Health

Sometimes You’re Just Unlucky – The Startup

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Ellen Nguyen
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My hands are shaky. Anyone who’s semi-close to me knows this. Anyone who has been out for a drink with me knows this. I always order heavy drinks — whiskey, whatever — simply because they are often served in big glasses and big glasses are easier to hold firm.

But even then, I often feel embarrassed because I could never completely hide my shaky hands. I couldn’t just pick up my glass and clink it confidently. I would have to carefully bring the glass to my mouth, sip it slowly, smile coyly, make up some excuses about the shaking while secretly hoping the person opposite me wouldn’t be bothered by it too much.

I was always conscious that people would think I had some serious issues going on. And for a while, I was worried maybe I did.

This summer, I started picking up badminton. After playing weekly for about a month, I noticed terrible fatigue in my arms. I could sense something wasn’t right with my body; particularly, my hands would shake more than usual. I totally freaked out. I even thought I might have ALS.

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For those who don’t know, ALS is a motor neuron disease that does not have any cure. It’s really, really rare and it’s really, really severe (well, fatal.) I thought, what if it was me? For a few hours, I fell straight into a downward spiral of paranoid, depressive thoughts, coupled with a suddenly awakened appreciation for life. I realised then I didn’t want to die.

I instantly messaged a friend whose sister was also concerned about motor issues and asked for the name of the doctor she had visited. I got the name. I booked an appointment. I fingercrossed myself.

Finally, the day came. Greeted me was a polished, well-spoken doctor-man who looked like he totally knew his shit. I liked and trusted him instantly. He asked me a few questions, looking both amused and serious. When he chuckled at my answers, I immediately felt relieved. I could tell my situation wasn’t that dire.

Our conversation went somewhat like this, “Is there anyone in your family who got this?”, “Yes, my mom”; “Does alcohol increase or decrease the shaking?”, “Hmm, I think probably decrease”; “Right”, he concluded, “This is what you got.” And he showed me a web page about essential tremors. He did some further physical examination and told me to not worry.

As it turned out, the worsening shakiness was simply a result of muscle pain and stress. So, I asked him why me, why tremors, especially at 25. He said a lot of people got this, it was quite common. And my case wasn’t even that bad. My mother got it, I got it. I was just unlucky.

I was just unlucky — that’s it? Well, it sounded both annoying and comforting. And guess what? I could treat the symptoms with medicine or, heck, even alcohol. But there isn’t any cure. I just have to live with it. That’s just part of the deal now. That’s me.

I let that sink in for a minute and, soon enough, it put a smile on my face. Yes, that’s me. A lot of things are me and it’s not my fault. I’m just unlucky and also really, really lucky in many ways. I think about my emotional, neurotic tendencies when it comes to romantic relationships, how I always feel things so deeply and struggle to let people go, and I gain a deep sense of self-compassion.

I remind myself that it’s just the way my brain is wired, it’s how I’m made, it’s part of the deal; it’s certainly not something I could blame myself for, not something which I could just ignorantly wish had happened differently. That’s just me, and that’s something I’m learning to live with on a daily basis.

That’s right. I have tremors. I have a bloated heart. I have an overwhelmingly emotional brain. I take way too long to move on, and maybe I never completely do. I can be really anxious, and when I’m anxious, I likely engage in compulsive behaviours. I’m working really hard — both by myself and in therapy — to recognise these issues and minimise their impact.

Anyway, right now, they’re part of the deal. I didn’t ask to be born this way. It’s just the way I am. No matter how much effort I put into adjusting myself, I will always respond more intensely to certain events than other people, and that’s just it.

It’s a bit of bad luck, but also really good luck because it’s part of my power. It’s how I could show myself how strong and resilient I am, and I’m proud that, despite these innate difficulties, I have never given up even when it’s painfully tough.

I used to be ashamed of many things me, but now I understand that there’s no shame in being authentically you, in doing things which are really just part of your DNA, things a lot of the times you really just can’t help. I mean how could I beat myself up for being true to myself? In fact, my only job is to let myself be and get better and better at being me.

See, I allow no more embarrassment about the shaky hands — I just order my drinks and casually tell people I have tremors.

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