“Mrs. Slaughter, why does your head shake?” You have to just love the power of observation that children have, especially middle schoolers. With this seven word question my journey with essential tremor became a topic that I really wanted to just keep private. This was 12 plus years ago. The first neurologist I went to actually knew something about ET. Reassured by the doctor that it wasn’t Parkinson’s disease and with my Primidone prescription in hand my journey began. With that blunt question from a student I knew I could no longer keep my “problem” a secret. So this was the beginning of the wonderful first days of school explaining in each class why they would see my head shake. Not something I wanted to deal with but again children are very curious and won’t stop the questions unless they get a satisfactory answer. So for the next few years medication controlled the tremors to some degree but they were always present and needed at times to be explained, even to the parents. Parents quite understandably want the best for their child but in many ways, deep down; I felt this was an invasion of my personal life but what can you do when it is so visible. A couple of years ago when the Primidone no longer was helping and the stress level from teaching was causing the tremors to magnify, I retired. I now have a new neurologist, a more accurate diagnosis of dystonia, no longer take Primidone and am seeking a different method to control the tremors. I would love to end this with I was cured but if you have ET you know that is not the end of this story. So I will continue to become better educated about this inconvenience and laugh at myself sometimes so I can remind myself that I am strong enough to keep doing all the things I want to do for as long as I can.
— Mary Jane Slaughter