Coping With Depression and Huntington’s During the Holidays

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by Carlos Briceño |

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Since my wife, Jill, tested positive for Huntington’s disease (HD) in 2018, I’ve learned a lot about the disease and its symptoms.

Prior to her diagnosis, Jill’s HD journey started with depression, similar to many others who suffer from Huntington’s. I’ve written about this topic before, with Jill’s permission. I’m proud that she proactively battles it by taking medication and talking to a therapist, both of which help her cope.

With Thanksgiving approaching, she wanted me to discuss this important topic. Jill knows the holidays can be very stressful and adversely affect people who suffer from mental health issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported in 2014 that 64% of those with mental illness said their conditions worsen during the holidays.

Sadly, depression is often a big part of the HD landscape. Unlike a bad cold, it’s not going away.

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Recently, I noticed some changes in Jill’s energy levels. For instance, she was sleeping more. I wondered if her medication wasn’t working as well as it used to. She noticed these changes, too, and after talking to her therapist, decided to switch antidepressants.

It’s not uncommon to build a tolerance to medication, which causes it to become less effective over time. I told Jill I had been concerned about this, but wasn’t sure how to bring it up.

Although she was happy to start a new medication, Jill was sad that I worried about telling her what I’d observed. She said that in the future, I shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge what’s happening and discuss it with her.

Depression can be a tricky disease. Jill explained that depression may affect a person’s inertia, meaning that even if they know they aren’t doing well mentally, it’s often too exhausting for them to address it.

I promised to always be open when I notice her symptoms getting worse. Jill knows there will come a day when she may not realize she is slipping into a deeper depression.

After we talked, I decided to learn more about the signs and symptoms of depression. Depression doesn’t always look the same, especially considering that it can affect anyone at any age. Still, there are a few common symptoms I’d like to share. These include difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and changes in sleep pattern and appetite. Jill has been dealing with all of these issues lately.

Jill has always been very self-aware, and it breaks my heart to know that one day, she won’t be able to recognize if her mental health is suffering. It will be very difficult to point it out to her, but I made her a promise, and I intend to keep it.

I’ve also promised to keep writing to increase awareness and understanding of Huntington’s and depression on behalf of this community.

Mental health can be a sensitive subject. If you feel you are dealing with anxiety or depression, please talk to a medical professional.

If sharing our experiences can help one family better understand Huntington’s or cope with depression in healthier ways, then that is a win against a disease that is so full of losses. And those of us who are in this fight together need all the wins we can get.


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.


Lisa Palag avatar

Lisa Palag

I wish I had been able to do more for my husband. I'm determined to not let my kids down. You are an inspiration. Thank you

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Lisa, I am sure that you did what you could do for your husband. I know that every day is a struggle and no one is prepared for what happens when a loved one has Huntington's. I watched my mother-in-law and wife navigate taking care of my wife's father and every day was hard. It was hard because the disease is cruel and life doesn't slow down for it. There is no road map to being a caregiver and all we can do is support one another and sharing our story is one of the ways we try to do that. Your comment is beautiful because doing better for the next generation is what we should all aspire to.


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