Passing Out in a Public Place: The Lifetime Art of Fainting


Each person in my family has at least one fainting story.  We also have some amazing IBS stories, but I’ll spare you those for now.  The following lessons are ones that I learned through trial and error.  These are only a small percentage of them. Oh, and this post is not for the faint of heart (pun intended).

 Lesson #1–Never skip a meal.

I was 9 years old when I began my fainting legacy.  It all started with the Homeschool Field Day where I was signed up to run in the 50 yard dash.  I was so excited that morning before we left, that I forgot to eat my usual bowl of Raisin Bran and banana.    My only goal was to beat my arch-nemesis Sarah (because she was mean and bossy and a know-it-all). I ran my little heart out and placed 3rd.  Much to my chagrin, Sarah placed 2nd and was all too happy to remind me of that months later.

After the race, I started to feel sick to my stomach.  I started puking and told the nearest adult who assured me, “You’ll be okay honey. You’re fine.  Go find your Momma.”  So off I went.  A few steps into that journey (that felt like a lifetime), I learned what it felt like to go unconscious for the first time.  Five more blackouts and two pukes later, I was crawling army style, drenched in a cold sweat, to my Mom’s feet.  Knowing full well that I was the least dramatic of her children, she immediately whisked me back home.  She was a nurse in her pre-children years, so I’m pretty sure that any medical situation that arose made her feel alive.  And as a side note, being a nurse and having 9 children, go hand-in-hand.

Lesson #2–Fainting is not “as seen on TV.”

When I imagine people who faint, I imagine fragile-looking southern belles holding fans, and placing a delicately gloved hand to the forehead whenever something gritty occurs.  I also imagine the little sigh that always accompanies the TV faint.  This, I assure you, is not the case. Fainting, is an ugly business.

Lesson #3–If you pass out and happen to be skinny, people will assume that you’re anorexic.

I was about 17 and had just passed out in the middle of a 2 hour choir concert, wearing an oversized black sequined robe (it looked like a sequined tent).  A man caught me and brought me backstage where a woman gave me orange juice, saltines and an excellent lecture about how anorexia kills people. Had I eaten today? Yes?  Well, obviously not enough to sustain a wren. Oh, and Jesus loves you for who you are on the inside…

 Lesson #4–Scratch what was learned in Lesson #1

I once fainted while visiting my friend Heidi in the ICU (earning me the eternal nickname “fainting girl” with her family).  That one was a really bad one.  I had just eaten lunch moments before we entered her room and after about 10 minutes, I passed out.  A very good-looking male nurse picked me up and placed me in a chair in the hallway.  It took me about an hour going in and out of consciousness to fully come around.  I didn’t even get to visit Heidi.

Lesson #5–Fainting mostly occurs in the most embarrassing/inconvenient places possible.

The most recent one was last night.  We were having dinner on the river walk in San Antonio.  It was a lovely balmy evening. We had finished dinner, and I knew something wasn’t right.  As the minutes dragged on, (and according to Ethan and my face became paler), our dinner companion began telling a gruesome story about having his back stapled after an accident.  Normally, not a problem.  Last night, however, big problem.  To me, that’s the worst thing about fainting.  Everyone thinks that it’s because of something they said or did that set you off.  So, I waited until he was done with his story to whisper to Ethan “I’m going to pass out.”  Ethan knew what that meant and prepared himself in case I fell.  Our dinner companion thought I meant I was tired.

It always starts with ringing in my ears, tunnel vision and voices become unintelligible.  So, I lay my head in my arms on the table, and began the vomit/swallow routine (I refuse to puke in the middle of a restaurant).  By the time I felt well enough to raise my head, all of my hair and clothes were soaked through with sweat as if someone had just thrown me in the river. Our dinner companion seemed a little freaked out.  And to me, that’s the worst part.  It always freaks people out.  On the other hand, it sort of reminds me of superhero movies where the hero is secretly battling the enemy who is trying to gain mind control or Super Man, trying to hold up against kryptonite. Haha.

So there you have it.  If you ever faint, and feel embarrassed, think of me 😉