A long-standing issue in my chronic illness ‘career’ has been my ability to faint at any given moment. I’ve fainted at festivals, at gigs, mid-dinner, anywhere the temperature goes above 20 degrees, mid-argument, during shifts at work, in the doctors, the dentists, the candle-stick makers (that ones not true but I’m sure if I’d been alive when candlestick-makers were still a ‘thing’ I would have hit the ground like a sack of potatoes there too), during, before and after medical procedures, at a wedding, not yet at a funeral, but I’m looking forward to the day that one inevitably does happen because HOW DRAMATIC WOULD THAT BE?!
Anyway, my point being, I can go unconscious much easier than is ideal.
My doctors and I have never really established why this fainting happens so regularly. I am generally supremely anaemic which doesn’t help, I have low-blood pressure; again, not a faint-reducer. But what I’ve established over the years is my bodies innate ability to shut-down access to its facilities at the pinnacle of stress, extremes of heat and/or pain. My body has a limit and when that is reached, it’s lights out for this meatball. Some of my ‘favourite’ fainting moments include:
- Collapsing in a heap during a Gil Scott Heron gig and being accused of taking hard drugs
- Collapsing in a heap during a Foo Fighters gig and being accused of taking hard drugs
- Collapsing at a festival and yes, YOU GUESSED IT..
- Collapsing when getting fluid removed from my arthritic knee and vomiting over myself
- Collapsing mid-argument with my BF and falling down a flight of stairs
- Collapsing while a nurse slap-dash-idly tried to take my blood and falling off a hospital bed
I’m basically a Carry-On film in human-form, but with decidedly less innuendo-based jokes in my arsenal. (Maybe I spoke too soon.)
Listen, as someone who LOVES nothing more than seeing people fall over and using self-deprecating humour to hide my intense securities, naturally these fainting-tales fill my giggle-meter up to the brim. These unfortunate experiences are far from funny while they are happening of course (I’m not a monster), but afterwards I always try to recall them with humour. Because what alternative is there in dealing with a body that often quite literally floors me despite my desperate protestations?
When I collapse after reaching my pain threshold, I always feel a bit pathetic and embarrassed. I recall the occasions where I’ve been able to withstand more intense and prolonged pain and feel like a bit of a failure. Not to mention having to deal with the opinions of those who witness such an inelegant tumble. Those within chuckling distance of me kissing the lino often jump headlong to their own conclusions; I’m on the aforementioned hard-drugs, I’m drunk, I’m faking it. All of those are equally insulting and inaccurate assumptions, but also understandable. The first guess for most when they see someone collapse is that it is somehow that persons’ fault. The patient in question has drunk too much (this is a particularly popular assumption in Scotland FYI), the patient has taken something they should have, the patient isn’t looking after themselves.
There is no easy solution to this either I’m afraid; I’m not expecting a blog post to change anyone’s perception when they see a stranger keel over in the street. But next time (after you have taken a suitable amount of time to laugh), try to lead with kindness. Don’t assume you know what has led to this particular literal downfall, just aim to be compassionate. A little kindness goes a long way, and its remembered long after the skint knees have healed over, and the dignity regained.