The time that I didn’t (fully) pass out

The following is (as usual) completely unedited, completely unplanned, and a complete stream of consciousness. It also mentions fainting and throwing up. Just saying.


I have almost a perfect record of having a vasovagal syncope (i.e. fainting) during any type of medical procedure. Procedure isn’t even the right word, I have (thankfully) not had that many procedures. More like: TB tests, blood draws, chiropractor appointments, gynecology appointments….you name it, I have probably fainted or thrown up during it.

So when I went to the doctor’s office today for an examination that involved a scope up my nose and into my sinuses, I knew the odds were not in my favor. As the doctor explained to me about the lidocaine and the scope, I already felt my body start to struggle. I told the doctor about my history and she very nicely said that it would be no problem, that she would have ice packs ready and she would recline my seat a bit. So I did okay at first, she was reminding me to breathe, and I was, but there’s just a stupid something that gets to me as soon as my brain registers “Holy crap there is something inside of me/going on with my body and I can’t control it and it’s gross/weird/not cool” and I felt that all-too familiar tingling of my hands and my toes and kind of at the back of my throat. I tried to breathe through it but the thoughts of “Oh my god what if this happens what if I pass out what if I throw up will I make it to the bathroom and oh my god this is making it worse I’m going to go down what do I do” kept coming, so for the first time IN MY LIFE, rather than trying to fight it on my own (because, you’d think after 987123987 times of this happening, I would know that it’s the anxiety about it happening that makes it even worse, and when I try to make it stop happening, it only makes it happen sooner), I was honest.

My eyes still closed, I calmly said, “I am going to throw up.” The doctor put a trash can next to me and very calmly replied, “Okay, go ahead right to your right.” She then reclined my seat even farther back so my head was deep below my heart, and she got me ice packs for my wrists and a cold cloth for my head. And there I was, allowing myself to be as vulnerable as possible, lying in the chair with my eyes scrunched shut, trying to breathe, cold packs all over me…..and I accepted it. I accepted that this is where I was, and I accepted that my vision was going dark and I knew I was safe and I knew that if/when I threw up or fully fainted, it would be okay, because I didn’t have to be in charge. I didn’t have to fight it.

I’ve never done that before. I’ve always fought it off, then desperately announced that I needed a bathroom, barely making it to the bathroom before my stomach empties and I pass out, then having to get myself to the sink, clammy and sweaty and exhausted.

I don’t know why this time was different. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the very first time in my life that I was able to stop it mid-way, before I fully went into darkness, was when I was proactive, and honest, asked for help and told it like it was.

And ten minutes later, I sat back up. And I drove home. And I was tired, and drained, but I was okay. It was so empowering to be able to stop it mid-way for the first time. And so empowering to be so vulnerable and have it be so……okay.

Author

Speech-Language Pathologist. Nature-loving, book-reading, coffee-drinking, mismatched-socks-wearing, Autism-Awesomeness-finder, sensitive-soul Bostonian.

7 comments

  1. I can relate to this post, so thank you for writing it!! I have a true phobia of throwing up, and although, thank G-d, I don’t tend to get a vasovagal reaction to procedures, i do get really anxious in certain situations and get that feeling like I might pass out. I understand what you are saying about knowing that it’s the anxiety making it worse, but being unable to accept that that is the reason for the feelings and being unable to accept the whole situation at all. And on the few occasions where I do accept it or talk about it, oh my gosh, it’s such an amazing feeling. I know that I what I wrote just now probably doesn’t make any sense, but what I basically wanted to say was that I can completely relate, and I really appreciate you talking about it publicly (something I am not so ready to do, minus commenting on your blog).

  2. Isn’t it amazing what happens when we tell it like it is, and ask for what we need? That’s not always easy for us people that have anxiety. Good job! :)

  3. I have been reading your blog for a while now and I want to say thank you. Thank you for your bravery and posting your intimate and honest thoughts. Thank you for being raw and real, and also for posting things that you don’t edit too. It makes the world of difference because, unlike many other blogs I’ve read, you are believable. I have learned so much from you, about myself and about my daughter, everything from coping tools to strategies for myself to helping my daughter without taking away from who she is. I am a highly sensitive introvert with a panic disorder, I have a child with autism, and though I’m not on the spectrum, I’m definitely close enough to “get it”. I often feel like your in my head as I read. Thid morning I read your latest entry about the brain. I was just this week explaining to my daughters new school that when I feel like she’s hitting, what I call, “system overload” And she will have a very hard time communicating, I do one of two things, depending on the situation. I either say something like “Baby, it looks like your having a hard time, I understand, and I promise it’s okay. Mommy sometimes gets very overwhelmed when things change too. Then sometimes I start to feel frustrated because I don’t want to be overwhelmed and I don’t know why I am overwhelmed. When this happens, you know what helps me? I take nice deep breaths. Would you like to try taking deep breaths and see if it helps you too?” That kind of talk often helps her calm. Though, she’s at the point where I know talking to her will make things worse, I try talking to one of her toys instead and let her observe which takes the pressure off her. Now, I definitely want to try the “is your brain…” Technique and see if that might be better as it sounds simpler. I am working on, for myself, learning to “drop the rope” in the midst of a panic. That one has been really hard to remember in the moment, but when I do eventually get it, I am confident that it will make a big difference. Every time I read one of your posts, I either cry or smile (or both) as I’m thinking “she gets it” or “I’m not alone”. And I often re-read them, when I remember “last time this happened, I felt so much better after reading one of Jen’s posts about this.” Again, thank you, and I wanted to share this because I think you’ve helped a lot more people than you may realize, and, well, your awesome :)

    1. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for this comment! While I always know in my core that there are people out there who can relate, who get it, and who are glad I’m writing, it’s always reassuring and heartwarming to hear it. It sounds like we are kindred spirits – similar down to the very wiring of our brain and body system. It sounds like you are doing incredible work for your daughter – she is lucky to have such a sensitive, intuitive, determined mom. If you can relate so much to what I’m writing, I bet I’d relate to you. Have you ever thought about blogging? Or, at the very least, shoot me an email? I would so love to talk more. organizedbabble@gmail.com – <3

      1. Oh my goodness!! Ohhh it makes me so happy to hear from you. Please please send me an email or Facebook message, I would love to chat and maybe see you and meet your little one one day?

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