I Was Fighting an Invisible Enemy, and I Was Losing

Posted on June 29, 2022

Each semester, the IETF awards four $1,000 college scholarships to students who have essential tremor through its Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund. As part of the application process, students are asked to write an essay on the topic, “how essential tremor has affected my life.” The following essay is from one of our fall 2022 scholarship recipients.

By Maria Hermosillo Arrieta,
Mount Mercy University
Cedar Rapids, IA

photo of Maria Hermosillo Arrieta, scholarship winner

Growing up with undiagnosed essential tremor in a small town in Mexico shaped me in ways that few things in my life have had the capacity to. The constant shaking of my hands caused an extensive questioning by everyone around me: “why are you shaking so much?”, “are you nervous?,” “are your hands okay?” and an even more intense questioning within my head: “is this normal?”

With few opportunities and resources available to us in Mexico, my parents and I embarked on a quest to find answers, starting with Google, and ending in homeopathy. With each trial, there was an increased sense of hope, a sense of finding the answer. Nonetheless, this hope was dimmed time after time, seeing no improvements and no answers. At such a young age—I was 10 years old at the time—I felt helplessly and desperately out of control, especially because I felt like I was fighting an invisible enemy, and I was losing. More importantly, I felt like an outcast, being judged, and often questioned by a situation that I could not understand, much less control.

This situation went on for a couple of years, until my family and I were able to move to the United States. Once here, we moved quickly to find medical insurance and a primary care provider that would refer me to a neurologist, who would hopefully be able to enlighten me. Finally, at the age of 17, I felt like I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, as this was the age when I was officially diagnosed with essential tremor. People say that knowledge is power, and wow, have I felt empowered ever since that moment. Knowing about my condition has allowed me to research and truly understand what is happening. I no longer feel like an outsider within my own body, but someone who has control over themselves and the course of their life. Do not get me wrong, there are still some very hard days; days in which the tremors are so significant that eating soup or pipetting in my science laboratories without spilling becomes difficult, almost impossible. But there are also some good days; days in which I can paint my nails by myself and complete my embroideries without messing it up.

Essential tremor has been one of the most detrimental parts of my life. Having it has robbed me of smiles, opportunities, and confidence, but it also has given me a drive to push forward, a passion to live, and a community of people who support and loves me.

Essential tremor made me scared, angry, and vulnerable. I made myself strong.

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Do you want to help support students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the ET scholarship fund online.