Since Her Diagnosis, My Wife Has Benefited From an Antidepressant

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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The school year recently ended, which may be good for students and teachers, but not for my wife, Jill. The last week of school is a lot like walking through a car wash for her. Because she is the school secretary, she still works a lot as everyone else winds down. Part of her duties include closing out the year and preparing for the next one.

I say all of this to explain why I was recently standing in line at Walmart, waiting to pick up a prescription for her.

Ever since Jill was diagnosed as gene-positive for Huntington’s disease in 2018, she has been on an antidepressant. She faithfully takes it so that she no longer has to experience depressed feelings.

I recalled the start of her journey to find the right medication. We sat in the doctor’s office while she explained her depression. Jill was very open to taking something the doctor recommended to help alleviate her symptoms.

Jill was a pharmacy technician for years when we lived in Florida, so she always understands the doctor when they are discussing pharmaceutical drugs. As they talked, I mostly sat and listened. Then they made a decision. She would start off on a medication that has been around for a long time.

Later, I wondered what was meant by “starting off” on something. I’m a journalist, so I’m always curious.

Jill said that finding the right medicine sometimes takes a little time. She would try it out for a month or so and see if it helped. If so, she would continue to take it. If not, the doctor might adjust the dosage or the medication.

She experienced some side effects at first, including nausea and restlessness, but she kept taking it. She wanted to give it a chance to work. It never really did. So, she tried another medication, and then another. Finally, she found one that worked.

I’m always proud that she is OK with telling people that taking medication can improve one’s mental state. She wanted me to share her story here so that others don’t feel so alone if they are feeling depressed. She wants others to know it’s normal to feel sad or depressed at times, but if the sadness or depression persist, then it makes sense to talk to a healthcare professional.

Meanwhile, as I stood in line at Walmart waiting to pick up her antidepressant, I daydreamed about the day she will no longer need medication for Huntington’s because a cure will have been discovered. But for now, all I can do is make sure her medication never runs out.

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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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.

Comments

Sarahjane Dawe avatar

Sarahjane Dawe

I am so pleased to read this article, my daughter was found to be gene positive in 2014 and initially she too felt very nauseous for a couple of years and was very debilitating. She was put on medication to help it but in the long run just made her worse. After speaking to a wonderful Doctor, she to was prescribed anti depressants (Sertraline) and she is a changed person. Although she has symptoms, she remains happy and very positive. The dosage is very low and suits her really well. It has helped with the associated anxieties of day to day living and if this ever changes, the dosage can be increased!

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Thank you for sharing all that. I'm so glad she was able to meet a wonderful doctor and that she became happy and positive and made the anxieties more manageable. That is such fabulous news!

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Daniel Leonard avatar

Daniel Leonard

Thank you for sharing this. Many people might not know this, so the information you provide here is very useful. Sometimes the process of finding the right medication can be difficult, especially if someone's need feels urgent. It is hard to have patience, but it is important. It also helps if during this trial period one is engaged with a therapist, practicing mindfulness, and doing other healthy activities if possible, like exercising, eating healthy, and spending quality time with family and friends.

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

I really appreciate what you wrote, and your advice -- to take medication in conjunction with a therapist, while practicing mindfulness and other healthy activities -- is all very wise. Thank you for sharing.

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Robert Field avatar

Robert Field

This is so helpful! My wife was diagnosed at 58 years old. She was able to live in a stable healthy way for the next seven years, largely due to being on anti-depressants. We had to try two different anti-depressants before settling on the right dosage. As her Huntington's symptoms became more difficult we increased the dosage and it brought relief and hope to her. Failing to consider anti-depressants and their use, particularly if you have any psychiatric symptoms like: depression, anxiousness and anger, would be short-sighted in my opinion. Of course all of this was done under the supervision of a physician, and a Huntington's counselor. Robert

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Thank you for sharing all this. I'm glad she was able to live in a stable, healthy way for seven years because of the antidepressants. I agree that any medication needs to be taken under the supervision of a physician and HD counselor. I really appreciate you reading the column and for posting about your wife to give hope to others.

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Debbie Lacy avatar

Debbie Lacy

Your article came at a good time we have been trying to find the right antidepressant for seven long months. I will share this as well as all of the comments with my husband so he doesn't feel alone in this. We are fortunate to have a good psychiatrist who knows about HD but have yet to find a counselor. Like everything it's one day at a time and hard to be patient but my husband has a good attitude and always hopes for a better tomorrow. Thank you for sharing I always enjoy your articles and share many with my husband.

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

I am happy to hear that the article came at the right time. Thanks for sharing that. I think it's helpful for your husband to know he is not alone -- because he's not. Mental health is not a common discussion that most people engage in. Many consider it embarrassing or too personal to admit that they may be feeling not quite right mentally. But, we humans are fragile and with all that is going on in the world -- political turmoil last year, COVID lasting as long as it has -- along with any multiple ways that anxieties and stresses creep into our lives, all that can really take a toll on one's mental (and physical) health. If one has a rare terminal illness, like your husband does, it can get incredibly overwhelming. I hope you all are able to find a good counselor. Be patient and find someone whom he feels trusts and feels he can open up to. That's important. I'm glad your husband has a good attitude. I'm also glad you care so much about him to be concerned about all this. One day at a time. That's all we can do. That, and just love our spouses well, so that they know they are not alone and that they will always have someone there to care for them. Take care.

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Gwynneth Evans avatar

Gwynneth Evans

Thank you to you both for sharing this and giving permission for people to self care in the best way available to them.
My father died with HD, so i am considered at risk. i live and work in England as a counsellor /psychotherapist and so i am curious about 'depression' and the personal aspects of this to each person who is at risk or experiencing symptoms. My own experience is one of a family who were ashamed of this legacy and so did not seek to understand, but rather hide and not discuss the devastation. i am especially interested in understanding the emotional needs of a person, how and why depression manifests and of course the best treatment options either pharmaceutical or psychological or any way at all really. I am interested to hear your thoughts

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Hi, Ms. Evans, thanks for writing and sharing all that. I'm so sorry to hear that your father died of HD. You have my sincere condolences. I'm also sorry to hear that some members of your family are ashamed and/or in denial about HD. This attitude is pretty common in families, not only regarding HD, but also anything else that is very uncomfortable for people to acknowledge or understand or accept. So my heart goes out to you if you are one of the few people -- or perhaps only one in your family -- who is dealing with all this on deep emotional/psychological levels. As far as depression goes, I am not trained as a therapist. I have seen depression occur in my family and know that it is debilitating, so my best advice is to seek professional help. In other words, don't keep brushing the topic or any feelings you may have -- depression related or not -- aside and try to seek professional help. Someone qualified will be able to assess and diagnosis what you're feeling and, if action is required, may provide the medication necessary to help you cope.

Whatever the case, being at risk is not a pleasant situation to be in. It must weigh on you, so just seeing someone who is qualified to talk about those issues would be a wise course of action to take. Ultimately, what I'm advocating is: please don't deny. Please don't think any of this might "go away" if you don't think about it. Being proactive is wise, and helping to take care of your mental health is vital. I hope this advice has been helpful. Take care.

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