Happy Birthday to Me!

By Monica Bradlee

You may wonder why this birthday is so special and why I rate a section of the newsletter to talk about it. The reason is all the emotional baggage that went along with this particular birthday. I realized that if I felt this way about turning 35, there may be others at-risk who have had a similar problem with one of their birthdays. So why not share these feelings.

I believe the reason I had such a problem with this birthday was two-fold. One reason was that upon looking back on my father's life, it appeared that his HD symptoms had started somewhere around the age of 35. I therefore assumed I would also be approximately 35 when the symptoms would begin for me.

The other reason, I'm sure, that it has been especially difficult, is that any piece of literature or reference to HD indicates the usual age of onset as between 35 and 45. I guess after reading all that literature and realizing when my father first manifested HD, I began living my life as if it would somehow change or even end at 35!

I became particularly restless and disappointed with my life, and with the goals I hadn't achieved yet. The closer I came to 35, the more upset I became that I would never have the opportunity to accomplish my dreams. Nothing seemed right with me or my life. One moment I felt like running away and never facing responsibility again. The next moment, I wanted to do as much as I could to accomplish my goals and do exactly what was right. Sometimes I thought I was so "precocious" at having a mid-life crisis at such a young age! I couldn't figure out what was bugging me.

One day, soon after my 34th birthday, my daughter asked me if I were 35 yet. This question sent a shock through my whole body! I was so frightened and upset! What was wrong with me?

I thought about this more and more, and tried to look at the situation objectively. I finally realized what the problem was. I was afraid to turn 35 because somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I was unable to separate my intellectual self from my emotional self: I discovered that I had come to expect the HD symptoms to begin on my 35th birthday!

What is so exciting about all this is that approximately a month before I turned 35, I realized I was still FINE! This is when I finally figured out what had been bothering me.

I now feel calmer and more confident that I will have the opportunity to accomplish my goals. I have also discovered that for each goal I do accomplish, I tend to find an additional one to replace it. My fears may all have been for nothing. I may never have HD, but in case I do, I can take pride in what I have accomplished with my life up till then.

This article is reprinted from the October 1985 Newsletter from the Massachusetts Chapter of the Huntington's Disease Foundation of America which is now the Huntington's Disease Society of America.

If you would like to get in touch with the author, Monica Bradlee, you can do so by sending email to: monica.bradlee@verizon.net

Converted to HTML by Renette Davis with permission from the author. Send comments for Renette to her by clicking here.

Last updated: Nov. 13, 2010