My Wife Never Leaves Home Without Her Noise-canceling Headphones

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by Carlos Briceño |

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Ever since my wife, Jill, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2018, grocery shopping has became increasingly difficult for her — that is, until she discovered the power of noise-canceling headphones.

Here’s what makes shopping difficult for her: People constantly invade her space, make a lot of noise, and stand in the middle of the aisle she is trying to walk down. Because of her sensory issues, she can’t stand loud noises or people who accidentally touch her.

As a result, her trip to the store starts to feel like she is being assaulted, which overwhelms her and causes her to lose concentration, making it difficult to keep her shopping list organized. Once this groundswell of chaos in her mind happens, she becomes angry.

Watching Jill’s fury build in a grocery store is a lot like watching Bruce Banner turn into the Hulk. She goes from mild-mannered Jill to angry Jill very quickly.

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When we lived in the Midwest, we would often go to the grocery store together, so if she needed to, she could leave when she couldn’t tamp down her anger, and I would finish buying the groceries. It also helped to talk about our day while we were shopping, which allowed her to focus and not feel overwhelmed by others around us.

However, since last summer, when we moved to the East Coast, I rarely go to the store with her. I get home from work late and usually work a weekend day as well.

Another reason is that Jill has been working remotely at home as a gig worker, which gives her some free time during the day to go shopping on occasion.

She mentioned that the first few times she went alone, angry Jill started to appear, and the thought of running over several people with a shopping cart entered her mind. (She would never do that, but she told me it’s therapeutic for her to imagine it.)

Then, during one visit, she decided to do something different: She wore noise-canceling headphones while she shopped. When I arrived home later that night, I was over-the-moon happy when she told me that her trip was wonderful.

She listened to a Netflix show for distraction, and concentrating on the show made going through the grocery store a breeze. She was able to walk down the aisles without having a panic attack that someone might touch her.

It worked so well that she said the unthinkable: She didn’t even mind standing in line.

As time goes by, I know the anxiety she feels will worsen, because sadly, that is part of the landscape for those who are gene-positive for HD. But for now, noise-canceling headphones are as important to her as a shopping list, because they both help her to focus and give her peace of mind. And for that I am very grateful.

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.


Chris stecker avatar

Chris stecker

I found your Bruce Banner analogy amusing... because it is SO ME!...

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

I count my self very lucky because she’s much prettier than the Hulk.


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