Donna Smaldone
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Monday / March 19 / 2012

How to grow a stout heart and cast-iron stomach

Is it just me or is the latest movie trend to have at least one person throw-up in every movie? I blame the puppet vomit scene in the 2004 Trey Parker, Matt Stone movie, Team America: World Police (a scene my boys thought would be amusing to make me repeatedly watch). If memory serves, that was the moment I started exhausting the phrase, “I have to live with boys!”

In the early 1990s, a group of scientists asked heart attack patients, “What breaks your heart?” The answers of what saddened the patients (for example, divorce or the death of a loved one) paralleled the physical wounding of their hearts. It turns out a broken heart can break your heart, literally.

Known as Broken Heart Syndrome, the risk of having a heart attack is 21 times higher the day a loved one dies. I’m not going to pretend I understand all the psychosomatic risk factors at play, but I assure you I’ve spent time considering, “What breaks my heart?”

Topping the list these past several weeks has been a simple yet tormenting one-word answer, depression. This destructive bully has been meddling in my life recently, declaring itself, “Victor” even as I beat back its repugnant arrogance with my increasingly worn stick.

One of the most depressing things about depression is how close you come to believing you finally have it mastered only to find yourself back in grade school with a mere handful of CliffsNotes.

Using the lessons learned in my first few rounds with this bully — and now being duly grateful for the handful of CliffsNotes — I deliberately let my family in on my latest challenge, being purposeful to share it’s not them or anything they’ve done or said. Such a simple step. Such dividends being paid because I took it.

Earlier today as I realized I was seriously considering buying stock in Tums, I found myself once again pondering the researchers’ question — this time with a twist.

“What makes you sick?,” I quizzed myself. Depression once again topped the  list.

Good start, I encouraged myself. But what else? What makes you nauseous, queasy, woozy, sick to your stomach? What makes you want to hug the porcelain god (emotionally speaking, that is)?

A list began to form as I considered everything from child abuse to tortured pets to small-town thinking when big ideas are needed. I named things. Out loud. And suddenly, it was easier to swallow. Easier to breathe. Like I still held the reigns.

I could see rays of sunshine come out to kiss and nourish my budding stout heart and cast-iron stomach. By no means fully grown — but growing. That’s what matters.

I don’t imagine I’ll be giving up Tums any time in the next few days, but I am committed to continue to fight the bully. I am committed to continue the dialogue of depression through my blog. I am committed to be a voice for the many of us, who are sickened by this tyrant.

…Oh, and I’m calling it “Vermin” instead of “Victor”.

 

6 responses to “How to grow a stout heart and cast-iron stomach”

  1. David says:

    You are certainly not ever alone, Donna. Although it’s likely an oversimplification, you could be experiencing “SAD” — Seasonal Affective Disorder or what many used to and still do call “Cabin Fever”, as you, I’m sure, so well know. I, too, have been stung by this invisible venom recently–Depression, that is, whatever the cause. In my case, it may be the “Cabin” thing in tandem with an unforseen change in a dear friendship, which is probably the greater of the two evils. I like your method of naming causes out loud…. Kind of analogous to shining a spotlight on a hiding terrorist. I also find that documenting my thoughts by the darkness of night and then revisiting them in the morning light helps me gain a valuable and much more ACCURATE perspective. Talking with a trusted and blatantly objective friend [as I have been] is also of great comfort, as I have found many times before this one.
    Thank you for openly sharing your hurts. I appreciate the win-win you generate. Hopefully you are refriending more happiness. Be sure to identify and squeeze out any remaining stubborn lurkers, for they can be the greatest burdens of all.
    My only claim, by the way, is to be looking for all the right answers, knowing that the quest can supply lifelong satisfaction and even fun! And, each time when I again fall into the trap of the opposing “says” & “do’s”, I try to climb out a little more gracefully. I enjoy and appreciate your ongoing openness.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you for your comments, David. I remain committed to fighting the bully, “Vermin” and continuing an honest, typically raw, open dialogue about depression via my blog. And yes, I’m also working successfully to refriend happiness (which was in no way hindered with today’s 82-temps and sunshine).

      Love,
      Donna

  2. Rainey says:

    Donna, Your transparency touches my heart and knowing that the struggle is just that a continual struggle to speak out loud the things that hurt, to face those demons or giants head-on. A number of years ago I spoke at a ladies retreat and the weekend was about facing your giants or your walls of Jericho. And one of the things the Lord had given me was to understand that “faith is an attitude of victory even before the battle begins. Shout down your “walls of Jericho” even while they are still standing till only a rock remains.” Praying for you. Rainey

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I appreciate your insights and prayers, Rainey. Speaking out loud about the “tough” things in life makes one vulnerable — but the therapeutic benefits (for self AND others) far outweighs any reason to stop the dialogue. Thanks so much for reading. Miss you!

      Love,
      Donna

      • Rainey says:

        Donna,

        You are most welcome… my depression seems to be under control, but then at times I almost feel manic or at the very least having had to much caffeine and I don’t partake of any of that…. just one day at a time…. I always wish that we had gotten to know each other better while you were here, but I am so very glad that we are connecting now…. prayers do wonders sometimes and at others seem to fall flat but I will continue to pray for you.

        Love, Rainey

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