That Shaking? Oh, It’s Just My Essential Tremor…Yet Another Diagnosis

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Yesterday I had my regular neurologist visit to follow up about my migraines and while there I was also diagnosed with Essential Tremor, a genetic condition that is often confused with Parkinson’s from the symptoms. It most commonly affects the hands, head, and voice, but can affect any body part. It can also affect balance, mood, and possibly memory.

My balance, hands and voice are already affected pretty bad at times which scares me since it can be a degenerative condition and it can eventually become hard to speak, eat, write, or in my case, make art, since I am an artist.

My tremors started out in both hands a few years ago and have definitely worsened. At first, I only noticed that I could never take a good picture because I couldn’t keep the camera steady enough to take one. It has worsened since then and affects more daily activities, such as writing, typing, pouring/drinking liquids, dropping almost everything, etc. I noticed the voice tremors starting probably a year or two after the hands.

My balance has noticeably worsened to the point that I often start to fall over while just walking around the house or even standing still. It isn’t unusual for my husband to push me back up as I start to fall over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

For a long time I tried to dismiss it because I didn’t want to think something might really be wrong. I tried to blame it on anxiety or weird medicine side effects. I am glad that I don’t have MS or Parkinson’s which I feared sometimes. What finally made me bring it up with the neurologist is that the geneticist I saw for my Ehlers Danlos testing a few months ago seemed concerned by how much my hands shook.

The last thing I want to do is take yet more prescription medicines, but I am considering it in hopes that it might slow down the progression and alleviate the symptoms a bit. The only bad thing is that all the meds they use to treat this condition can worsen my depression, so the neurologist wants me to get the ok from my psychiatrist before we decide on a med to try.

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Joker Movie – Thoughts and Feelings

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First off, I think this is a great film to really make you think about society and some of the true causes of violence and group anger. This movie can be interpreted many different ways and honestly can make you forget that it has anything to do with the superhero universe. It is gritty and realistic. Phoenix gives an amazing performance, just as everyone has been raving.

Now, on to my actual thoughts and feelings. The first 3/4 of the movie or so is just incredibly sad. I was actually relieved when it started turning to senseless violence because it was a break from the sadness, even though you knew the violence stemmed from that abuse and pain shown in the earlier parts of the movie. My heart ached for this man’s mistreatment at the hands of others all his life, partly because I have also experienced abuse and trauma for much of my life.

This movie brought to the surface many questions I have asked myself my entire life about accountability and assigning fault. In the Joker’s case, he has obvious mental health issues, seems to have suffered severe brain damage as a child, and would likely score sky high on the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test. The brain damage, trauma, and abuse together may have not allowed this man to have any other kind of ending than the tragic one we see.

Think of it this way, we know that trauma can dramatically change an adult’s personality (think of veterans with PTSD). We also know that brain damage as an adult can make a kind, loving person cruel and abusive (think of athletes who have suffered severe brain damage and underwent entire personality shifts). Now, imagine these things happening to the brain of a child while the child’s brain is still developing. Also, imagine that the child doesn’t get medical care for the injury or illness quickly as the athlete or veteran hopefully would, so there is no hope of minimizing damage or healing appropriately. How much damage can that do to the child’s brain and personality?

It also makes me think about family legacies where abuse, malignant personality disorders, and mental illness have reigned for generations (much like my own family and probably Joker’s from what little we can see in the film). I’m fairly positive that most of my “ill” family members developed their personality disorders in very early childhood as is believed to be the case in psychology. From childhood they never developed empathy the way they should have. They never grew out of the petulance of the 2-3 year old attitude. Although they seemed terrifying to me when I was a child, I almost feel sorry for them now because they are permanently stuck in immaturity.

I wish they showed empathy, but I ask myself how I can expect someone to show something that they have never had. How can I realistically ask them to be something they could not be even if they wanted to be? Some might think this way of thinking is defeatist, but I simply see it as realistic. It does help keep my hopes from getting too high only to be dashed yet again.

 

Joker and American Horror Story Fun

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Today my husband and I finally have the time to go see the Joker movie. I am really excited. I hear it is quite dark and nihilistic, similar in some ways to the Heath Ledger version of the Joker from The Dark Knight movie. I know it probably doesn’t help my depression, but I love dark, bleak movies like that.

Maybe I relate to them because of my depression. I have too much empathy for people to become a mass murderer or abuser, but I must admit that there are many times that I feel like life is pointless, everything we do is pointless, happiness is pointless, pain is pointless, etc. I feel like that most often when in a severe depressed state. I think that is why I look up to artists like Kurt Cobain, Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Sylvia Plath, etc., because they expressed similar feelings at times.

This week I also have been catching up on the tv show American Horror Story and watched the 8th Season called Apocalypse. I loved this season! They brought back the witches from the Coven season which was one of my favorites, and I always love an apocalypse-themed story, but my favorite part of the season was Michael Langdon. Partly because I found him kind of hot, and partly because I found him often hilarious as the Antichrist. The poor guy showed us how uniquely stressful and confusing it could be to try to figure out how to bring about the end of days! Why doesn’t this “son of satan” stuff come with a guidebook???

Stressful Week So Far

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This week has been stressful. I’m not sure if I’m just overreacting to things because I’m autistic and hypersensitive to everything (especially changes in routine), or if this would even throw many normal people off their game, but since Monday:

  • I had to wait hours at the BMV to renew my driver’s license and then sweat it out when they weren’t sure if my two forms of address verification were acceptable. (Thank God they ended up accepting them in the end so I didn’t have to do the whole process over again.)
  • Our electricity went out Monday night (along with 3,000 other homes and businesses in the area, eventually they did get it restored.)
  • My husband’s birthday was on Monday and I ended up going to 4 different stores looking for a birthday balloon for him because everyone was out šŸ˜¦
  • My psychiatrist appointment got moved up today from 3pm to 2pm which meant I had to alert my husband who drives me. He then had to check to see if the school could get a substitute teacher in earlier to relieve him so he could take me.
  • I almost got kicked off Instagram again (I got warnings again but luckily they haven’t kicked me off yet. I think I may have discovered the issue. I have used an app to track unfollowers and I think that might be what they were picking up on as a “3rd party”. So, I’m just not going to use that app right now.)

Mixed State or Hell?

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The past few days have not been the greatest. I’ve been both super anxious and fairly depressed. I guess it is probably what most people would call a mixed state in the bipolar community. I feel on edge all the time. My brain is constantly telling me something is wrong and that I need to fix it, but I don’t know what it is. The depression is telling me that I am worthless, no one really likes me anyway, and everything I do is pointless.

The depression is making me feel never good enough. It is times like these that no matter what I achieved, I would probably still feel a failure. If I suddenly won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry or had my art showcased at the Louvre, I would still find fault with it and myself in this particular mood. It is a hellish feeling.

This depression is interlaced with anxiety that pushes me to want to achieve, achieve, achieve right now, but in this state I am so all over the place that it is hard to concentrate on anything for long. Not to mention that the depression makes me feel like it is all futile anyhow, even as my whirling mind is telling me that I’m not trying hard enough.

All of this is heightening my chronic pain. I hurt so bad deep in my muscles, I feel like I have been tortured on the medieval rack.

Suit Up for Battle

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Have you ever had a relationship in your life, whether it be a family member, coworker, boss, neighbor, schoolmate, or other social acquaintance, who makes you feel like you need to prepare yourself for for battle every time you come in contact with them?

Perhaps they are masters of the subtle put-down, love to give sneaky guilt trips, always manage to make you feel inferior and “less than”, or simply bring out the worst in you, leaving you feeling regretful and exhausted after the encounter finally ends.

I have a meeting like this coming up soon and it has been stressing me out. While I was laying in bed a couple nights ago stressing about it, I suddenly realized how much effort I had to put into steeling myself before the encounter. I have to put on emotional and mental armor and make sure none of my weak spots are showing. I have to be strong and hide any reaction to their attempts to get to me while in their presence, otherwise it will only encourage them.

It made me sad to think that it has to be this way. It also made me realize why the whole experience causes me so much anxiety and exhaustion. Preparing for battleĀ isĀ exhausting!

Things I Worry About

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  1. Are we destroying this planet to the point that it will be unable to sustain life? Will our arrogance, perpetual fighting and greed end up in our mutual destruction? Are we a foolish race causing our own eventual extinction?
  2. Did any of the narcissistic abuse of my childhood rub off on me? Am I narcissistic? I don’t want to be. I don’t want to hurt anyone or cause anyone else the kind of pain I have felt.
  3. Are we headed for civil war in this country? The polarization seems to be becoming more and more severe and dangerous. Which is more likely to happen first, our own country being torn apart by civil war, or our world being thrust into WW3 – likely over the natural resources we are bleeding dry?
  4. Will I someday find myself alone and have to make the decision to either end my life or survive on my own (the latter which happens to be my biggest fear). As terrifying as the idea is, I hope I would have the strength to try to survive. I would hate to think I would give up that easily.
  5. Am I irrevocably broken? I feel like something went very wrong in the attachment process and I am unable to create wholly secure and healthy attachments to other human beings. That is a hard thing to live with and hard (if not impossible) to fix. Attachment styles are something that is formed when we are very, very young. I have an anxious/avoidant style that makes all relationships feel insecure. Even if I can fix my conscious thoughts (as I have been able to do with my husband) I cannot fix my subconscious (and my fearful/paranoid dreams constantly remind me of that fact).

Should We Move or Not?

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My husband and I have been discussing potentially moving, which is stressful but also a little bit exciting. There are big positives and negatives to consider.

On the plus side, right now we live out in the middle of nowhere and everything is pretty far away. Our doctors, shopping centers, and my husband’s work are longer commutes than either of us like. Due to my anxiety and other issues, my husband has to drive me to many of my doctors’ appointments which means he has to take off work often. If we lived closer to my doctors I could probably take myself. Our internet options are also limited where we live, so we had to settle for satellite internet which is horrible service at a ridiculous price.

The negatives of moving would be that we do like our neighborhood. It is a beautiful, peaceful area out in the country that is well kept and our neighbors have been great so far. The areas we would be moving into would be closer to urban areas and would definitely not be as nice and would have higher crime rates since crime seems to be about zero around here. We also like having more space out here and not having neighbors too close. That would definitely change too.

Tough decisions.

Poetry: A World Like This

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Winnie the Pooh
and Tigger too
couldn’t have dreamed
of a world like this.

A world where kids
stay doped up
on Ritalin and Prozac,
while drug dealers
work the swing sets
and slides
of a local playground.

A world where kids
with guns and the will to kill
run the streets
with cold, hard eyes –
their consciences seared
by the flames of abuse
and neglect.

A world where the innocent
pay for the crimes
of the guilty, and justice
has become a four letter word.
A world that I once loved
but now only seek
to escape.

No, Winnie the Pooh
and Tigger too
couldn’t have dreamed
of a world like this.

But the funny thing is,
I think our dreary friend
Eeyore
saw it coming
all along.

(Poet’s note: This poem was written back when I was a foster parent, inspired by much of what I saw in the lives of the kids I took in. This is not meant to be a strictly anti-psych-meds poem, but unfortunately, I saw many of these kids unnecessarily or overly drugged just to keep them quiet or avoid dealing with the effects of their trauma.)