Why does my heart feel so bad?
Why does my soul feel so bad? – Moby
When our hearts break, it seems our whole body cries out in agony and shuts down. We get chest pains, head aches, muscle aches, fatigue, stomach disturbances, insomnia, we sleep to much, we eat too much or not at all, we get sick. We long for some sort of relief, something to fill the massive hole we feel inside of us from what was lost. When your heart is broken, it just hurts to be alive.
But people still tend to think of this as an emotional pain only, as if emotions exist wholly separate from our physical being. Part of this idea of a fundamental split between body and “heart” is the result of advances in medicine that dismissed ancient beliefs that our emotions, soul, and thoughts were connected to certain organs. Scientists and physicians very logically put thoughts and emotions in the brain and debunked any notions of passions connected to the liver or love and loss in the heart, but now science is proving that our whole bodies are deeply connected to everything we feel and think.
Roman physician Galen thought that the liver controlled out passions, the brain controlled reason, and and the heart, emotion. He felt that the heart’s connection with emotion was related to the circulatory system, and it turns out he was on to something real.
We can literally die of heartbreak in many different ways because being in despair, especially for a long period of time, can lay vulnerable all systems of the body. But research has found that we can also literally die of a broken heart. If you undergo an extremely severe emotional trauma, especially the sudden death of a loved one, your heart muscle can weaken, and even stop beating. It’s believed that stress hormones like adrenaline may play a role by narrowing the arteries of the heart. This presents as symptoms of a heart attack, except there are no blockages. Unlike a heart attack, the heart can almost completely recover from the incident, but while the Heart Break Syndrome is happening, it can be extremely dangerous and must be treated and monitored.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researcher Dr. Ilan Wittstein:
“It can be very serious.People can die from it – no question. Even though the heart is not permanently damaged, the heart is a pump and if that pump is suddenly stunned and can’t pump, than the whole body isn’t getting the blood flow that it needs, so the sickest examples of broken heart syndrome have been critically ill in the intensive (care) unit.Time is simply needed for recovery. Once patients get through the first couple of days, the heart improves on its own.”
Time obviously, is the best healer, and avoiding stress, engaging in a healthy lifestyle, doing things you love, having fun, taking care of yourself. These are the things everyone needs, and the only solutions we have available. Everyone’s life is full of pain and shocks and misery, some are dealt far unluckier cards as far as luck and circumstances, but the only chance we have to counteract some of these things is to enjoy what we can of life while we have it.
But heartbreak pain isn’t just tied to the heart. New brain imaging studies have found that the brain can’t seem to tell the difference between a physical trauma like being burned.
This makes sense, especially considering the evidence that pain from emotional abuse lasts far longer than pain from physical violence. The rub is that physical domestic violence causes both kinds of pain. In fact there is mounting research to suggest that Tylenol can alleviate emotional pain like social rejection and existential fear of death. That doesn’t mean people should reach for the Tylenol, and definitely shouldn’t take more than the recommended dose, because it can destroy the liver very quickly. There is no magic pill.
Pain is pain, and if you’ve been hurt, you need to heal.