Target On My Back
Last updated: February 2023
Most of my symptoms are invisible. I do, however, have one symptom that likes to come out at the most inopportune times. This symptom is something that comes and goes. It’s something I’ve written about in the past as well. I’ve been so relieved that it has been pretty much nonexistent for the past 2 years, but it has resurfaced, and its back with a vengeance. This symptom is my tremor. It is my worst and most embarrassing symptom. The others are invisible and easy to hide. But, not this one. With my tremor, I feel like there is a target on my back saying, “Hey, look at what’s wrong with me today.” It’s the worst. Period.
Not your typical tremor
My tremor isn’t your typical tremor. It’s not just my hands. In fact, a lot of the time it's not in my hands at all. Most of the time it's my head. And, it’s not always a steady shake, sometimes it’s almost like a tick. My head will move back and forth or side to side. Any time that I’m stressed, anxious, or feeling overwhelmed my tremor shows itself. And every time it’s present, it's all I can focus on. And, in my mind, I’m absolutely confident it’s all everyone around me can focus on too. In the past, my tremor was much more severe. But now it’s back, and while I’m thankful it's not as severe this time, that doesn’t change the fact that it is still affecting me.
A constant source of anxiety
It doesn’t just affect me physically either. Mentally and emotionally, it eats me alive. It is a source of constant anxiety for me. This is something I hate to admit, but I believe in the power of being transparent. In the past when my tremor was more severe, I would drink alcohol in excess just so I could forget it was there. I knew if I had a couple of drinks, then the tremor would dissipate. The alcohol would also allow me to relax, and when relaxed, my tremor calms down. And, I won’t lie, there are still moments now that it’s back that I’m tempted to do the same thing. Every time we go out with friends, or someone new, I worry about being shaky. I worry about what people may think. I fear that I'll do something crazy like missing my mouth while eating because my head is shaking too bad. I worry that they will feel sorry for me. I’ve had more than one person look at me say, “Are you ok? You’re shaking.” It’s humiliating.
I like to get the tremor out in the open
So, I’ve found that any time we go do something with someone or I’m around someone new, that I like to just get the tremor out in the open. I think I should just wear a sign around my neck saying, “Hi, my name is Calie, and I have a tremor. Yes, I’m fine, I just have MS, and it causes my head to shake.” Seriously though, I find that if I allow myself to tell everyone about it from the beginning, that I fret about it less, and it calms down. It's also better for me than downing alcohol like its going out of style. Being honest about it up front takes the pressure off of me. I’ve found that it feels much more awkward when we all try to pretend it’s not there. It’s like the elephant in the room, the sooner it’s talked about, the sooner everyone can relax. It's a symptom I can't control, but I can control how I deal with it. Even though its the bane of my existence at the moment, I want to deal with it as positively as possible. I want to make light of it. I want to laugh about it and shake it off. Ha, did you see what I did there?
Learning to laugh
I know with MS, we all have our visible symptoms that are uncomfortable. They’re embarrassing and make us want to hide. And, I know mine could always be so much worse. I know mine could always be so much worse, and I'm overly thankful it's not debilitating yet. So for now, while it's not creating too much of a problem, I'm going to laugh, and I'm going to let people know about it. So what if I shake? So what if I miss my mouth while I’m eating? Ok, it’s really embarrassing, but there’s beauty in learning to laugh at yourself. And I often remind myself, as awesome as I may be, people aren’t always focused on me! *Gasp*. Yep, no matter how great we are, people aren’t paying as much attention to us as we think!
We learn as we go
With this article, I just wanted to remind you as well as myself, that MS comes with embarrassing moments. Mine is a tremor that I can’t control. Yours may be something vastly different. It would be amazing if with our MS diagnosis came a manual on how to live through uncomfortable symptoms. It would be great to learn how to navigate through all judgment, excessive empathy, and learn to have thick skin so that we can preserve our pride and humility. Unfortunately, though, we just have to learn as we go. So, learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to take comfort in the fact that we all have these symptoms we hate that cause embarrassing moments. It’s up to us how we cope with them, and how powerful we allow them to be. Even if you feel that you have a target on your back and it’s amplifying your embarrassing symptom, LAUGH, it’s incredibly healing. It really is the best medicine.
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