Did you know that the medical term for fainting is “Syncope”?
I didn’t, until yesterday evening when I Googled “ways to avoid passing out.”
[Can I just note, here, that I love that ‘Googled’ is now an actual verb in the English language?]
I’ve only ever come close to passing out a handful of times in my life:
- In middle school when I saw my grandfather cleaning out my grandmother’s feeding tube. He knew I wanted to be an OBGYN and so he thought it would be interesting for me to see. I nearly hit the floor before he caught me. My dreams of becoming a doctor, on the other hand, did hit the floor and promptly shattered.
- In college, I was in a theatre production of Moliere’s “School for Wives” and was being fitted for a corset. My weight had fluctuated from the semester before, when I was in another stage production, so their numbers were all wonky. As the seamstress laced the corset tighter and tighter, my ears started ringing and I knew I was going to collapse. The head of the department, a lovely woman named Tric (pronounced Trish), gave me chocolate to feel better, which was so Harry Potter-esque that I quickly forgot the horror of the previous episode.
- When giving a large amount of blood at the doctor’s office post-college, I met the icy tiles of the floor still somewhat conscious. And by “large amount of blood”, I think it was actually two tiny test tubes. This is when I discovered that donating blood wouldn’t be how I give back to society.
Each time, I had some sort of outside provocation for quickly losing my consciousness. Yesterday was a different story. But first, you need a little backstory.
Cue the Exposition!
I realize there is a stigma surrounding mental health disorders and I DON’T CARE. I’m writing about it here and now because I am neither ashamed nor embarrassed.
In my senior year of college, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder accompanied by panic attacks (not frequent enough to be classified as panic disorder in its own right).
My college has a counseling center that is notorious for being awful. I do have a friend that had a positive experience, but she stands alone among my peers. I was unlucky enough to have received the-opposite-of-help from the counseling center while in the beginning stages of being medicated. The bottom dropped out, bridges were burned, friends who didn’t understand and had no empathy jumped ship, grades were destroyed, yadda yadda yadda–I GRADUATED. And I learned how to cope without meds and with the help of a strong support system of *true* friends and family.
The crappiest part about having an Anxiety Disorder is that you worry–A LOT (understatement of the year)– about things that normal people wouldn’t give a second thought.
- Maybe you made an off-color joke that your friend didn’t think was funny: you’ve obviously offended them down to their very souls, they will promptly shun you, and you’ll die alone.
- Maybe you have a pretty bad toothache: the tooth obviously needs to be removed ASAP, and the dentist will probably determine that ALL of your teeth need to be extracted, leaving you with two shining sets of gums to gnaw down whatever food you can, which will ultimately lead to depression and you giving up and wasting away on your living room floor, dying alone. [Or, it could be that a popcorn kernel got stuck in your gum and pops out the next day]
Basically, you take any ordinary situation, inflate the possible outcomes, and make all the “what ifs” end in dying alone.
That’s my day to day, and frankly, I’m not exaggerating (sadly). So you can imagine what it’s like to think of things that actually ARE stress inducing to even the most normal, most stable of people.
When I decide to take a “mental health day” from work, its meaning is legit. It’s also hard for me to call in sick, being a nanny, because: what if the parents had life changing meetings scheduled today, regarding blockbuster movie deals, and because of their lack of childcare, they couldn’t attend, which means they’ll have no money, which means I’ll get fired, lose my apartment/car/collection of children’s literature, have to live on the streets, and (you guessed it) die alone.
You think I’m joking but those were actual thoughts that ticker taped through my head while typing the text that I wouldn’t be in yesterday.
I laid in bed watching more Netflix than I’d like to admit (SCANDAL and The Paradise, for the most part) and got hungry for the first time around noon.
There are several fast food places near my apartment, and the lesser of all of those evils (my personal opinion) was Subway. Home of Jared and his magical, sandwich eating weight loss.
I started my walk, giving myself a pep-talk: “Hey, don’t waste this entire day. You’re not actually sick, you know, so you better get to work on ALL of the side projects you’ve been attempting to complete. Write that pilot and that treatment for a potential pitch, CLEAN your filthy apartment, wash the piles of laundry that are probably harboring mice by now, etc. etc”.
This “pep-talk” continued as I stood behind two of the slowest women to ever enter that sandwich chain. I mean REALLY. It’s deli meat. It’s an assortment of vegetables. It’s a few dressings. It’s not rocket science!
My vision focused in on my sandwich–sitting and waiting in cold cut purgatory while the idiots ahead of me decided how much lettuce was “enough”. But then–I noticed that my vision was blurring around that sandwich. My ears started to ring and my hearing became muffled. My heartbeat was moving so rapidly that I felt like I had just sprinted around a high school track. I broke out into a cold sweat that began to pool in my lower back.
I knew I was going down.
End of Part 1