Suddenly it all made sense

by Elouise

My heart was broken
Long before the cracks began to show

Holding my breath
To get through harsh punishment

Quiet shallow breathing
To ensure I’m not noticed or called out

Waiting calmly in panic
To hear the nature of my ‘medicine’

Holding back tears
For fear of more or worse punishment

Enduring long terror-filled pauses
Before the onslaught of unpredictable consequences

Heart beating out of my chest
Wondering whether this will ever stop

Floods of adrenalin and cortisol
Coursing through my body like tidal waves

Without external fight or flight options

Swallowing fear and anger
Trying desperately to appear docile and compliant

Trying to comfort myself
Without safe advocates or allies to hear my grief and shame

My heart was broken
Long before the cracks began to show


My heart issues didn’t begin when I was an adult. They began in childhood. They tell the truth about how I responded to stress. Not good stress, but bad stress.

I didn’t reason my way to this understanding. Instead, I saw the printed record of my irregular heartbeats. Too slow with shallow beats; too fast with unpredictable beats; pausing as though my heart was holding its breath and didn’t know what to do next. That’s because the part that’s supposed to make sure my heart beats normally doesn’t function reliably.

I always thought these patterns began in my adult years. But they did not. They were birthed in early childhood habits that helped me survive shame, humiliation and being silenced.

Rules. Punishments. Constraints. Straight and narrow expectations. I was on my own to figure out how to survive. I did what could, using mental, emotional and physical gymnastics to keep things ‘under control’ even though they weren’t.

Holding my breath, heart beating wildly, barely breathing at all for fear, holding back tears, trapped. As an adult, I’ve experienced all this and more. Definitely not heart-friendly habits or coping mechanisms.

That’s why I burst into tears when I first saw images of my adult heart beating and not beating. Suddenly it all made sense. So I’m coming to terms with this truth about my weary, frightened heart.

I believe this is God’s truth about me, and God’s way for me at this time in my life. As much as I might wish otherwise, I’m learning to walk in it. Not reluctantly or bitterly, but with gratitude, a measure of grace, and hope for today’s young children and teenagers.

Today I began a new med. In early April I’ll get a pacemaker. Beyond that, there will be more meds and whatever comes next.

And then there’s this. I’m surrounded by children, young people and adults who need safe allies but don’t know how to ask for help. All our hearts are at risk if we look the other way or try to minimize what’s happening in secret and before our very eyes. I don’t know what I would do, but I’m willing to find out. Not as a professional, but as an ally.

Thanks for listening, and for choosing not to look the other way as you’re able.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 March 2016
Photo credit: DAFraser, December 2015
Broken heart puzzle from South Africa