Many people are familiar with the term “broken heart”. It is said symbolically to reference pain or emotional damage. Like most metaphors, it’s based on a real-life physical thing. It’s actually based very accurately on that physical thing.
I know this because nine years ago, I found out I had a literal broken heart. Doctors were surprised. I was too. After a last-minute quintuple bypass at half the age for most in that position, I came out the other side.
The irony of this whole thing is that when my heart was actually broken, I had no fear. I wasn’t worried about death. Sure, I’d get out of breath, feel some pain, or feel a strange sensation here or there, but I brushed it all off. It was just life. Life hurt. I pushed on.
It wasn’t until after the surgery that the fear kicked in. I was told what needed to be done to maintain my health following this unexpected bypass. There were so many suggestions and “tips” online to follow that I thought, for sure, there was no way a hot-head like me could do it. At one point, I even told myself in the mirror that there was no way I would survive. In my mind, I was almost definitely going to die.
That overwhelming fear didn’t happen when my heart was broken, though. It actually happened when I was healing. It was the fear of piecing myself back together and standing firm with lessons learned that scared me the most. The issue wasn’t my heart or what caused me the pain. The issue was the trust I needed to invest in myself to keep it whole. The fear was about me and whether I could really “do it”.
I have come a long way since that shouting match into the looking glass. The person staring back at me today is very different than the one in 2012.
Strength I didn’t know I had along with a will to survive that I never believed existed within me pulled through. I did what I feared I could not and I woke up every day with more determination than I went to bed with the day before. I am still waking up every morning with more drive than I had the previous night.
Since that day, I have had my figurative heart broken many times. Heartbreak isn’t just limited to romance, either. It can be anything that breaks our spirit, rocks our worlds, or rattles our foundations. It’s anything you can’t fathom overcoming and tests you are convinced you’ll never pass. I’ve weathered it in many ways.
I’ve been divorced, lost relationships, and had to accept realities that were never on my radar. The initial hits were all stinging but it was the long-term rebuilding process that tested me the most. I never thought I’d die at the moment of heartbreak. I thought I’d die trying to recover.
There used to be a loneliness in my new home. For half the week, like a stumbling ghost, I’d haunt these halls. I didn’t know who I was without my kids on certain days and didn’t think I’d be able to build a new life without a safety net. It was a lot to process. It was a lot more to accomplish.
My brain worked itself into circles with fear over how I could continue down this new path. I questioned things about myself that I had always been confident of. I beat myself up for failures that hadn’t happened yet.
The funny part was that as I was telling myself I would fail to heal, I was healing. Here I was, taking steps every day while silently whispering that I couldn’t place a single foot forward.
Just like my physical heartbreak, I will heal from any emotional ones too. I can say that with certainty now. There’s nothing I can’t overcome because I am a survivor. Most of us are.
Sometimes people will hear an aspect of my life and comment, “I don’t know how you handled it.” The truth is that nine times out of ten, neither do I. No one does. We just do it. What are the options? Dig a hole and climb inside? The passage of time makes heroes of us all. We are the light at the end of our own tunnels.
They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s sort of true. It’s not about the thing that almost killed you that causes the most strife. It’s the period after, when you’re bouncing back from that near-death experience, when you feel your weakest. If that part doesn’t kill you, that’s where the real strength comes from. Although I have a feeling that many reading this already know that. I know I do.
People go. Lives change. The news isn’t always good. Yet, we keep on. That’s what broken hearts do. They heal. Mine did. Every time. The next time it breaks, it will heal again.
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