The Broken Heart Syndrome

After the bartender poured my second glass of wine, I heard my friend Jen say, "But love doesn't fade, Deb. It just doesn't. How can he want a divorce? We were once so in love and I still love him the same way. It's impossible for his love to fade." As I kept trying to digest what she was trying to say, also trying to hold back any words that may hurt her or completely destroy her disillusioned fairytale dream of "true love lasts forever" -- I just listened. Sometimes that's all you can do. She was in complete denial. I can tell she knew. She's smart. I guess when it comes to the heart, I think it's safe to say that we can all have those dumber than a box of rocks moments and become completely naive to what's right in front of our own eyes. This man hadn't slept in her bed for over three years. He hasn't even been home 80% of the time. He stays at his mother's house in hopes that she will sign the divorce papers and move out of his house. There is no "we" there is no "us" there is no...marriage.

"Why are you choosing to stay?"

Those were the only words that I could possibly muster out -- giving her the choice of telling me why she is staying and not saying anything about the disappearance of his love. She looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Deb! A marriage lasts forever! When you love someone, you love them forever. We made a commitment! I'm staying because I want this to work out. I want my marriage back." She stared at me hoping for a response.

She then asked me, "Has your love ever died for anyone?"

"Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I tried explaining to her that the type of love that I now have for anybody who was once in my life intimately has now become a matter of an "I wish them well" type of love. I can honestly say I still love my ex, but sometimes in a relationship or marriage, it's like trying to place a triangle in a square hole. Sometimes two people grow apart. It doesn't mean that some level of love isn't there, but the dynamics have changed greatly. Life's directions can change for the two people involved. And sadly, sometimes one person in the relationship starts to take you out of the "growing old together" equation because they simply. don't. see. it. anymore.

"But how can you un-love somebody?" she said in a desperate attempt to try and make me see her side of her heart.

I almost wanted to cry for her. It is so painful to be in love with someone so much that it hurts, all the while that person has little to zero feelings in return. Unrequited love can bring many to their knees. It's the most painful experience anyone can ever experience in my opinion. When you love someone, so hard, so much, to the point that your heart -- your physical heart just breaks into tiny little pieces -- that is unconditional love. You can do no wrong when someone loves you like that. You can cheat, lie and betray them, and that person is still going to be your biggest fan. How fucking sad is that? How can I look this woman in her watery eyes and tell her, "Yep, love fades just like that. Sorry."

When your heart breaks, it can actually lead to Broken Heart Syndrome.

Breakdown of a Broken Heart  
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. In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well, while the rest of your heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions. Researchers are just starting to learn the causes, and how to diagnose and treat it. The bad news: Broken heart syndrome can lead to severe, short-term heart muscle failure. The good news: Broken heart syndrome is usually treatable. Most people who experience it make a full recovery within weeks, and they’re at low risk for it happening again (although in rare cases in can be fatal).

I experienced this 2 1/2 years ago when my dad passed away. It happened about 6 months into my grieving period (which is normal) -- and I started getting horrible chest pains, to where my heart definitely responded to what I was experiencing. I'll never forget one morning being in my kitchen and grabbing a glass of water. I sat on the stool next to the counter trying to just wake up. I started getting these these horrific chest pains that just blew me right off my stool. I was on the floor holding my chest with these jabbing pains that wouldn't let up. When the ambulance came, they gave me a little beta tablet of nitrate to place under my tongue in order to see if I was having a real heart attack. They took my vitals and everything was just wrong. The EMT guy looked at me and asked, "Is the pain going away?" And I was relieved that it was. "Yeah, it's gone." But not relieved when he yelled into his radio, "Not good! She responded to the nitrate! It's her heart!" I had to stay in the hospital for a few days. The EMT guy who helped me was the same guy who had to bring my father out of his house for the very last time.

"I was there. I was the guy who came to get your father. You watched me carry him away. You're having grieving pains. Trust me." he said, while rubbing my arm. So now I truly knew the meaning of what it means to have a broken heart. I even remember years ago while going through a horrible breakup, my chest hurt that radiated down into my arms.  Sometimes, I'm afraid to love that hard ever again. At times, I try to distance myself from those I truly care about in fear that I'll die from sadness. Everyone survives though, right? I mean, everyone has gone through a breakup or a loss of a loved one. But how many people fully recover? How many people truly get over that one love that got away or that one person who meant the world to them who passed away? So it can happen to a familia type of love or an intimate kind. It can happen from separating in life or separating by death. Love knows no boundaries once it's taken away in whatever circumstance.

Have you ever heard someone say, "Ugh, they've ruined me for anybody else?" Don't even take that as an exaggeration. Most people truly mean it. When unreciprocated love has let someone go, that intense love the other person feels may never go away, leaving them to be loyal to you even though you two are apart. "Loyal" meaning -- nobody will be you and they'll never love someone as hard as you again. It may be a contentment "settle for" type of love, but never that passionate, can't live without you kind of love. Many times, people compare their new loves to their past loves and once they don't measure up (because they've put them high on some pedestal), the relationship ends fairly quickly.

Can you remember the love of your life? Are you still with them? And if not, do you still sort of pine over them secretly or compare them to anybody else that's in your life now?

And for the big question that my heartbroken friend asked me: has your love ever died for anyone?

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