Defining heartache

If you attempt to Google ‘heartache,’ anything you will find will be strictly emotion-based. “Heartache quotes,” or “How to cure a heartache” WikiHow’s, or general advice columns to heal that aching wound.

But what about the physical sensation one gets when in such a state of mind? The way one’s chest constricts and literally feels as though one’s heart could actually be breaking any moment. The nausea. The feeling of heaviness all over, making it difficult to pull oneself from bed.

I remember when my first boyfriend and I broke up. For two weeks, I was a shut-in. I hardly ate. What I did eat, my tears salted. The foods that the two of us once enjoyed together made me ill, the simple taste reminding me of him. I had daily headaches, night terrors and no interest in doing anything but watching movies (all of which made me develop a strange habit of crying at the ending, regardless of whether it was happy or not). While the weight lost in those couple of weeks was nice, I can think of better diet solutions, to be honest.

In 2008, I researched the physical aspects of broken hearts. I found nothing. Only recently has it become an actual affliction called “Broken-Heart Syndrome,” in 2009, describing the weakening of heart muscles. It is medically termed “Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.” In Japanese, tako means “octopus,” and tsubo means “pot.” On the scans, the affected hearts “resembled the pots that fishermen used to catch octopus.” Kind of gross, right?

There are chemicals and hormones in one’s brain that are released when one feels terribly upset. These chemicals cause this sensation. Heartbreak is not simply a metaphor. Love is a chemical reaction. Lust is a chemical reaction. Attraction, desire, allure, loneliness… All chemical reactions.

It almost begs the question: Do the people you go to for advice, the ones who tell you to “suck it up and get over it,” not realize this? Chemical reactions in your brain are not exactly controllable.

My advice for those suffering from these awful releases of chemicals: Bide your time. Eventually you’ll regain your sanity and your water weight. Until then, indulge in the sweet hugs people give you and the brief amount of time that they will actually tolerate your whining before they cut you off.

PS: People have been using the word “heartache” since 1602? Those poor, sweet Renaissance men!

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