Shaking Hands Have Become My New Norm, but So Has Spreading Awareness

Each semester, the International Essential Tremor Foundation presents four scholarships to students with essential tremor. The scholarships represent hope for the future, and provide support to these students during a pivotal time in their lives. As part of the scholarship application process, each applicant is asked to write an essay that answers the question, “How has essential tremor affected my life?” The following essay is from one of our fall 2019 scholarship recipients.

By Alyssa Jones
2019 IETF Scholarship Recipient,
Student at Trinity University, San Antonio, TX

I have known since I was very young that helping others was my passion, and I wanted to make a big impact. The first time I found a community that fit me perfectly was when I joined a student government program called Youth and Government. After five years in the program, I have learned an unfathomable amount about writing laws, debating policy and overall government operations. However, during my first year at our district conference, I was told that I had to give a speech to hundreds of students convincing them to choose me to represent them. Many people are terrified of public speaking, but I truly enjoy it. I took the five minutes I was allotted in between other speeches to write my own and got up to deliver a confident message. After it was over, I was elated and grateful that I had the support needed to push myself through. Others congratulated me on a successful speech, then asked if I was nervous. They had noticed my hands trembling.

My goal is to attend law school and possibly become involved in the non-profit sector. I want to make changes that impact people in a positive way and do good for our communities. To prepare myself, I have spent my time in high school involved in related activities such as youth and government, student council and debate. All of these activities require public speaking and high visibility. However, sometimes when I’m shaking, I don’t want to be in the spotlight. Essential tremors have had an impact on my daily life and activities, such as eating and applying makeup. I use weighted utensils and sometimes have assistance getting ready for the day. However, now it is affecting my future dreams. I am worried that I will be viewed as the insecure, anxious person that nobody will take seriously – all because of my tremors. This is especially true because I have seen my disorder progress over the past two years.

Shaking hands may have become my new norm, but so has spreading awareness. Although tremors disrupt my life and can be embarrassing, I try to educate those around me. It is important to talk about tremors and shine a light on this disorder so that advancements can be made toward a cure. I won’t let my tremors steer me from my ambitions; I may just need some help along the way.

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Do you want to help support students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the ET scholarship fund online.

If You Could Trade Your ET for Any Other Disorder, Would You?

Each semester, the International Essential Tremor Foundation presents four scholarships to students with essential tremor. The scholarships represent hope for the future, and provide support to these students during a pivotal time in their lives. As part of the scholarship application process, each applicant is asked to write an essay that answers the question, “How has essential tremor affected my life?” The following essay is from one of our fall 2019 scholarship recipients.

By Anna Grace Easley
2019 IETF Scholarship Recipient,
Student at William Carey University, Hattiesburg, MS

Anna Easley, 2019 IETF Scholarship Recipient

Like millions of others in the United States, I suffer from essential tremor or ET. At the age of two years old, my mom started to notice my hands shaking when I would go to reach for my toys. I didn’t realize that my hands shook until the age of four years old when I was learning to tie my shoes. From that point on, I knew that simple everyday tasks were slightly more difficult for me than they were for other kids my age. I would struggle to tie my shoes, put my hair in a ponytail, paint my nails or even color a picture. My tremors got worse with age and I began to notice that other people in my family, like my father and grandfather, had the same condition.

By the time I started high school, my ET got to the point where I started to get picked on at school. People at school would call me “shakes” and would laugh every time I would spill a drink or drop something due to my ET. It was at this point when my family and I decided that I should go see a doctor.

At the age of 14, I was diagnosed with essential tremor by Dr. Shankar Shiva Natarajan. He prescribed me medicine to help my ET, but the medicine could only do so much. The thing that I am most passionate about in my life is music and theatre, so when ET started to affect how I play guitar, how I held a microphone or how I was able to perform on a stage, I would get frustrated with myself because there was nothing I could do to control it. I got to the point where I would cry every time I went to the neurologist. Every time, he would tell me, “If you do not let your tremors bother you, they will not bother anyone else.” I took this advice and I would try to not let it affect me, but my tremor continued to affect how I viewed myself. I felt as if I was not fit to be a musician because of my condition, and the thought of that was devastating.

At my next doctor’s visit, Dr. Natarajan told me something that completely changed my perspective. He asked me, “If you could trade your ET for any other disorder, would you?” I began to ponder this question. I would not trade it for blindness, deafness, paralysis, amputation or any other physical disability. It was at this moment that I realized how truly blessed I am.

From that point on, I decided that ET is a part of my life, but it cannot dictate who I am as a person. I have made the choice to pursue music despite any difficulties I may face. Although ET has had a great impact on my life, I will continue to push through and face every challenge with a positive attitude.

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Do you want to help support students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the IETF scholarship fund online.