A musical reminds my wife of the apathy caused by her HD

'Jagged Little Pill' brings up many emotions for this writer's gene-positive wife

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by Carlos Briceño |

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How could a musical lead to tears and a conversation about my wife’s Huntington’s disease (HD)?

That was my thought as Jill and I recently walked out of the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., after seeing a former Broadway musical called “Jagged Little Pill,” which was inspired by Alanis Morissette’s 1995 hit album of the same name.

Jill loves all music, but, if pushed, she’d tell you that this album holds a special place in her heart. She’s a huge admirer of Morissette and her writing ability. The songs cause Jill to light up because, when she was younger, they helped her express sadness, happiness, anger, and any other emotion she might’ve been holding in.

Although I’d expected emotion from her, I didn’t expect her to walk away from the show with new thoughts about the songs she’s blasted in our car over the years.

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Honestly, I think I watched her more than the performance. The acting was great, but the music was what brought Jill to life. As the first few notes of each song started playing, her smile would widen, and then she’d start lip-syncing.

As the musical continued, Jill let herself feel the emotions each song evoked. She cried and laughed as each song and scene dictated — until she heard the lyrics “I’m frustrated by your apathy” from the song “All I Really Want.” Her face froze. I saw something change in her body language, if only for a second. There was a deep sadness.

I asked Jill about this moment as we were walking to the parking garage to get our car.

Jill sighed and said, “The songs all had meaning to me in my 20s, but over the years, my understanding of them has shifted. As my views have changed, so have the songs’ meanings. Today, that lyric reminded me I am often frustrated by my apathy. The song made me think about my HD and how, as time goes on, my depression and apathy will continue to get worse.”

I reached out to hold her hand. When she shared how difficult it is sometimes for her to get out of bed, I squeezed. She admitted that everything she does now takes more effort than it used to. She’s been dealing with depression, and this time she described it as feeling like there were extra weights attached to her limbs. Every movement takes up so much energy that her mind tells her it’s just not worth the effort.

I told her I’d help her fight those feelings, and she smiled. We both know the apathy may never go away, but understanding where it’s coming from will help us know how to fight it.

I know how hard it was for Jill to admit what HD is doing to her mind and body, but I’m happy that attending the musical gave her an excuse to feel and share her emotions.

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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