The Science of a Heartbreak
It was as if all at once everything fell apart. There were signs galore, but the overbearing optimism in me refused to see them. All with one sentence I was blindsided and yet so unknowingly aware of what was happening. In hindsight, I saw it coming from a mile away, but it didn’t make the fall any easier. The next six months consisted of watching things I held tightly to, dissolve right before my eyes, leaving me feeling lost, alone, and broken in a million pieces. Heartbreak.
I want to talk about this, because heartbreak is, unfortunately, a normal part of human existence. During the aftermath of my last heartbreak, I went on the hunt for some kind of explanation for the overwhelming feelings I was drowning in. I struggled to find people who were talking openly about this stuff, leaving me feeling crazy in a desolate land. Debilitating. That’s how this break up felt. I wish I could say I was being dramatic, but when I think back to the last season of my life, or the seasons where there was other intense heartbreak, it has felt unbearable, hopeless, and like there may be no way out. I was searching for someone to tell me I was going to survive this. So let this be a beacon of hope; a light in the darkness! What you’re feeling is normal and I promise you, there is a way out. You won’t stay here forever even if you can’t remember what it felt like to be happy. You will survive this and even more, you will come out even better than before, if you choose to.
This is for anyone who’s experienced the loss of something you loved or wanted badly. A romantic relationship, a friendship, a job, an opportunity, a loved one, or even feeling the loss of yourself. Heartbreak is different for everyone, but when we lose something, our mind and body react to the “break” like it would a broken bone. Your brain registers emotional pain the same way it does physical pain and because our bodies are amazing, it sends hormones to produce a flight or fight response to protect us. However, the overload of those hormones creates a radical shift within you, causing the downturn of your emotional, mental, and physical health.
Ok, let’s talk about science. Imagine, you were so attached to this person or this idea. You had a vision for the future: what it would look like, feel like, and where you were headed. It felt exhilarating and you felt alive! Dopamine and oxytocin, both hormones which produce feel-good sensations, were being released in heavy amounts as you were falling in love, creating a “high” in you. So when you felt a sudden heartbreak, not only did you fall, you fell from a higher than normal place. All the feel-good hormones got replaced with the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol over a period of time is what leads to all of the physically painful feelings. Nausea, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, and other unwelcome symptoms accompany the emotional pain, leading to the feeling of your heart feeling like it’s literally breaking.
So as it would turn out, you are not crazy, and there is even science to prove it. Let this validate your feelings and help you to move forward in this process. Your body has been doing really good at its job and now you have to learn what it needs to not only survive but thrive after heartbreak.
You’ve got this!