My Desire to Become a Clinical Psychologist Was a ‘Worthy Expedition’

Each semester, the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF) awards four $1,000 college scholarships to students who have essential tremor through its Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund. As part of the application process, students are asked to write an essay on the topic, “how essential tremor has affected my life.” The following essay is from one of our spring 2019 scholarship recipients.

By Casey Becker,
Swinburne University

During my first year in a psychology degree, I began to shake and was diagnosed with severe essential tremor. This, understandably, made me depressed, confused and distraught. I immediately sought help from a clinical psychologist, and her contribution to my well-being has confirmed that my desire to become one myself was a worthy expedition. During my second year of college I would find myself zoning out a lot. My memory didn’t seem to be what it once was. Then I started having strange head spins with dreams in them. That’s the only way I know how to describe a temporal lobe epileptic seizure (TLE).

photo of Casey Becker, IETF scholarship recipient 2019

Understanding and accepting that both of these conditions may gradually get worse is a difficult feat and becomes more complex every time I have to let another hobby go or fundamentally change the way I do something in order to account for my tremor or epilepsy. I am a curious and passionate academic, but I also have a creative side. My love for drawing, painting, sewing and playing music have often turned from being a source of comfort to a source of stress. However, I did not give them up. I changed musical instruments. I switched from drawing the painting. I found a keyboard that allowed me to write. And I found new ways to remember things even during seizure clusters. Somehow, I managed to complete my degrees full-time, with a HD average (high distinction).  

By studying the brain, my disorders have turned from a psychological burden into a fascinating first-hand experience of atypical neural function. I picked up every bio-psychology and medicine elective I could, then enrolled in an applied science honours degree. I hope to use my experience as a clinical psychologist and a researcher to help individuals, while contributing to the knowledge that can improve our understanding of psychology.

I am undergoing a Ph.D. in psychology at Swinburne University. I come from a low SES single-parent family. I am a first-generation high school graduate, and the only person in my immediate family to attend college.

Share Your ET Stories with Me

Hello to everyone in the essential tremor community!

I am new to the International Essential Tremor Foundation and wanted to introduce myself. I am the new marketing and communications manager. My role involves development of messages and stories to educate the public about essential tremor and the impact it has on more than 10 million people nationwide. I serve as editor of our magazine, Tremor Talk, and our Tremor Gram enewsletter. I oversee our social media sites, Facebook and Twitter, and manage our website, among other responsibilities.

I must confess I had never heard of ET before I applied for this position. How could that be? It impacts so many people and yet I was not aware. But I am catching up. Each day I read and hear stories from people of all ages who are living with ET. Just this week I was reviewing the applications from our scholarship recipients and was in awe of their positive outlooks, and also saddened by what they have had to endure. One student was diagnosed at age six, so he has had little experience of NOT having ET. One is a mother of three who said her biggest challenge has been answering her children when they ask, “Will I shake like that when I grow up?”

I am proud to work for an organization that is serving the ET community with awareness and education initiatives, and support, like scholarships. And last year we donated $75,000 toward research initiatives to further better treatment options for ET.

The learning will continue for me, and I am asking all of you for your support in this area. I would not be able to do my work without the ET community at large who share their stories of hope, frustration and, sometimes despair. No, some stories are not happy ones, but these are the ones that may resonate with others who are battling each day. I will do my best to share these stories and keep the lines of communication open. And, I look forward to the day when I can write that story about the breakthrough in research that will help everyone. I know it’s coming . . . keep the faith. . . and keep in touch with me.

I look forward to hearing from all of you out there. Write to me at tammy@essentialtremor.org.