Like a Band-Aid

A Completely Non-Essential Essential Tremor Update

I had an anxiety dream a couple weeks back — the first one I've had in awhile, so...progress? — that centered around an inability to write my name legibly on a name tag.

 (Think about that, for a moment. Of all the things one can worry about in the world today — a world full of danger and disaster and disease — my brain settles on NAME TAGS.)

Of course, it was an easy dream to interpret. That blasted tremor. The dream took place at a big party, a mix of strangers and friends watched me struggle over and over again to write A M Y without it turning to gibberish, I was holding up a line of other partygoers who were awaiting their turn, gaaaaahhhhhh holy stressballs.

Less than a week later, I found myself at a party in real life, holding a Sharpie and staring down at a blank name tag.

I would say, overall, the tremor is better than it was before I last wrote about. Trying to fight it/stop it/hide it was never working for me (nor was being afraid that it was a symptom of something much more serious), and while it never really goes away 100%, I know exactly what makes it worse. 

Some of the triggers I can avoid — too much caffeine, not enough sleep, letting stress and anxiety spiral out of control. Others, I can't. I can't talk on the phone without it affecting my voice. I can't put on mascara without my hand trembling and my neck bobbing. Taking a goddamn SELFIE triggers it, for reasons I can't quite figure out. And I will shake uncontrollably for probably the first 30 minutes of any social interaction, be it with a complete stranger or my very best friend in the world. 

And let's get real: Some nights I just sleep like crap. Some mornings I just need some frigging coffee to think straight. Some days I am just stressed to high hell because I have three kids and I work from home and I still need to find more work but the kids aren't in camp because I still need to find more work but I still need to do the work I have in peace and hahahaaaaa WE'RE MOVING TOO BECAUSE WHY NOT.

Meditation helps. So does deep breathing. I lift weights for 30 minutes to an hour every day, and I always feel much better physically and mentally afterwards. Applying mascara while standing straight up in front of a mirror hanging on the wall (instead of bending over the bathroom counter to get closer to that mirror) seems to help, at least with the neck/head tremor. And being honest about it with people. Yeah, I shake. It's okay. It's weird. It'll stop. Especially if you pour me a glass of wine! 

(It stops almost completely after two glasses of wine. But obviously that's not the best long-term 24/7 coping strategy. And I'll probably spill the first glass on myself while trying to get it to my mouth.)

At the party, I laughed a little as I picked up the pen. Another guest looked at me questioningly so I explained I was having a bit of anxiety dream déjà vu. She asked if I'd looked up what the dream meant.

"Didn't need to," I held out my hand and shrugged. "I have a hand tremor so my hands shake sometimes."

Then I wrote my name slowly, but perfectly legibly, on the name tag and handed her the pen.

"I'm Amy! I also overshare a lot. It's nice to meet you."



I'm sure you've thought of this, and I don't remember from your previous post about the tremor, but have you talked to a doctor about trying an anti-anxiety medication or a nervous system depressant, like a medication that would be used for Parkinson's? That it goes away after alcohol, which is a system depressant, makes me think it may work?


Essential tremor has meds different from those for Parkinson's. With different side effects, some of which also not fun.
I have essential tremor too. I was rear ended in a parking lot by a Hummer recently, in exchanging information I could not form a legible L and my fingers shook so much I could not use the camera on my smart phone.
Telling what is happening is a good idea, it normalizes things. Giving up eye make up prevents putting objects in your eye. The 'new look' becomes normal over time.
Understanding and sympathy and acknowledgement that in terms of progressive permanent problems this is actually not so terrible.


I mean, it can be tough for anyone to fit "Brave, Awesome Woman" on a little name tag.

Sue W.

Just remember you ARE a rock star. Tremors or not. And I gave up makeup 26 years ago when my then newlywed hubby said he preferred me natural! Now when I do wear it, my ace feels all goopy and I can't wait to get home and get. it. OFF!


I also have Essential Tremor and thanks to your wine comment and my doctor, I can internet diagnose you as having the same. They tell me that if drinking alcohol makes them stop it's a good thing, ie, it's essential tremor and not anything more serious.

There are medications that will control them but all the reading I've done has lead me to the decision to put off medicating until they are a significant impact on my life as the side effects of the drugs are also a little risky.

It's really frustrating in a professional setting as people don't necessarily realize that I'm not nervous (or at least not nervous enough to make my hands shake) but other than that it's relatively mild.

It does tend to be inherited, my kids are in their mid 20's now and my daughter is starting to show a mild tremor of her own.

Beth Rich

I don't think it was oversharing, I think it's answering the question everyone is thinking but too polite to ask.


The best place to put on mascara is in the car, using the mirror in the sun visor. Ive had a essential tremor for probably 15+ years. My mom has it. It wasnt a surprise. But it is annoying. Any time i speak to an audience, which isnt that often anymore, i have to have a lapel mic, holding a microphone hahahaha! Nope.


You are adorable. That is all.

Katy G

Thank you so much for just being you!!!! I can barely articulate how much I appreciate this post through my tears. You are such a brave, hilarious, wonderful human :)

Sarah the P

There are a few of your posts that just bring me to tears--early posts about Noah ("Talky") or ones about your dad (my dad died when I was a teenager). And, for some reason, this one.


Have you tried accupuncture? It helped my friend with a tremor like you wouldn't believe!


I have an essential tremor too, and go through everything you said. My problem is that I am a NICU nurse, try putting IV's in those little veins! Somehow I do it. I try not to ask for help, but if I do I always ask someone who knows that I have a tremor, and they won't judge me. And having 3 kids under five makes it really hard to limit caffeine!


Thank you so much for writing about this! I too have this; tried various beta blockers to control it but had all kinds of side effects--nightmares, hallucinations, uncontrollable raging at any poor soul who crossed my path! My doctor has suggested Deep Brain Stimulation--implanting wires in the brain with a remote control ! :) It's not for everyone but I'm seriously considering it. It is becoming more difficult to eat and drink--spilling a drink on someone or a plate of food on the floor is no fun; my writing is iffy --it may begin ok but quickly deteriorates. Makeup is not my thing for the most part. You might look into having your lashes dyed but be careful about who does it and the chemicals used.
And for those who aren't familiar with this: the 4 main triggers are usually fatigue, stress, caffeine and temperature--too hot or too cold. Changes in any of these helps but the tremors will just lessen and not go away completely for me. (I too use the wine/drink trick--it helps but alcoholism, a major problem in my family tree, is not a road I want to go down so I limit myself there. Those of us with tremors have various techniques to help deal with it--) If you think you have it, talk with your doctor. Thank you again Amy for discussing this!


No advice here, I just wanted to say hi and you are awesome!


I'm staying at home for the first time with kids and summer break is crazy, as expected ("winter is coming" style). That's a crazy bunch of stressors, and as usual, you write about it with good humor and aplomb. Good luck on moving.

Leigh Ann

I hate that you're dealing with this, but you're doing it with such grace and humor, I can't help but smile as I read and wish you the best. :)


My husband asked what I was laughing at. I explained the basics to him, amplifying the visual of the shaking hand trying to drink wine and he just stared at me. And he just stared at me and then said, why would you laugh at her? SHE'S A FUCKING HUMOR WRITER, MAN. It's not FUNNY, just . . . go away. (Not even gonna mention the moving. Nope.)


I developed this as well, along with circulation issues (and a slew of other issues that I won't dive in to) and I was advised that a gluten free diet would help and holy hell, it is amazing how much of a difference it has made. (Turns out I'm also Celiac, and this was one of the symptoms to help diagnose.) Certainly not a dr. but something to look into (or Google, you know how much Google helps ;))

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