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My Heart Is Broken. Here’s How It Feels

I am struggling to go through the motions: I can’t focus on work.

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illustration_of_woman_stitching_broken_heart_by_Nhung Le_1440x560.jpg
Nhung Lê
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My heart is currently broken: Crushed. Shattered. Unrepairable. I am struggling to go through the motions: I can’t focus on work. I can’t feign a smile. Can’t laugh. I can’t seem to gain control over my thoughts or emotions: My mind is obsessing over how horrible it is to have lost the love I wanted to have forever. My body feels the effects too: My appetite has diminished. I can’t sleep. My heart is racing in disbelief and fear.

Did you know that there is a medical term for the condition of heartbreak? Well, there is. Broken heart syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo syndrome, is a condition that, according to the British Heart Foundation, “causes your heart's main blood-pumping chamber (the left ventricle) to change shape and get larger. This weakens the heart muscle [which] means it doesn't pump blood as well as it should. It's usually triggered by extreme emotional or physical stress.”

In other words, metaphorical heartbreak (extreme emotional or physical stress) can be such a beast that it leads to physical broken heart syndrome. Luckily, my physical heart did not suffer and the emotional pain doesn’t last forever. According to some wise women to whom I reached out — women who had been in my shoes before — there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s bright and beautiful. Here are some things you can do to help get to the other side.

Work on yourself

“I experienced a profound heartbreak on the cusp of turning 30. The breakup was swift and unexpected and subsequent heartbreak shattered me for the following three years. It also unquestionably changed my life for the better. It initiated a personal growth that I had been needing and propelled me into a deeper, truer relationship with myself. I emerged from the heartbreak a stronger, more authentic woman with a clearer understanding of my standards for how I would be treated and the strength to back it up. I have been single since the heartbreak and have found peace with myself, knowing and trusting that the next partner I have will be a sensational one, because I'm more sensational than ever. I'm grateful to the relationship and the heartbreak because it got me where I needed to be.” — Kelly, 34, California

Let go

“After 22 years (and four children) together, I was living what I thought was my dream life. Then one Sunday afternoon he walked into our room and said, ‘I don’t love you anymore and I’m filing for divorce.’ That was when my heartbreak began. In that moment, I was left standing on the edge of a cliff staring into the void with no idea how I was going to move forward. I was not sleeping and totally stressed out. I reached out for help and used what I learned to change my behavior, my actions and more importantly what I said to myself. I was [finally] living life on my terms and I no longer held on to blame or guilt towards my ex-partner. In fact, when I really dig deep, I realize that I now have a confidence and control over my life that I would never have been able to achieve in my marriage.” — Fiona, 57, Connecticut

Treat yourself with love

“I perpetually broke my own heart by choosing unfit partners; I believed the wrong person was safer than [being alone]. What I understand now is that staying [when your intuition tells you to walk away] is the only [real] heartbreak. And so, my 30s have become a time to prove to myself, as often as I need to, that choosing to release anything and anyone that harms my heart, challenges my integrity and compromises my spirit is the most fearless, loving and self-preserving act of all. If it wasn’t for heartbreak, I would have never learned how to show up and love me.” — Chelsea, 35, New York

Practice acceptance

“[After a failed 10-year relationship and a slew of other unsatisfying ones], my world finally came crashing down. I started to consciously redefine not just how I related to others and how I let others relate to me, but also how I related to myself and other aspects of my life. I questioned my beliefs by looking at the role societal expectations [played in my choices] and the limits I set for myself. I started focusing on meaning, transformation and purpose. I finally saw, understood and accepted myself. And in this acceptance, I could ultimately transform myself into the person I wanted to be.” — Michelle, 35, Virginia

Stay busy (and hopeful)

“My husband and I bypassed the seven-year itch to come face to face with it at year 13. That's when an already quiet man became even more so. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me what [the issue was]. After six months of this I asked if he [thought things would change]. He said no. So, we had a 'marital time-out'. I moved to another state and became a single woman. I was brokenhearted and missed him so much. I also felt anger toward him, for not addressing what was going on to save our marriage. Working several jobs to make ends meet helped with the heartache. So did staying busy with crafts and with friends. We kept in touch. Subsequently after 2½ years apart, we decided to give our marriage a second chance. In March of 2023 we will celebrate 50 years together.” — Carol, 72, Georgia

The moral of the story, girlfriends? Someone else may break our hearts, but it’s up to us to heal them. I better get busy.

Have you ever had your heart broken? How did you get over it? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships