A fascinating story today in the UK Telegraph:
A British Heart Foundation-funded study followed 52 patients over four months, aged between 28 and 87, who suffered with what is officially known as takotsubo syndrome.
The little-known condition was first coined in Japan in 1990 and named after the native word for an octopus pot, which has a unique shape that resembles a broken left ventricle. It is provoked when the heart muscle is suddenly “stunned,” causing the left ventricle to change shape, and is typically prompted by “intense emotional or physical stress.” It affects the heart’s ability to pump blood and, according to the BHF, there remains no known medical cure. […] Figures show that between three per cent and 17 per cent of sufferers die within five years of diagnosis.
The notion of dying of a broken heart may seem poetic in the West, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it has always been understood that emotional, spiritual or psychological shocks can “break” the heart by adversely affecting the tonality of shen energies — the energies of the heart, which are at the center of the body.
I bring this up not to advocate for TCM but because after reading the symptoms and developments of takotsubo syndrome and re-familiarizing myself with the shen ideas, it all brought to mind this piece, Childhood Trauma Leads To Lifelong Chronic Illness…:
It wasn’t until I was fifty-one-years old that a physician sat me down and asked me the most important question of my life – one that would lead me to better health than I’d had for decades: “Were there any childhood traumas or stressors that might have contributed to the extreme level of inflammation you’re experiencing as an adult?” My physician explained that ongoing adversity in childhood leads to a chronic state of “fight, flight or freeze.” Researchers at Yale had recently shown that when inflammatory stress hormones flood a child’s body and brain, they alter the genes that oversee our stress reactivity, re-setting the stress response to “high” for life. This increases the risk of inflammation, which manifests later in cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases like mine.
As a woman whose childhood was fraught with trauma, and who is struggling with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in adulthood, the idea that childhood trauma can so ferociously harm our immune systems as to negatively impact our health in adulthood rings true to me, as does the notion of one’s heart literally becoming “broken” beyond repair. I am 58 years old, now, and more and more I wonder why I am still carrying the weight — literally and figuratively — of childhood suffering that was beyond my control, and (unlike too much of my adult suffering) personally unearned. I chastise myself for not simply “forgetting” and letting go, moving on — something I did better in my youth.
Perhaps as we get older the need for resolution and closure becomes more urgent — we need to find ways to understand things more comprehensively than we do. But we never really can, in this lifetime. I know that.
But particularly after pondering childhood trauma and the many adult health problems that are being traced to it, I wonder if there might be metaphysical route to addressing some of this physicality, while also gaining, if not closure, then wisdom.
We know that God is outside of time, and that prayer is too. I wonder if I can pray for God’s active grace and the action of the Holy Spirit to become inserted into all that occurred 50+ years ago, and in that way, help the stress response to reset away from “high,” away from all the inflammation, the damaging rising of stressors that can only break a body down. Stunt them a bit, so that if Little Lizzie must go through all that, for whatever purpose is meant by it — and I do believe all things are permitted for a purpose beyond my understanding — then at least she gets to be a little more comfortable in the present time.
Maybe some of these, or all of these. I’ll have to pray about how to pray about it…
O God, by whose command the sands of our lives run fast or slow, clean or clotted, your psalmist sang, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and a right spirit renew within me…”. Today I join this song, humbly asking that in your mercy you may will for me a clean heart, a fresh heart, a heart renewed. By your will, I beg that the heart of my youth be rendered spiritually strong in the ethos of compassion, even in the midst of the strains of its suffering; a heart made faithfully strong in a spirit of complete trust in you, even though I do not understand; a heart made physically strong in an enfleshment away from my stoniness, even through the enforced exercise of anguish and confusion. You who are without beginning or ending, look with compassion upon my finite years and infinite foolishness, and touch me through time, that I might gain wisdom enough in a terrible moment so as not to surrender the rest of my life, or my health, in captivity to it. As you touched the hearts of Saint Philip Neri and Saint Teresa of Avila, touch my heart with your presence and thereby render me whole by the force of your holiness. I ask this in the name of Christ Jesus, your son, who suffered for my salvation. Amen.