What to Do When You’re Overthinking Illness

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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Caregiving is an honorable position because it involves a lot of love. It also includes questions that begin with, “What if?”

As you may know, my wife was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease last year. Right now, life is “good.” I put that word in quotation marks because her symptoms are just starting. She is experiencing some anxiety, chorea, and depression, but overall, she is sharp as a tack, hilarious, and as smart as she’s always been.

That said, every once in a while, I start to wonder: What if she gets really angry with me?

What happens when she can’t swallow her food anymore?

What if there’s a recession? What if I lose my job and we can’t afford medication or visits to the doctor?

What will happen when she has trouble walking? What if it’s winter and there’s snow or ice on the ground?

What if she continues to not sleep well? How will a lack of sleep affect her health over time?

What will happen to her if I get ill because I am older than she is?

What if we move to another part of the country, which we’ve been thinking about lately? What if she doesn’t trust her doctors as much as her care team at the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Center of Excellence at Northwestern University? (My wife has white coat syndrome, so it’s difficult for her to see doctors or trust them in general.)

What happens to her pride and self-worth when her mobility deteriorates and she is unable to work?

What if one day my boss decides I can’t take a day off because I want to be with my wife every time she needs to see the doctor? I don’t want her to go to the hospital alone.

What happens if my head explodes because I’m overthinking her illness?

OK. Scratch that last question because after years and years and years of overthinking, if my head hasn’t exploded by now, it probably never will. But as you can tell, based on the questions that have been swirling around my head for months now, I wonder about many “what-if” scenarios. These are reasonable concerns for any caregiver, but I have to finish this column optimistically because it’s in my nature to see the cup as half full.

Raise questions and concerns. We’re all human. That’s what humans do. But remember one thing above all others: Love.

Love can overcome any obstacle. Love can climb any mountain. Love can keep us going. Love always, always, always prevails.


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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


Linda chase avatar

Linda chase

My husband was diagnosed with Huntington’s 16 yrs ago. He is now choking all the time and has a hard time breathing, walking. It's hard but he knows me but there's hardly any conversation. There's nothing else the doctors can do, and he wants to die. why does this horrible disease punish them and take so long for them to go? Watching your loved one go thru this is horrible for the caregivers. I pray for others going thru this.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Hi, Linda,
Seeing a loved one suffer like that is one of life's tragedies. It's tragic for your husband to suffer like that, as well. I have no doubt, despite him not being as responsive as he used to be, that he is grateful for your love and for everything you've done for him. And I'm sure you have shown him plenty of love, so, ultimately, if you can, focus on that.
In the meantime, please try to take it one day at a time.
Best regards,

Clark avatar


My Wife has become emotionally detached, each day that goes by a noticeable gradual decline in her mental state ensues. Depression, mood swings, rage, lack of feelings, doesn’t want to be a mother, a daughter, a sister or a wife, doesn’t want to do anything, regardless gets upset because she isn’t doing anything, life is a daily struggle, has been for a long time. Diagnosed 6 years ago, cag 41, first kid in four diagnosed with it, hardest thing of all is the worst is yet to come. This illness destroys the person from the inside, consumes them, the guilt of passing it on, immaterial of the fact they didn’t even know they had it at the time, derails the happiness within families and provides a hellish existence for the full time carer. Battles with depression, threat of excessive tablet taking and continual reassurances are always required to put their mind at ease, the carer does not have a happy existence anymore, their life is on hold and their loved ones do not love them anymore, this is robbed from them too. This is a heinous disease, one I wouldn’t wish on the evilest and most reviled in society. What offers comfort or solace when times get hard....absolutely nothing, just suck it up and get on with it and pretend that it isn’t actually happening to us, nope that doesn’t work either, nothing works. Sorry for the pessimistic patter but just saying it as it is. This is fubar.


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