Some years ago, I read about medical phenomenon called Broken Heart Syndrome. Being a romance writer, I added it to my file of tidbits that might make a good story someday.
From www.heart.org: Broken heart syndrome, also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, can strike even if you’re healthy. (Tako tsubo, by the way, are octopus traps that resemble the pot-like shape of the stricken heart.)
Women are more likely than men to experience the sudden, intense chest pain — the reaction to a surge of stress hormones — that can be caused by an emotionally stressful event. It could be the death of a loved one or even a divorce, breakup or physical separation, betrayal or romantic rejection. It could even happen after a good shock (like winning the lottery.)
Broken heart syndrome may be misdiagnosed as a heart attack because the symptoms and test results are similar. In fact, tests show dramatic changes in rhythm and blood substances that are typical of a heart attack. But unlike a heart attack, there’s no evidence of blocked heart arteries in broken heart syndrome.
Although at the time of learning this, I smiled thinking back to teenage years when I would lament that I would certainly die of a broken heart if some boy or another wanted to break up, I now realize there is nothing romantic about heart problems.
Did Elizabeth clutch her chest when Mr. Darcy walked away? Did Jane Austen write that angst from experience while her own heart palpitated and ached? (Most likely, but still, she did not die of a broken heart.) Does every chick flick end up with ‘the chick’ dying? No! Though writing from a place of pain is often the most creative and productive time for many writers.
We read of long time couples who die within months of one another: the family shakes their collective head and sigh, she was broken hearted and could not live without him. I always believed that to be true. And perhaps in some ways they are the lucky ones, not the others that must learn to live without their true love for the rest of their days. I reiterate from last month’s blog: 'Rabbit, how long is forever?' 'Sometimes just one second.' Aside from the grief, pain, and death, to know that one has been loved so completely is indeed romantic.
And what of the lovers lost, forbidden, unrequited? What of those who made plans and dreams that never came to pass? The miles that separate the touch of so many? How about those that spend their nights weeping into a tub of ice cream or a bottle of wine? The tough ones who push through with false bravado? Do they not too have Broken Heart Syndrome? And is there a cure? Yes, but it isn't an easy pill to swallow. Time is the only cure for many, and if not a cure, then surely a way to keep the symptoms in check and prevent further damage.
Though, fortunately, I am not suffering from the Broken Heart syndrome, I recently began taking a medication for my racing pulse. Normal resting pulse for me is around 90, but the DR said we should control it and see what happens. I was horrified! How would my heart pound when my lover stepped through the door? Would it no longer race when he whispered my name?
Well, after a week, that was the least of my worries. I quickly became a walking shell of a human being. Dazed and confused… unable to drive and little energy for pounding or anything else. It was as though a fog had settled all around me. Ah, but the quiet of 70 pulse rates, the lack of thudding in my chest, and the lazy days were not without benefits.
As I weaned myself off the medication, I could feel the curtain lifting and could see the clear skies around me. I will probably have to start something new, but until then I am enjoying the return of ‘me.’ I am working hard to do all I can to control my physical issues without drugs and trying to remember that I have survived broken hearts before and so, I shall again. Ice Cream may not be the best choice, but I admit it does help. Everything in moderation…
Stress, depression, loss, heartache can all cause very real physical problems and should never be dismissed. It is often the strongest that end up with problems as they push their issues down and carry on until it presents in a physical way. It has been a long, complicated season for me. Much has changed and continues to change, and I have finally learned that there are many things I cannot fix or control. I must simply breathe, trust and let go of the things that make me crazy.
If you ask the romantic in me, I’d say, ‘my heart has been broken so completely that it cannot be fixed’ but the truth is we just need to take more time for ourselves. Time to breathe, to take care of our bodies, our minds. Time is the best medicine of all, so, take all you need- your heart will keep beating while you do.
Besides, it would be terrible to win the lottery and have stress take you before you could claim your prize!
Author's Note: If you are experiencing any chest pain, shortness of breath or heart related issues, call your DR or 911 immediately.