Sunday, April 03, 2005

Shaken, not stirred 

My big souvenir of this deployment has been the development of a benign essential tremor. That's medical talk for, "Yup, you shake, but we can't figure out why, and we don't think it'll kill you."

Sometime last summer, I noticed that my right hand quivered oddly if I held it in just the right position over the computer mouse. I didn't think much more of it, even when my mom came to visit in August and noticed it. "Oh, yeah," I said, "that's just something freaky I do." Fast forward to early October when the kids and I met up with Fred in Charlottesville for a meeting. He and I attended a cocktail party together, and I found it nearly impossible to stand in my high heels with my purse hanging on one wrist, a plate of food in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other. When we got back to Germany, I headed for the doctor.

Apparently, the treatment of choice for this sort of tremor is blood-pressure medication. That's kind of scary for somebody like me whose blood pressure tends to hover at around 95 over 60 in the first place. Give me enough drugs, and yeah, I'll stop shaking. And breathing. And then who's going to drive me to the hospital with Fred being gone? The doc was hoping that we would be able to treat it on an as-needed basis (for those times when you just don't want to be sloshing your wine all around), but unfortunately you have to titrate up to a dose that's high enough to be effective. And then there are the side effects to consider--weight gain, hair loss, and constipation. These are not a few of my favorite things, so I basically blew off the prescribed medication after trying it a time or 2 while I was at home in Florida.

Over the past few months though, the tremor has gotten much worse. I always thought of it as the kind of thing that nobody noticed until I mentioned it, my little shaky secret. But when I went to visit a friend recently whom I hadn't seen in a while and told her about the tremor, she said yes, she had noticed it right away and wondered what was going on.

I've tried treating it on my own. Some people find that alcohol diminishes the tremor, but it hasn't really worked for me, and god knows I've tried. I even tried some Valium that I borrowed from the friend of a friend, on the theory that if I could be relaxed enough for the tremor to disappear just one time, then I could at least have hope that when Fred comes home and life goes back to normal, maybe I can lose the Katherine Hepburn routine. I had only 4 milligrams though, and it didn't even touch it.

I was disgusted to realize that the tremor is aggravated by exertion. Like I needed ANOTHER reason not to exercise! I'm also pissed off every time one of my photos turns out blurry. And then, as if shakey arms weren't enough, I recently developed what's called an internal tremor. When I lie down at night to go to sleep, I can feel the inside of my body vibrating. I can liken it only to how a cat must feel when it purrs, except that a cat who purrs is happy.

I was venting about all this on my Amazing Message Board of Invisible Friends the other day, when my friend Jutta (who is German) suggested that I try Schüßler Salze. They are an array of homeopathic remedies that come in little melt-in-your-mouth tablets. I'm ready to try anything and had, in fact, been contemplating trying the magic brownies on our upcoming trip to Amsterdam just to see if SOMETHING would stop the damn tremor. Given that I could pick the salts up at the Apotheke at Walmart AND maintain my marijuana virginity, I figured it was worth a try.

The dosage instructions are pretty open ended. You can take one tablet every 5 minutes (for how long?!) for acute conditions, 1 to 2 tablets 3 to 6 times a day for chronic conditions, or you can make a tea out of 10 of the tablets and hot water and sip it.

I don't want to speak too soon, but I think the salts might be working. I don't have a routine yet with them, and I worry about whether I'm taking them too often. I have 55 left out of the 80 that I bought Friday afternoon.

I didn't really notice any difference until this morning. I was carrying a cup of hot chocolate and astounded the kids with my relative smoothness. They were suitably impressed: "Wow, Mom, usually you're all [insert spastic movements here]." And then tonight when I went to give Mike his nightly Benadryl, we realized that for the first time in ages you couldn't hear the pills vibrating in their little blister packs. Mike ran to get me a glass of water for a truer test, and the tremor is still there but very faint, maybe like it was last summer when I just thought it was a quirky thing.

I said, "Wow, I think Jutta cured me!"

And Mike said (in his best Jim Carrey voice), "I have exorcised the demon. This house is clear!"

Hmmm . . . an exorcist. Now that's the one thing I never did consider.

Glad the tremor is clearing; Yay for homeopathy!
Strictly speaking, Schuessler Cell Salts are not homeopathy. They are minerals found in the body prepared by the homeopathic process, and taken to re-mineralize the body at the micro level.
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