Lots of people experience anxiety or nervousness in their lives. It manifests in many different ways, some being more severe than others, but it’s never a nice feeling. Unfortunately, mine is something that’s very difficult to hide.
First of all, I want to discuss how fainting is portrayed in television, films and fiction. Suddenly, she fainted. A character sees blood, and all of a sudden collapses. There is no ‘sudden’ about it. This may be different for others, but in my (very informed) experience, the fainting process takes a good while to actually occur. First comes the nausea and sweat, which lasts for at least three minutes, depending on your situation. If you’re in a very stressful environment, it could take less time. Then comes the inability to steady your breathing. Then the eyes start to go, with black dots slowly closing in from either side, until you feel so sick, hot and dizzy that you lose consciousness. I normally come round after a couple of minutes. Even after waking up, you can’t move your arms and legs straight away because the blood has gone somewhere else. So all in all, the process is quite long and uncomfortable.
Having fainted so many times and in so many places (bathrooms, open days, work experience, you name it), it’s difficult not to be scared of it. You know what the recommendation from the doctor is? Don’t get yourself into stressful situations. How am I supposed to get along in life without doing just that? I can’t stay at home every day doing nothing. I have to do exams, go on trains, go to interviews, and meet new people. What’s the point otherwise? I mean, I take as many precautions as I can. Always have a bottle of water and food with me, glucose tablets, trying not to get too stressed. There has only been one time where I’ve actually managed to avoid fainting after getting to the black dots stage, and that was actually in an exam. I don’t know if it was because I was sitting down, my breathing or just sheer determination, but somehow I got through it. And, despite having my head in my hands and the amount of sweat I was producing, my friend sitting next to me didn’t even notice. I call that one of my greatest achievements.
Other times I wasn’t so lucky. The first time I fainted, I managed to hit my head on a sink on the way down, a bruise which didn’t go away easily I can tell you. The worst time was probably on work experience when I was 15. It was my first day, and the shop was absolutely boiling. I was already incredibly nervous of this new place, so this wasn’t a good situation. I was talking to an old woman, explaining about a product, when I swayed into her, before falling backwards and collapsing. I woke up to people crowding around me. I didn’t go back for a couple of days. Even though the process and the build up are completely horrendous, the embarrassment just tops it off. Fainting in my home, that’s fine. Fainting in public is not. Knowing that I could faint in public makes it worse because I know it will be embarrassing. And you always get those people who think they know what’s wrong with you. “You must be anemic,” I hear a lot. Guys, I’m not anemic. I’ve just been dealt this card by the hand of life. And I have to deal with it. And I’m not going to let it stop me from fulfilling my potential. There are other people who have far worse problems than me, so I choose to laugh at my previous fainting episodes. Hey, do you remember when I fell into that old woman at work experience, that was soooo embarrassing! Well, maybe not exactly like that, but I can still look at it positively.