Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Swoon - fiction & reality (okay and a bit of a whine!)

I've read a lot of books where female characters swoon or pass out with great effect at pivotal moments. The fiestier characters tend to only be be pretending to faint to gain their own nefarious aims. Lesser, irritating characters swoon at inopportune moments to cause great inconvenience to all. Characters often fall gracefully to the ground on hearing horrific news. 
All of which tends to make me cranky. 
I faint quite a bit. Not yearly, not even every second year, but enough that I'm always a little bit worried, and that I have very vivid memories of exactly what it feels like - at least for me. 
I am considering having one of my most adventurous, hard-talking protagonists (male or female, I'm yet to decide) faint, just so I can finally read a description that seems vaguely accurate. 
The first time I fainted I was about thirteen and went on a school 'fun' run and then had a violin lesson which involved lots of standing and the teacher shouting at me, while I found it increasingly hard to take in what she was saying. Hot and clammy, the edges of the world started blurring, and then the teachers rather large face (or possibly just overly close to mine) took on a greeenish tinge, and then became entirely green, and dappled, and she turned into a toad. 
And I woke up to find myself lying on the floor. 
I managed to avoid fainting for quite a few years, although remained prone to dizziness. For awhile I tended to dizziness after giving blood, but then I was banned from giving blood as I lived in Britain for more than six months in the eighties. When I could give blood, they often refused to take it, as my blood pressure was too low. 
And then pregnancy. So far I've fainted at least once with each pregnancy, and multiple times with the first two. 
The stupid thing is, I know exactly what causes it: Not enough water, not enough breakfast and standing up too much. 
The first time I was doing teaching rounds and stood in the gym through two periods of kids doing activites. I think I ate breakfast: I assume it came up . Again; losing track of what's going on, the clamminess, the non-comprehending, the blackness around the edges - and out for the count. 
Some months later - first day at a new job, in a hurry, skipped breakfast - and... out for the count. 
The first faint with the Poppet was dramatic as it was in the International Airport, just as we were heading off for our Big Trip. The rush of getting to the airport on time, not enough breakfast, standing in queue for our bags to go through... and yep... same old same old. But this time I staggered away to find a seat, got separated from my Beloved and dizzily lost in the airport. I can't quite remember if the Sprocket was strapped to my tummy, but I do remember it wasn't fun. The second was just at a Sunday market - hot day, lots of walking, not enough breakfast - and... here it comes again... 
Of course, the thing that reminded me was... fainting again... 
This time, in a shopping centre, with the Poppet having a tantrum over being denied the pink-princess-skateboard-she-can't-live-without. This time, I worked out a few minutes in advance what was happening. When the clamminess, blurred vision, dizziness, nightmare-vibe struck, I had a fair idea what was happening. I lunged for the Poppet, grabbed her, plonked us both on the floor and looked desperately around for someone to look after her while I was blacked out. Luckily, there was someone both calm and capable close by, who promised not to let Poppet run away and get lost (probably with a pink-princess-skateboard for ease of mobility) and, assured Poppet was safe... yep, all went black again. Everyone was very helpful. The staff of the shop brought me water and helped me to a chair when I recovered enough . But it was scary, distressing, and more than a little humiliating, to have to ask for help, being sprawled in the aisle of a shopping centre.
And all because in the rush of getting the kids ready for kindy I hadn't eaten or drunk enough. A finely calibrated system and low blood pressure can really suck. 
I read a lot of fantasy. Amazing characters doing amazing feats, without food, sometimes for days (hours seems long to me) and they're perfectly fine. They function. They even - gasp - skip breakfast. Let alone second breakfast. (Maybe I'm part Hobbit?) 
Just once, I'd like to read of a hero (male or female) fainting because, you know, they've forgotten to drink enough water or run out of the house without breakfast before that gruelling twelve hour training session or mad life-or-death dash through the forest or fate-of-the-kingdom-in-the-balance-horseride. 
But looks like I'm going to have to write it! 


  1. So well described I am feeling woozy as I read! Jean

    1. Oosh - I'm sorry for making you feel woozy - I wouldn't wish it on anyone! And thank you very much for visiting!

  2. I passed out a few times growing up from skipping meals, from getting out of a hot bath too quickly, and multiple times during both pregnancies. I remember my mom when I was younger mocking movies were the women passed out and that's how they knew they were pregnant because "women don't faint when pregnant." Well, I do. I topple right over. I've never done it from emotional duress, but it is in the realm of possibility.

    1. Hot baths - of course - another trigger! Pregnant women definitely faint and I can certainly see it as an indicator of pregnancy in earlier times - although you'd hope there'd be others as well! I am glad I'm not alone - although, obviously, I wish for your sake you'd managed to avoid it! I find especially when I've got both kids with me or am driving I have to be so careful to do all I can to ensure I don't get dizzy!