What It Felt Like When I Fainted

Perhaps I should begin by saying that the idea of fainting, for me, used to be associated with shame: it threatened a masculine fantasy of toughness and invulnerability (which in my case was first punctured as a child when I was put to sleep for a minor operation). I say 'masculine' because I suspect it is more common among men: but there is nothing manly about it; it is rather a sign of anxiety and insecurity, or at least in my case it was. I have got over this feeling and am now more interested in describing the experience.

It happened a long time ago: I must have been seventeen. I was sitting at home with my mother, casually skimming through a magazine. I came upon someone's description of having a heart attack. The subject was of no interest to me, but I read on. Then I fainted.

But how do you describe the experience behind those words? I remember this much, at any rate. The person in the article described pains in his chest: I started to feel a pressure weighing down on my own chest, and a strange sleepiness. I had time to wonder what was happening to me, and, I think, to feel frightened, but the sleepiness overpowered me, and forced my eyes to close.

I opened them. I was slumped in my chair, probably sweating. My mother said I had fainted. To me it felt as if I had just closed my eyes for a second, and I tried to convince her it was nothing more than that, but she was clear that I had actually passed out. Had she woken me, I wonder, by calling to me? How long I was unconscious, I don't know. I was too embarrassed to think of asking. But would I even have known for sure I had fainted, if my mother had not been there? At the time I was ashamed of my weakness (as I thought of it) and angry with myself. But after all I would be sorry now not to know what it feels like to faint.

Macmann Macmann 56-60, M May 2, 2013

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