How writing can be therapeutic when dealing with HD

Putting the metaphorical pen to paper can help process grief in useful ways

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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I love the random questions my wife, Jill, asks me. One such query recently led to a deep and productive conversation.

Jill asked me if I thought that anyone could become a good writer. I knew there was a story behind the question, so I asked if she’d share what prompted her to ask it.

She said that when she was diagnosed as being gene-positive for Huntington’s disease (HD) in 2018, she was concerned about me and my emotions regarding her illness. But when I started writing this column the following year, she realized that it’d help me process grief in therapeutic ways.

She added that I fit the definition of a writer, which, of course, she’d looked up. A writer, she found, is a “person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist” or “a person who commits their thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing.” When she watches me write, she said, it looks like someone slipping on a perfectly sized glove.

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Her next question was this: Do I think people can learn to do what I do?

I knew what she was saying. She didn’t mean can people learn the mechanics of writing. She wanted to know if people could write like me. Every time I want to share what’s in my head and heart, I sit down at a computer and type. I don’t hold back, and I never get writer’s block. I consider myself lucky to be able to express my feelings in a healthy way, and I consider myself blessed that what I write can benefit or inspire others.

My answer was simple: “Of course, I do! All it takes is an open heart.”

“Great,” she replied. “Now I want you to share how to do it with the readers of our column.”

I like to keep Jill happy, but I wasn’t sure how this might relate to HD and caregiving.

She chuckled with her “you’re so silly, Carlos” laugh and said, “Think about how writing about HD has been healing for you. Think about all the years you’ve shared the highs and lows of our lives in this column. Even if your words weren’t read by anyone, would they still have been meaningful? To you? To me? Think about how writing about our inner thoughts has helped us communicate in a way that has grown our understanding of each other and has helped us share our fears. Think about how cathartic it is to put something on paper so it’s not sitting in your head.”

I realized that her suggestion was all about Huntington’s disease. She wants our readers to believe that you don’t have to have training or education to sit down and write. All you need is an open heart.

If you or a loved one is living with HD and suffering, writing can be a helpful way to cope. It can assist in straightening all the crooked lines in your life by making sense of all the thoughts swirling around in your head and heart.

If you don’t want to share it with others, or don’t have a platform to do it, that’s OK. If you do, don’t be afraid to let your loved ones see it. Help them understand what you’re going through. It builds empathy and compassion, and in turn, they can help you better cope with the HD roller coaster.

In her diary, Anne Frank observed, “When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!”

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.


Anonymous avatar


Jill's observation is spot on! Writing is cathartic and a great form of therapy. I have an unpublished blog that is topical for HD family members. Regrettably, not everyone with the diagnosis is as open with the information as Jill so my blog remains hidden away in the depths of my hard drive (or cloud drive). Someday, when my wife is ready to accept her diagnosis it may see the light.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Thank you for sharing your story. I hope writing gives you the same solace it gives me. I pray you will soon get to share your blog with your loved ones.


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