An Artist's Experience with ET

Hi everyone, I am Julia Meek. I have other names as well! This is what comes of being married twice.........but to cut a long story short, I am 'Meek' in daily life and 'Forbes' or 'Forbes Winby' as a professional artist. I am now coming up 80 years of age. ET first hit me in my mid-forties, which was a big nuisance for me as an artist and art teacher, but the tremor has only been really life-altering in the last ten years. So I am quite lucky.

When the tremor first started (and I would say that quite a lot of stress contributed) my doctor diagnosed it as "benign familial tremor", which I think is what it was more commonly called years ago. He told me then that moderate amounts of alcohol was the only known way of finding relief. I was also sent an article from the English newspaper "The Times" which said much the same. It is unfortunate for us ET sufferers that alcohol has a lot of myths and legends surrounding it, and abuse of the substance has given it a bad name, but it is a natural product and can, in fact, be quite pleasant as medications go. Especially wine.

After all, Jesus turned water into wine, and wine is offered in many churches as the Holy Sacrament. Wine production is one of this country's major exports and Waiheke Island where I live has developed wines that are of world class. All we have to do is to regulate our intake as carefully as those who regulate their medication, and we can enjoy our lives as well as anyone.

Painted landscape. I have included one of my paintings to show that I can still paint pictures with a firm hand, as long as I am prepared by two to three glasses of wine about half an hour before starting work. If in the studio, I put on a favourite record as music also has a calming effect, but if working outdoors, as this illustration was done, one just has to hope that not too many people will want to stand and watch. As we all know being watched is disastrous.... everyone who is associated with ET sufferers gets to understand that!

At one meeting of the Auckland Support Group, we got hold of a breathalyzer and did some experimenting with amounts of wine we tried. It was not wildly successful as a scientific experiment, but we did come to at least one important conclusion. ET sufferers do things BETTER after a couple of glasses. We can write, draw, hold pens, carry drinks, spread butter on toast, do what ever we want to do better after a bit of alcohol. It therefore stands to reason that we even drive better, so we should have special consideration from transport officials as to blood/alcohol levels when driving. Why not?

I find the ET Support Group hugely helpful. Some have tried the various drugs that are sometimes prescribed and all seem to share the opinion that these are of limited value as one needs to take more and more to gain the effect. We had one memorable address by neurologist, Dr Barry Snow, who told us that there are no more alcoholics among ET sufferers than among the general population on a per capita count. We do exchange ideas and tips on how to live happily with our handicap, and we do have lots of fun and exchange humorous stories.

I will always be grateful to Robyn Harris for getting us all together and for the firm friendships that our ET has created amongst us.