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How Michael J. Fox's Book Helped Me After I Tested Positive for Huntington's

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“Even Michael J. Fox went through really rough years before he came out on the other side.” This was a lightning bolt to me. I was lying in bed crying for what felt like the 100th day in a row and telling my husband I was afraid I would never be joyful again. I knew my spirit was naturally full of joy but I was beginning to think I would never regain my optimism and excitement about the future. I developed pretty bad anxiety as my mom began showing symptoms for Huntington’s disease and I couldn’t  sleep properly on my anxiety medicine.

Unfortunately I am not a kind person when I stop taking my anxiety medicine, so I felt absolutely stuck. While not suicidal, the thought of being like this for the next 20 years until my body started to fall apart from Huntington’s disease made me really dreadful of the future.

And then my husband gave me that lightning bolt. I have been a huge fan of Michael J. Fox for years. Not for his movies – I’m sure they’re great but I don’t like movies – but for his unending optimism. I read his books and saw him speak at the local university and considered him a role model for how to handle a lot of bad luck. But when I tested gene positive for Huntington’s disease nearly a year ago, I found my spirit unendingly covered in rainclouds. Before my positive HD test, someone once told me that if they had to describe me in one word it would be “Yay!” and now I didn’t even want to think about how people would describe me.

After my husband’s comment, I immediately went to my book shelf and pulled out my copy of Fox’s book “Always Looking Up.” After the first chapter, I immediately felt better. I started reading it every free second I had and listened to his interviews and television appearances on YouTube while working. I finished the book within days and then went back and reread “Lucky Man.”

As his book reminded me, I was spending so much time in bed worrying about not being able to walk in the future that I was missing out on opportunities to go on walks with my husband in the present. I may be gene positive for Huntington’s disease, but that’s the only part of my life I don’t get to decide on. So, I’m going to focus on all the awesome decisions I do get to make. Like where to vacation this summer and which community projects I want to volunteer my time to.

There is a really great quote from “Always Looking Up:” “Since I’m not sure of the address to which to send my gratitude, I put it out there in everything I do.” I’m going to follow his lead and spread gratitude around like confetti everywhere I go, but I am going to especially send gratitude to my husband for providing me with that lightning bolt and standing with me through rainclouds and sunshine.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: March 14, 2017
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