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Broken Heart Syndrome: This Mind-Body Connection Can Kill You

In popular culture, people often talk about experiencing such a strong instance of heartbreak due to loss that they feel like they could die. How many times have you heard people say: “I am afraid she will die of a broken heart if she doesn’t get help soon.”

Many of us have been in situations, where for even a brief moment, death seems preferable to life, if life means continuing on without a beloved spouse, parent, friend, or even pet.

Many people believe talking about dying from a broken heart is merely a simple turn of phrase—after all- everyone knows that a broken heart doesn’t really kill people, right?

But, do not write off such a phenomenon too soon; indeed it is possible to die from a broken heart. Having spent many years practicing anesthesiology in a famous cardiac hospital within a high-acuity setting, I have learned all about the strength of the mind-body connection. People can indeed die from a broken heart and this phenomenon is called Broken Heart Syndrome or Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.

The American Heart Association says this about the phenomenon: “Broken heart syndrome, can strike even if you’re healthyWomen 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 was partial witness to Broken Heart Syndrome in action. A colleague who worked as an ER physician called me on his way home. He felt the patient was having an heart attack, but something about it didn’t seem like a heart attack. I immediately asked about the patient’s mental state or recent stressors. The doctor admitted that the patient had just found out about his wife’s infidelity and that she abandoned the marriage with no warning. He had told my colleague that he was not sure how he could live without his wife. I immediately thought of Broken Heart Syndrome and asked my colleague to call the doctor who took over the patient’s case.

My colleague called the hospital not a second too late because the patient was experiencing deadly arrhythmias by that time and everyone feared this patient was at death’s door. When the doctor’s realized the patient was experiencing Broken Heart Syndrome, the patient was treated and the patient made a full recovery.

I cannot under-estimate the role of stress reduction and meditation in one’s life because the mind-body connection is so strong. If you are currently dealing with stressful events or are dealing with a broken heart, please consider working with me.

I have been through a tremendous personal heartbreak and I have come out the other side, healthier and happier for it. Do not keep it inside, friend, you deserve better than that. I would love to hear your story and to work with you. Please click the contact link so we can start working together.

Namaste and to your continued well-being,

 

Dr. Rajiv Parti

Forgiveness After Heartbreak

Forgiving someone who has broken your heart is a process that is necessary. Without forgiveness, the heartbreak you are experiencing will not be able to dissipate.

Plus, as long as we remain in a state of non-forgiveness or resentment, we live and exist in a negative energy state. You see, resentment has a lot of friends and none of these are friends to whom you would like to open your heart, body, or being.

Resentment’s best friend is anger and anger’s best friend is rage. Rage’s best friend is bitterness and bitterness’s best friend is pessimism. Resentment, anger, rage, bitterness, and pessimism make quite a team.

If you invite this team, whom I refer to as The Toxic Five, into your heart-home, it will be the biggest mistake you make in your life. If you remain in this state of non-forgiveness, The Toxic Five will take over and destroy you from within.

These Toxic Five destroy you by flooding your body with cortisol. And when this happens, cortisol puts you on the alert and this causes anxiety. Once anxiety sets in, you are set up for a full-blown panic attack.

Panic attacks often feel like heart attacks and there is a very reason for this. Emotions, whether they are good or bad, pool within the heart. This process exacerbates the feelings of having a broken heart and adds fuel to the fire of The Toxic Five.

For years, I was destroyed by The Toxic Five. If you have read my book, Dying to Wake Up, you recall the love-hate relationship with my father. While I owe my success to his strict discipline and his unwavering desire to see me excel, my father often used violence as a means to an end. Because of his own precarious survival as a teen, he only knew the language of raw survival. Often this language of raw survival is all brass tacks and no gentle guidance.

The beatings I received at the hands of my father were brutal. For years, I seethed in anger because our relationship was one only marked by violence. I did not know what it was like to be touched tenderly by my father. His disapproving gaze, his rough treatment of me, and his drive to bend me to his will were always with me.

It was the biggest irony of both my life and my death when my father was the very person to greet me on the other side. Not only did he greet me, he extended a hand into Hell to pull me out and show me the unconditional love that is Heaven itself.

When he and I were both stripped away of the mortal ego in death, pure love flowed between us. All of the years of pain washed away when my dad extended his hand into my afterlife.

He pulled me out of the lake of fire, Hell itself, and also pulled me out of my emotional hell, which had served as an emotional prison for years.  In the after-life, my father brought me personally to God to show me the compassion, all-encompassing, and eternal love that God has for all of us.

In that moment, the seed of forgiveness was planted in my heart. Just as quickly, I was whisked back into my body to face my material life again. Though the seed of forgiveness had been planted, it still needed to be watered and tended in order to bloom.

So how do you get rid of these Toxic Five?

The only way to get rid of The Toxic Five is through forgiveness.

Whether or not you are willing to hear it, the healing path requires forgiveness to be at its foundation.

If you are not ready to forgive, you may say to yourself, “But how can I forgive after my loved one hurt me in the deepest and most unimaginable ways?”

You may have heard this before, but I will say it again: forgiveness is for you. It may sound trite, but it is a powerful sliver of wisdom. While you may believe that forgiving someone means letting that person off the hook, you are really letting yourself off the hook.

When you make forgiveness the center of your being, The Toxic Five can no longer occupy the center of your being. Forgiveness makes her home in the center of your being and The Toxic Five can no longer exist there. Just like light drives away the darkness, The Toxic Five are driven away by forgiveness.

In his book, Forgive for Good, Dr. Fred Luskin says the following, “forgiveness helps people control their emotions so they maintain good judgment. They do not waste precious energy trapped in anger and hurt over things they can do nothing about. Forgiveness acknowledges we can’t change the past. Forgiveness allows us not to stay stuck in the past.”

How do I forgive?

Unless a hurtful person is still in your life, you must become aware of the fact that whatever occurred in the past is not present in your ‘now.’ All we have is the present and each of us can choose our thoughts in the present. Therefore, you must make the decision each moment to keep going over past events or to remain in the present.

Next, you must emotionally detach from the past. You need to ground yourself by taking a deep breath, feeling yourself present in your body, and letting yourself know that in that moment all is well.

Next, try to uncover underlying motives in your loved one’s behavior. In my own father’s case, he was living with chronic PTSD. His PTSD was due to his experience during ongoing wars after the creation of the modern states of India and Pakistan in 1947. He has known the face of hate, the face of poverty, and for a period of time even his own mortality. During this time, he did not know if the next moment would hold life or death for him and his family.

My father gave me frequent beatings because my father knew no better and also because he suffered from untreated PTSD. My father knew no better way to help me succeed. Still, even if he had he was daily facing down his own demons. This does not make my father’s behavior right or good.

However, looking at his perspective helped me understand a bigger picture. After I understood this larger picture, I was able to take that seed of forgiveness and cultivate compassion for my father.

I also understood that I was not blameless. I come from a culture and family system where the motto for raising children is akin to “spare the rod and spoil child.” The expression from my own culture talks of ‘bending a crooked nail to become straight.’ My father had been raised this way and in turn I had raised my son this way.

I came to understand that my oldest son had come to fear me more than love me. I had continued the abusive pattern from my childhood and had become my own father. In forgiving my father, I was also able to forgive myself and break the abusive pattern with my son.

On the other hand, unlike me, it could be that you are blameless. It could be that you experienced horrendous abuse as a child, but you refused to be abusive toward your own children or others. It could be that you cannot even comprehend the mindset of the person who hurt you; in fact, they could be monstrous without explanation.

Still, you must let go of what happened to you and focus on being in the now. Any time you re-play the abuse you suffered, you bring the abuse back to life. The only time replaying abuse can be effective is when you are being treated for PTSD and undergoing exposure therapy. I am referring to a very specific circumstance where a licensed psychotherapist knows how to expose you to trauma in bits and pieces. This exposure in small bits can lessen trauma’s hold on you. But, unless you are undergoing exposure therapy with a competent counselor, dwelling on the past only makes it more real. When the abuse is more real forgiveness is out of range.

If you cannot get over the thoughts of the past, use these thoughts to create a journal. I recommend writing a letter to yourself and giving yourself the comfort that you needed in the moment the abuse was occurring. Go back and tell your younger self that you are wonderful, amazing, beautiful, worthy, and most of all lovable. Whatever that person was doing to you in the moment had nothing to do with your worth. Write love letters to your younger self and take them to heart.

Finally, refuse to give to others the abuse that was given to you. Instead, find ways to cultivate unconditional love towards others. When you do kindness to others and think of them in loving and accepting ways, you expect feelings of self-love and self-worth. Any loving thought towards another being, whether it be human or animal places you within the universe of love.

Spend fifteen minutes a day forcing solely on loving thoughts and thoughts of gratitude. Occupy your mind more with what is right than what is wrong. Find concrete ways to dwell in the ‘love space’ whenever you can.

This also includes doing acts of love towards strangers. Open the door for people, allow someone in a hurry to cut in front of you in the grocery store, say “hello” to others and give strangers a smile. But, most of all, when you are faced with something that would normally trigger your own anger, choose kindness. Even if it is hard in the moment, staying in ‘love spaces’ and ‘kind spaces’ will start changing you from the inside out. This is when forgiveness really becomes powerful and you are transformed.

If you would like to know more about how to forgive someone who broke your heart, please click the contact form and reach out to me. I would love to hear from you!

Getting a Hold of Yourself after Heartbreak: Three Steps to Healing

steps to healing a heartbreakPamela finally found the love of her life after years of loneliness, but two short years later she was heartbroken; grieving the sudden loss of her partner to cancer. She felt her life had been ripped to pieces, with the biggest piece of her now gone—taken from her.

This is the meaning of heartbreak. With intimate love relationships, usually a big piece of our heart is said to be “given” to our loved one. When a relationship abruptly or unexpectedly ends, it feels like a big piece of who we are is taken away from us. We lend our heart to our beloved in their safe keeping and when something happens that breaks that bond it is very disorienting and depleting.

As a result, Heartbreak causes damage to one’s sense well-being and self-image which gets fragmented—effectively leaving people emotionally and spiritually in pieces.  The way to be whole again is to gather up these pieces and hold them together as you heal. Healing is quite literally getting a hold of yourself.

Getting a Hold of Yourself

Whatever led to your heartbreak, the strong emotions that arise like anger, hurt, or fear—including feeling debilitated like all the energy has drained from life—are feelings that must be honored and allowed to process so they can be released.

This process of honoring your feelings is crucial in getting a hold of yourself so that you can eventually get to a place where you can thrive in love again. This involves three steps:

  1. Acknowledge your emotions
    First, in order to honor our feelings we need to acknowledge them, first to ourselves. That is not always easy, for we may think we should feel something different, and don’t want to face how we really feel. But through an practice of acceptance and non-judgment of our own experiences (a commitment to embrace what truly is), this becomes a new, healthy habit. Try to remember that whatever you are feeling is OK to feel. Just stay present to the emotions and sensations, while letting go of all thoughts or interpretations.
  2. Express your feelings
    The second step is to express these feelings. Through expression we move through the experience to come out the other side. To express what you are feeling, it is always best to speak with someone you trust—a non-judgmental friend, a counselor or coach is best—so they can help you work through your feelings and not get stuck in your emotional trauma. The danger of heartbreak is the risk of getting stuck by unconscious thinking patterns, old trauma, or default programs. This can be hard, but if you shine a light on your inner world, it cannot rule you.Remember, you have the strength to face the reality of your experiences.
  3. Putting the pieces back together
    After you have acknowledged and expressed the inevitable emotions of heartbreak, it’s also important to retrieve the pieces of your heart that are broken so you can feel whole and complete again. Quite literally this means finding yourself again. You do this by building on your strengths, expanding on the positive aspects of your life, and recreating healthy self-care and social supports. What successes have you had, and how can you build on these? Who are your safe friends, and what steps do you need to take to spend time with them? Healthy action steps each day, little by little, will embolden you and build momentum towards a new foundation.

It might not feel like it now, but it is possible to collect the pieces of yourself that have been given to others and thereby regain any lost personal power. You truly can feel whole again.

One-on-One Support for Healing from Heartbreak

The healing process sometimes requires additional support from a professional. If you would like guidance in this way, I can help you.

My dear-death experience gave me the gift of seeing how important and precious the human heart is, both literally and figuratively. I use Consciousness Based Healing in my healing technique (Dr. Raj’s Integrative Process™), drawing from both spiritual and energy healing as well as certified coaching to help people integrated the pieces of their broken heart and life. I hold a safe space to honor and facilitate the healing process.

Are you ready to heal? If so, I urge you to take the next step and complete my pre-questionnaire to see if I can help you.

In service,
Rajiv Parti, MD