What is YOUR definition of the word “heartache”? What does it look like in practical terms? What are the signs and symptoms? Does it really have anything at all to do with your heart —-the fist-size muscle that sits in your chest and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood throughout your body every day?
If you Google the word “heartache”, the first response describes it as “emotional anguish or grief, typically caused by the loss or absence of someone loved.” Webster defines it as a strong feeling of sadness or sorrow. Lastly, the Urban Dictionary describes it as “emotional pain; the horrible feeling of a black hole sitting in your chest where your heart should be.”
Perhaps the societal association between a vital organ obviously critical to sustaining life yet not capable of “thinking” and what is basically a “state of mind”, comes from the fact that very strong emotions, such as those felt with “heartache” truly can produce physical effects on the heart itself as well as other parts of our amazingly complex bodies. It is a scientific fact that stress, including that from emotional upheaval, triggers the brain to release a cascade of chemicals and hormones that speed up the heart rate, increase blood pressure, increase production of cholesterol and triglycerides, release sugar and fat into the bloodstream and fuel inflammation — all factors that can precipitate a heart attack along with a plethora of other health problems. If you’ve never thought about or studied the “mind-body connection”, I strongly recommend looking into it. It is a totally fascinating subject that affects us ALL 24/7 …. whether we want to admit it or not. No matter if you are someone who openly shows your emotions or one who tries to “hide them under the rug” and pretend they don’t exist….this applies to y0u.
I am currently living proof of this “mind-body connection”, as evidenced yesterday by a visit to my dermatologist. For the last couple of months, I have noticed that two sizable “chunks” of my normally very long and lush eyelashes have mysteriously disappeared. Then about 5 weeks ago, I suddenly acquired a very itchy red rash just on the front of my neck. The verdict from the good doctor: she wondered if perhaps I’ve had any extra stress lately. Wow. Really? Stress, you say? Yes, as a matter of fact I have. Stress that actually started 3 years ago when we had to put my dear sweet mom into a nursing home due to dementia. That stress soon evolved into “heartache”. This heartache grew even deeper when my beloved dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness just this past spring. Then, in what feels like the “blink of an eye”, I lost both of the men in my life a mere 5 weeks apart …. one to death and the other, my boyfriend, to decision. The timing of all of this could not be much worse … both losses so close together as well as being so close to the holidays. Holidays that were already filling up with plans that were being prepared for and looked forward to immensely. All gone in a heartbeat. Last year’s holiday season was my worst to date, as I was totally alone in my house for the first time in my then, 54 years. This holiday season will, undoubtedly, surpass that by leaps and bounds….unfortunately.
So, yes, heartache is a very real thing. Yes, there is a connection between the anguish in one’s mind and the effect that has on your actual heart and body. What does it look like in ways other than losing eyelashes and sprouting weird rashes? Well, we are all very different but, for me, it’s a pervasive melancholia very hard to penetrate, despite my normal love of laughter and frivolity. It’s a slide show of memories constantly playing in my brain, prompted by numerous triggers, that will bring on a waterfall of tears without any warning. Why tears you may ask? Some people are very ‘stoic’ and rarely shed a single one. Well, I guess it’s just how the good Lord “wired me”. I feel things and am touched by things very deeply. I love deeply, care deeply, think deeply and laugh deeply, without abandon. On the surface, though, you would never guess all that. My usual ‘cover’ would suggest a smiling, silly but sensitive gal who loves to joke and laugh more than just about anything. A few remnants of the shy, introverted “younger me” still pop up now and then, but, by and large I have shed that for a woman who believes in being transparent and genuine and who has no fear of showing her heartfelt emotions. It is what makes us REAL.
So, how then does one deal effectively with heartache? Thankfully I am a woman of faith and therefore it is to Him I turn for healing in the face of such pain. I know very well from past heartaches that He will comfort and sustain me through what seems unbearable at times. There is no substitute for prayer.
It is my sincerest hope that you know Him too.
Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving. Until next time…..