for me. I don't take it every day, but if I'm going to be having what I know is going to be an extra stressful day, a dose helps. I don't drop as many scalpel blades or sew things up as crooked. ;)


I understand. My vertigo came back with a vengeance New Year's Day and has been making life interesting. I walk like I'm drunk half the time.
It was really bad until mid February, then it subsided a lot, probably because my stress of a crappy boss was no longer a factor.

Caffeine is a probable trigger, so I went cold turkey almost 3 months ago. It sucks, I miss coffee, but not enough to have the room spinning me right round, baby right round...


Hey girl, so sorry to hear about your ET. My mom has it and so does my 9 year old (which means I'm up next!) It's hard because I'm sure you're simultaneously glad it's not one of the Big Ones and pretty distressed - it's not nothing! I really believe that treatments are on the wag given how common ET is. Hang tight. And in the meantime, remember how common it is - almost aniline who sees you shake has it themselves or knows someone who does. But again, I'm sorry this is happening to you. Sending you all our best.


Geez - I'm so sorry. It sucks that not only are you totally twitchy, you're twitchy because things have been epically hard for you lately. I'm cheering for you, lady, and hoping that both the twitch and the stress go away!


I have this too. All the same symptoms from hands to full body to voice and yoga has helped me A LOT. Perhaps that's due to he stress relieving benefits of yoga but either way, it's working. I almost never notice it anymore it's gotten that mild. And I still drink a shit ton of caffeine because I love Diet Coke fiercely.


I too have ET. A glass if wine helps if I'm in a stressful situation --really! Also I'm seriously considering DBS as the various drugs I took gave me terrible side effects. Some days I have little to no tremors; other days -- well on those days I don't dare pick up Great Aunt Tillies antique china! :) These steps are what I do: try to keep stress levels low, avoid caffeine where possible, avoid fatigue and try not to get either too hot or too cold; have a small glass of wine or a drink if tremors get bad and I'm out in public . BTW I get my husband to carry drinks and plates of food at parties--


You're not alone. I've had the "shakies" from when I was little. I could never play the game "operation" and always knew that I'd never be a brain surgeon. :)

As an adult, I have resorted to pushing papers across the table at meetings instead of handing them across so that people won't see my hands shake. And don't even get me started on how awkward it is to pass up papers in court.

After years of this, I just started telling people. I can't hide it and I'd rather have people know that I have a condition than assume that I'm nervous.

But most of the time it's not a big deal. I shake all of the time but mostly don't notice unless it gets very bad, which is very rare.

Good luck!


Why is no one talking about the Jurassic Park gif? It is the best shakey hands situation in all of cinematic history.

My assvice for when people ask you if you are ok is to: open your eyes real wide, look over their shoulders, and declare a velociraptor is about to eat them.


No advice.. just sorry you're having to deal with this. Hope it gets better soon. ❤


No advice.. just sorry you're having to deal with this. Hope it gets better soon. ❤


But is okay right?! I'm certainly destressing with a bottle!


Thanks for being so open and honest in your blog. Over the years you've educated us on many topics and here is yet another one. It sucks you've been dealt this (I'm sure it more than sucks, but what does one say in this situation?) as you've gone through quite a bit in your life. However, your humor and outlook on it seems healthy. I've dealt with anxiety all my life and I'm sure you've heard of it before, but practicing mindfulness has really helped. It's just finding the time to practice that's the problem. It has also helped to allow me to enjoy the moment I'm in. Here's a talk Jon Kabat-zinn gave to Google. It's the right price. Free!


Ugh, what a bummer. My caffeine/stress/anxiety symptom is feeling like I can't get a deep breath or take in enough oxygen, even though I *know* I'm breathing just fine. I started using the HeadSpace meditation app a couple months ago. I felt silly at first but I LOVE IT. It has helped me be able to still have a cup of coffee in the morning. :)


In the last two years, I've been dealing with the whole stress/anxiety/insomnia snowball and come to think of it, I do twitch too. My husband asks me every now and then why I'm shaking. BUt to deal with the stress/anxiety/insomnia snowball I've limited caffeine....none after 2pm. No alcohol at least two hours before bed. I take the herb Valerian before I go to just kind of shuts down that endless loop of chatter that happens in my head while I'm trying to get to sleep. Also, the Dr. Weil 4-7-8 breathing technique is wonderful. And Yoga and/or guided meditation. The app Yoga Studio has a great guided meditation that makes me soooo sleepy every time I do it. Even on vacation at 10 in the morning. Sleep is the key and if you aren't getting any or not enough, everything else just snowballs out of control, which makes sleeping that much harder to do. Sucks. Good luck!


You described exactly what I've been going through nearly to a T! Nearly all the bad stuff has been ruled out and I'm pretty sure it's going to come down to ET as well. I have HORRIBLE social anxiety and was under a tremendous amount of stress last year, which started the tremors. Now, even though I'm not nearly as stressed, the tremors just keep coming :( Sending you wishes for some relief!!

Nicole P.

This sounds exactly like what all the men in my stepmom's family have!! I don't think anyone has been officially diagnosed, but it sounds the same. Good to have a name to put to it!


My father-in-law has a pretty severe case of ET (i.e. he's been seen by specialists all over the county and had some consultations on procedures? something) We got him that fancy (cough expensive) liftware fork/spoon and he likes it. He's on a whole slew of meds for it and his doctors have told him to have a glass of wine at night to help with it. So: prescription booze! (he is not a drinker, but will have wine occasionally AS PRESCRIBED)
I know a few other friends who have this but most of them have a very mild case. But evidently Katherine Hepburn had ET, so you are in good company!
Glad you got a diagnosis and hopefully you can figure out how to control it.


Ugh. So sorry you're having to find a new normal with this. We are all anxiety sufferers at my house, including the 8 year old. We really like the "Sitting Still Like Frogs" book about mindfulness. Not that it works well for adults or anything too. Oh no. Nope. Like way better and more fun than a book for adults. Also like the serenity app and a nice one from our friends up north in BC called MindShift. They have a pretty badass website too. I believe it is.

Hang in there!! I love the idea mentioned above to just point out the nearing velociraptor to explain the shakes. ;)


Strangely enough alcohol helps with the tremor. Unfortunately, the down side is that you become an alcoholic and the shaking starts again!


My mom was misdiagnosed with Parkinson's for about a year before they figured out its an essential tremor. Glad you didn't have to worry about it for too long before you got the scoop.


One of my old jobs used to give me stress ticks which is totally not the same but on a work trip i got a relaxation dvd and it seriously changed my life (AND I quit my job which helped too). Anywho... Crowne regency sleep solutions, i can email an mp3 if youd like


Well that sucks. But you're doing everything right. Good luck.


Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this Amy.

The same thing happened to me...but I ignored it, carried on with my super intense daytime schedule and awful night-times with no sleep and multiple wake ups at night
......over the course of about 18 months I kept getting infections every month that took days to clear, I got shingles, I got urinary infections that were agonizing and lasted weeks, I got the same trembliness that you describe all over, I got a rash all over my legs, but I kept pushing on and doing doing doing.....then finally I crashed like never before, I was a total stressed-out wreck, my immune system crashed, I got viral meningitis (due to weakened immunity) and that was it. I couldn't get out of bed for about 6 months and it took a good year to feel anywhere near 'normal' again. My body just couldn't handle the stress levels any more and lack of sleep.
I would never have believed that stress can do that.

You are definitely doing the right thing, and have made some very wise decisions.

I wish you all the best. From personal experience, what helped with me was really taking things easy; saying 'no' to people and not going out too much, going to bed EARLY and have unbroken sleeping. Avoiding situations (and people) that made me feel stressed...and all the other things you mentioned.

big hugs
very best wishes.


I am sorry that you are dealing with this, I am sure it is very frustrationg. I have had anxiety my whole life and I cannot tell you what a difference Acupuncture has made in my life! I was atotal nonbeliever but I have now been going for about 3 years and I can't say enough positive things. I have a great person in Bethesda if you want her info. She is amazing!


I'm sorry, Amy - I hope this eases for you soon!



I just wanted to chime in here and say that I've had an essential tremor my whole life. Apparently it can be an inherited genetic thing because my grandfather had it, then I guess it skipped a generation and then I was the lucky one to get it. I was super self-conscious of it growing up especially since people like to point it out which as you know only makes it worse. I took beta blockers which helped it, but it made me feel worse in other ways so I stopped taking them. Now I just blame it on having 3 boys under 4...haha just kidding. Anyway I just thought I'd let you know that I know how you feel and hopefully once life without that stressful job calms down for you it will get better. Stress always makes it worse for me too.
Btw thanks for writing this blog it's truly kept my sanity and sense of humour in tact since having kids!


I'm sorry you're going through this right now. We're always here for support, so I hope writing helps as a release!


Ugh, as I get older I started realizing that I could be talking to people I knew, strangers, my own family and suddenly my breathing starts to speed up, my heart starts racing and my face goes bright red. People start offering me water and asking if I'm okay or if I'm going to pass out which makes it even worse. It's like I just suddenly go into full panic mode. This never happened to me in my 20's. It's like the more stress I get the more it happens and I'm in this horrible cycle...I feel your pain!

Rachel M

I'm glad it is nothing more serious. When you were describing what you are doing to help it it sounds an awful lot like what I do to remain functional with adrenal disease. Also, as I daughter of someone with Parkinson's, proof read your texts.


I would like to add another comment in support of trying acupuncture. I still don't know if I truly believe in it or understand it completely. But I do know that one day I went in with the worst migraine of my life and walked out with just a dull headache and didn't have another for months. It has helped with anxiety and calming my busy brain, too.


It sounds like you are getting amazing care and that you really know your body's own quirks best! Rah Rah Amy!


Sorry, but nice to know others struggle with this. Propanalol works for me for the most part. Funny, I've never been told that stress could aggravate it?


Whoa, sounds like a scary PITA situation! I'm so glad you got some diagnostic clarification and from a quick scan of the comments here, it sounds like ET is more common than I'd imagine. Please count me among the many readers who appreciate your transparency and generosity in sharing this kind of detail about your life. Sending best wishes for your symptoms to ease up and remain manageable.

For whatever it's worth, some of the treatment recommendations are very similar to what I've had to do for chronic migraine prophylaxis for years. Some of them (no caffeine, beta blockers and other meds, rigid sleep hygiene) suck big time, but are worth it in the long run. And once I got my symptoms under control, I've been able to reintroduce some caffeine, tweak the meds, and be way less rigid about sleep. You aren't necessarily doomed to shitty decaf coffee forever :)


Wow, thanks for blogging about this! I feel like everything you write is from my life... after reading your blog post a few months back, I'm thinking about getting my umbilical hernia "fixed." Now I was reading this and thinking YES. The hand shaking when I'm nervous, it's just so awesome at networking HHs or work meetings over coffee. Thank you for being brave enough to write about these little quirks because there really are so many of us out there with the exact same thing!

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