Did you know that stress, intense fear, domestic abuse and even the loss of a loved one can cause what is known as broken heart syndrome? Stress induced cardiomyopathy, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is a weakening of the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber usually as the result of severe emotional or physical trauma. The main symptoms are chest pain and shortness of breath.
This is something I have personally experienced. Four years ago, I didn't realize just how stressful life was. Always trying to make everyone happy, trying to understand the path that was in front of me and questioning why I chose relationships that didn't allow me to take care of me. I was a constant caretaker for everyone else.
Feeling as if an elephant was sitting on my chest, I googled 'heart attack in women', and as with any chest pain, you are advised to go to the ER, so I did. I was immediately admitted into the hospital due to a heart attack. I was told I would head to surgery the next day, as a stent would be put in to prevent future blockage. I was put on the operating table, shown a cartoon version of a book that explained this procedure and put to sleep anticipating waking up with a stent in a vessel. But, that didn't happen. I was told my arteries were clean! There wasn't any blockage, therefore there was no need for a stent. That's when I was told I had broken heart syndrome. My heart was damaged from stress in my life, and my cup of life was empty.
The doctor said to me, "I don't know what you have going on in your life, but you need to change it." It's hard to really understand the impact loss has, continued worry about kids and the potential effect relationships can have on you. This was a wake up call for me. I began asking myself, "Why don't I respect myself enough to allow people to take advantage of me? Why do I surround myself with broken people who I think I can fix?" Perhaps, I couldn't fix Rob so I set out trying to fix others? I've had to ask myself a lot of questions and I set forth to change my life.
Today, I recognize the importance of me and maybe for the first time in my life, I'm standing up for what I believe. I've had the courage to say goodbye to toxic people and make my own needs a priority. I am living proof that it's possible to pick up the pieces and heal a broken heart. It only took one person to do so and that person was me.
by Vonnie Woodrick
About the Author
Vonnie Woodrick created i understand in 2014 in loving memory of her husband Rob who lost his battle with depression in 2003. Vonnie routinely provides speaking engagements to private organizations and community groups throughout the year in an effort to raise awareness about suicide and encourage education about mental health. Learn more about i understand's "Love Heals" Lecture Series.