Finding catharsis through the dramatic while living with HD

How it helps to improvise a one-woman show in the language of Shakespeare

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by Carlos Briceño |

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As regular readers of this column know, I love my wife, Jill, with all my heart. I love her simplicity. I love her sense of humor. And of course, I love that she’s the mother of our wonderful daughter, Alexus. Still, I have to admit that she can be a bit … dramatic.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Carlos, how can you say that about your wife, especially when she’s dealing with such a serious illness?” And you’re right, I probably shouldn’t. But let me tell you, living with someone who has Huntington’s disease (HD), as I am, can be a wild journey of emotions, and sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying.

Take last week, for example. Jill was having a rough day. She dropped her phone several times. She had difficulty finding words during conversations with me. She felt sad about her future, which will include the reality of Huntington’s continuing to devastate her mind and body.

But to show you that she’s amazingly resilient — and dramatic at times — here’s an example: She decided to put a stop on her pity party by putting on a one-woman show, complete with dramatic monologues and over-the-top gestures.

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The play’s the thing

She pretended to be a character in a Shakespeare play who has Huntington’s. She flailed around the living room and pretended to be drunk. (Some Huntington’s symptoms — slurring words and walking with an unsteady gait — often mimic someone who’s inebriated.)

She was shouting early modern English words, such as “hark,” “thou,” and “tis.” At one point, she picked up a plastic rose in our living room and said, “A rose by any other name would make me sneeze” — an allusion to “Romeo and Juliet” as well as her allergy to flowers.

At the end of the monologue, fresh from her catharsis, she sat down on the sofa, a little exhausted from being so dramatic, and said that when her illness gets bad enough in public that she appears to be drunk, she’ll make a T-shirt that says, “I’m not wasted. I have HD.”

As always, Jill managed to make me laugh, and we ended up spending the rest of the evening cuddled on the couch, watching our favorite comedy show. It was a reminder that, even in the darkest of times, there’s always a reason to smile.

So to all the caregivers out there, I say this: Embrace the drama. Laugh at the absurdity of it all. And most importantly, cherish the moments of joy, no matter how fleeting they may be.

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.


Virginia Andrews avatar

Virginia Andrews

I had a moment of joy this morning with my son. I was afraid he would lose his job because he isn’t signing out on time and then gets paid for hours he shouldn’t have been working. He said his boss told him to sign out on time and other workers were treating him like he was stealing something by not signing out properly. He was just trying to finish his job by putting all the grocery carts back before he left each day. What to do? We talked about it and decided the most important thing was for him to sign out on time. This morning he told me he signed out on time and then went back to finish his work. The boss came by and reminded him he was to be signed out. He said to her "I have signed out, I'm just back here to watch over my job". She smiled and kept on walking. I was so joyful that he saved the day and can go back to work tomorrow! As you say, these days don’t come too often, so we have to enjoy them when they do!


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