Day One: They say my soul is troubled and I imagine it stumbling through an alley somewhere, barefoot and drunk with no idea how to get home. “But beautiful,” they add, and I imagine it with lipstick. Maybe eyeliner too — something bold and daring. Something that really accentuates.
It used to chase me in my dreams, my mental illness. It still does, if I’m being honest. Me in a red-hooded cape running through a forest as fast as I can (which isn’t very fast at all, if I’m being honest). It laughing maniacally behind the trees, always behind me, no matter which way I turn: The Big Bad Wolf, strong and powerful. Branches break underneath my feet as I run them over; they slow me down and give me pause. I know the monster from my nightmares will catch up with me. It’s only a matter of time.
I shake a lot now; I have for twenty years. It’s easy to see when I’m doing normal things — brushing my teeth or writing a check. Not that writing a check is really all that normal anymore.
“Why do you shake so badly?” my best friend asks and I say that I’m not sure.
“Maybe you have Parkinson’s,” she says and I roll my eyes. I want to tell her that she’s a hypochondriac.
“I don’t have Parkinson’s,” I say.
“How do you know for sure?” she asks.
“There’s this thing called the Internet,” I reply and now she’s the one rolling her eyes. At least that’s enough to stop the questions.
I’ve never cared about the shaking; I just don’t think about it often. Don’t get me wrong, it makes me grateful I’m not a surgeon. Or a painter. Or really serious about winning at Hasbro’s Operation. It’s the anxiety that causes the shaking — the soul-crushing anxiety — that I could do without. That I would love to do without.
It’s not always the anxiety that causes it; I shouldn’t point a shaking finger in its direction each and every time. Sometimes it’s other things — caffeine, for instance. I love coffee and drink it often (I’m mentally ill, but I’m not a masochist). And sometimes I shake for no reason at all — something underlying going on, perhaps.
But those are just tremors. The earthquakes that cause my knees to bang together like wind chimes are so much harder to hide. And they’re brought on by one thought, every single time: “Did someone die because of something I did or did not do?”
Still, it’s not always that awful — there are good days and bad. That’s probably true for everyone, for everything. Somedays I almost feel normal. Other days I see myself from afar – the person I used to be boarding a train as the person I’ve become stands on the platform, alone and wistful and ashamed.
My daughter has begun to notice. She asks me about it one afternoon as I’m combing her hair.
“You shaking, Mom?” she asks.
And, just like that, I care about the shaking more than I ever have before.