Despite HD, my wife maintains her empathetic approach to conflict

Jill's commitment to understanding brings us strength and hope

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by Carlos Briceño |

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Throughout her journey with Huntington’s disease (HD), my wife, Jill, has taught me a great deal about resilience, love, and understanding. One of the most profound lessons has been her empathetic approach to conflict.

Jill has a remarkable ability to step back and try to understand the other person, rather than getting angry. This perspective has shaped our family dynamic and enriched our relationships in ways I never could have anticipated.

Jill’s desire to understand rather than react stems from a deep-seated empathy and an analytical mind. Before her diagnosis, she was always the one to diffuse tense situations with a calm question or a gentle suggestion. She would ask, “What might have caused this reaction?” or “What is this person really feeling?” This approach has not only prevented countless arguments, but it’s also fostered a sense of mutual respect and deeper connection within our family.

However, I’ve often wondered how the progression of Huntington’s might affect that trait. The disease can bring about significant changes in personality and behavior due to its impact on the brain. Irritability, impulsivity, and emotional outbursts are common symptoms. Would Jill’s admirable patience and understanding endure as the disease progressed?

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The guiding light of empathy

As we navigate this path together, I have observed both challenges and triumphs in that regard. There are moments when the disease’s influence is apparent — when frustration bubbles up more quickly and patience wears thin. But even in those moments, Jill’s core philosophy of understanding shines through. She might express her frustration more readily, but she still strives to understand the “why” behind people’s actions and words. It’s as if her fundamental belief in empathy acts as a buffer, mitigating the more severe emotional shifts caused by Huntington’s.

For instance, one day our daughter, Alexus, and Jill had a heated discussion about something trivial — something that never would have escalated before. As the argument unfolded, I saw Jill’s face soften, and she took a deep breath. Despite her frustration, she asked Alexus, “What’s really bothering you?” That simple question transformed the argument into a heartfelt conversation, revealing stress and worries that had nothing to do with the original issue.

Moments like that remind me of the strength of Jill’s character and the power of her approach to conflict. Even as Huntington’s challenges her, Jill’s dedication to understanding others remains a guiding light. It’s not always easy, and there are certainly difficult days, but her commitment to empathy continues to influence our family in profound ways.

As her caregiver, I am continually inspired by Jill’s efforts to maintain this perspective. It encourages me to adopt the same approach — not only with her, but in all aspects of life. When frustration arises, I try to channel Jill’s voice, asking myself what might be driving the other person’s actions or feelings. This mindset fosters patience and compassion, making our journey through Huntington’s a bit more navigable.

In the face of a disease that often strips away control, Jill’s choice to focus on understanding rather than on anger is a testament to her resilience. It’s a lesson for all of us: that even when we can’t control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to them. And sometimes, the greatest strength lies in the simple act of seeking to understand.

So, as we move forward, I hold on to the hope that Jill’s spirit of empathy will continue to outshine the shadows cast by Huntington’s. It’s a journey filled with uncertainty, but with her unwavering commitment to compassion, I believe we will continue to find moments of connection and peace amid the challenges.

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.


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