AltText: Image of Cacti with purple heart shaped leaves and long dark spines against a light background.

I’ve felt the heartache of Ophelia and Andromache. I’ve waited with Juliet and watched with Penelope. I’ve grieved with Othello and rooted for Odysseus. I’ve even empathised with Circe and understood Shylock.

I’ve had my heart broken with Fantine and Eponine. I’ve had my heart shattered over and over with Scarlett O’Hara! And in writing this I realise another thing purity culture has robbed me of is a catalogue of good romance novels to refer to!!

My point being, heartache and heartbreak are familiar from life, from media and from folklore. Disney may have made The Little Mermaid a happy tale, but Hans Christian Anderson? Not so much. We are comfortable with these feeings, even when we are going through them. We can belt out ‘I will Survive’ and watch those Bridget Jones films. We have survival guides. We’ll be ok.

But being heartsore is different. Hurting so much from the inside you just want to tear open your rib cage to release the pressure. Rub some soothing ointment on that fiery heart to cool it down. Apply direct healing massage to ease the ache.

Being heartsore is what causes us to lament. To wail and cry out without a care in the world as to how we look, if anyone is staring or if that mascara truly is waterproof. The Bible tells us that after their defeat at Ai, Joshua and the Israelite leaders tore their clothes and poured dust on their heads (Joshua 7:6). They were so heartsore at their pain and predicament, they could only rend their garments and claw at the Earth, shredding the very fabric of their surroundings to ease the pressure. I understand that now.

Being heartsore is watching the world continue turning on its axis while your world has stopped. Through trauma, death, disease or another life event. Being heartsore is wanting to scream at everyone to just stop! Why are you expecting me to think about putting sweets out for Halloween when the sight of ghosts on Strictly Come Dancing made me cry at the weekend? Being heartsore is having a constant ache at the centre of your soul as you wait for the next moment when your distress creeps up behind you, taps you on your shoulder and says ‘Hello, remember me …?’

Being heartsore is keeping your soft, vibrant, compassionate and loving heart beating even when there are nine inch nails severing it at regular intervals. Being heartsore is continuing to share your energy when all you really have to give is being drawn into containing the bitterness trying to seep out of your deep, deep wounds. Being heartsore is knowing this pain is setting up camp, staying for a while, not going anywhere.

I love Marvel’s Wandavision as an exploration of cPTSD and what happens when someone who has given so much ends up losing it all. Wanda was heartsore. Thing is, we can’t all create a picture perfect world to shield us from our turmoil, and not should we – as Wanda found out. That just makes things worse in the end. Living through our complexities and challenges will always make us stronger and give us more agency for the road ahead. I have not yet survived a struggle which wasn’t worth it, and I have a 100% success rate.

Still, I am heartsore like Mrs March after Beth is lost, like the little boy whose Snowman melts and like the Lady of Shallott in her tower. I cannot have back that which I want most. I must find a way to reconcile myself with the world I now find myself in. I will. But the journey may be more like that of Alice through Wonderland than I care to hope for …

Peace be with us all!

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