Feeling Helpless Vs. Being Helpful

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by Carlos Briceño |

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If you’ve ever experienced an allergic reaction to something, you probably understand why the root word of misery comes from the Latin word “miseria,” which means wretchedness.

My dog has been in a state of misery for the past two weeks due to an allergic reaction. We don’t know what is causing it, and medicine hasn’t helped. So, she continues to be super itchy, and she’s been suffering because the top and bottom of her paws are red and irritated from all the licking and chewing she’s done to them.

I want to help her, so I took her to the animal hospital. But the medicine hasn’t helped her yet, and I feel helpless.

This feeling is something I’ve experienced as a caregiver. For example, I can’t stop the progression of Huntington’s disease in my wife and daughter. And I can’t stop my dog from looking at me with her big brown eyes when she takes a break from licking her paws, as if to plead with me to stop the itchiness.

These are the same eyes that look at me when she’s hungry, which prompts me to pour food into her bowl. They’re the same eyes that tell me she needs to go outside, which compels me to put the leash on her and take her for a walk.

Eyes are like short stories — they tell you what’s going on. And it doesn’t take long to understand because eyes don’t lie.

Sometimes when I look at my wife’s beautiful eyes, I see her putting on a brave front. But Jill knows what’s in store for her as her disease progresses. She knows what’s in store for our daughter, too. She knows what Huntington’s will do to their muscles, which they won’t be able to control, as they start to twitch like when being attacked by gnats.

Jill knows that their minds will see and react to life around them like they were looking through a kaleidoscope, a reality of life distorted more than any politician talking nonsense on a Sunday news talk show.

One of the biggest lessons I learned when someone we love suffers occurred when my eldest sister was diagnosed with cancer years ago. Back then, in the weeks after the diagnosis, I felt like I was the one who had cancer. I felt so much sadness for my sister that I tried to take on her disease — so much that it felt like I had the cancer, too.

This reaction, I understood later, was just the grief talking. And the lesson I took from it was that my sister’s suffering was hers. Her illness, which she later died from, was her journey, not mine.

So, feeling helpless is my journey now, but I’ve been learning some lessons along the way. And what I’ve learned is reflected in my eyes, which don’t lie. My eyes show someone determined to do whatever my dog, my wife, or my daughter need to make them happy. To make their lives a bit easier. To show them I love them. To show them that feeling helpless doesn’t mean to help less but to help more.

And to love more.


Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


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