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"Vasovagal syncope, also known as 'the common faint,' is mediated by emotion or by orthostatic stress

Inspiration for Overthinkers

May 20 · Issue #32 · View online
Tackling stress and anxiety, one experiment at a time.

“Vasovagal syncope, also known as ‘the common faint,’ is mediated by emotion or by orthostatic stress…The mechanism of vasovagal syncope is incompletely understood.” - The US National Library of Medicine, Management and Therapy of Vasovagal  SyncopeOct 2010.

Happy Sunday beautiful voyagers,
A couple of weeks ago, after putting the kids to bed, a close friend felt lightheaded and laid down on her bed. She proceeded to pass out twice in a row in front of her scared, confused husband. What in the hell was going on?
Aunt Pittypat needs her smelling salts (Gone with the Wind).
Aunt Pittypat needs her smelling salts (Gone with the Wind).
When I was 34, something similar happened to me. My husband was recovering from knee surgery he had earlier in the day, and when I got up at night to help him to the bathroom, I ended up out cold on the floor. I was confused. He was terrified.  
After visiting the doctor, I learned that I had what’s called “vasovagal syncope, ” or an overstimulation of the vagus nerve. I was intrigued to learn (from Wikipedia, sad to admit), that people with vasovagal syncope often experience their first fainting episode in their childhood or teen years. Many years may pass before they faint again. 
I also learned that warning my doctors about vasovagal would lead to different treatment. Armed with the information, doctors and nurses check in more frequently during medical procedures and encourage deep breathes and resting during blood draws.
But fainting’s a woman’s curse, right? Like so many gendered issues of the past, it’s not true. Vasovagal syncope affects women and men in roughly equal numbers
To that end, here’s a firsthand fainting story from fellow beautiful voyager Andrew B. from Canada. Andrew is generously sharing his experience to help others feel less alone.
I first fainted in the 4th grade. I think the teacher was reading aloud from “In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson” by Bette Bao Lord. There was a scene a chapter were two kids prick their fingers to make a blood bond. I remember everything going white. I started to regain consciousness and didn’t understand where I was. I could see the shape of two teachers above me. Before I was fully awake I decided I must have been dreaming so I slipped back under. I don’t remember how much time passed. I think my mother showed up at school to take me home.
Men and woman faint in roughly equal numbers.
Men and woman faint in roughly equal numbers.
He continues,
Another time was in late high school in science class. I don’t remember what the lesson was. Nothing particularly interesting to my memory. I was sitting at my desk when I suddenly felt a fluttering, queasy feeling above my stomach. I started to feel light headed, and my instinct was to turn in my seat so I could lower my head. The next thing I remember I was feeling the cold floor against my cheek, a throbbing pain in my head, and asking aloud “Why am I on the floor?” To which my teacher replied “That’s what I’d like to know."Apparently I scared the crap out of my friend who sat behind me. From his perspective, it looked like I just dropped dead out of nowhere. 
Many years passed before Andrew had another episode as an adult:
I fainted while having blood work done in a hospital. Regaining consciousness from that episode was the worst I’d ever experienced. I felt like I was surrounded by intense, chaotic noise - like a freight train rushing by. Everything was cloudy and white like bright fog. I remember asking "Where am I?” and when the Nurse replied “you’re in the hospital” everything finally started coming back into focus. 
Other people’s fainting stories fascinate me. They all seem so similar. Having spent much of my life thinking my emotions made me more vulnerable than others, this is a calming discovery. Yes, emotions can force my entire body to the ground, but by being open about it I can understand what’s happening and stay informed. Not being alone is the antidote. 
Have you ever fainted unexpectedly? What is your story? This community forum thread is a great place to share it.
Love, Meredith
Love, Meredith
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Thank you, BV Hero
My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed. My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed.
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