There’s big magic in passing out.  Especially in the South, it seems, the swoon is no longer a thing of ladies in long gowns, sipping lemonade on the verandas of great ante-bellum mansions.

Oh, it was elegant then.  ‘Why Rhett, I think I have the vapors!’  A man could slip his arm into the small of her back as she fell to the ground in a ruffle and whoosh of satin or cotton.  It was all well-choreographed.  A fan was summoned, and the color returned to her fair cheeks.  ‘What an exciting afternoon!’  And everyone could retire to the dining room for dinner and cards.

These days, in the emergency department, I hear about ‘passing out’ a lot.  For the non-medical, we use the term ‘syncope’ to denote a sudden loss of consciousness.  As in ‘the patient experienced an episode of syncope when she realized how much her grocery bill was going to be.’  When placed in hand-cuffs for delinquent child-support, Robert became syncopal.’  Syncope comes in lots of flavors…that is, a lot of things can cause it, from the deadly (like cerebral hemorrhage or cardiac arrhythmia), to the banal, like say, being arrested, unhappy, angry or confused.  (In which case it may not actually be syncope…but that’s rather the point of what I’m saying, I suppose.)
But I’m quite convinced that one of the things that causes it is the enormous love of drama that modern humans seem to feel.  Especially humans of the younger variety, say 35-years-old and less.  Drama over relationships, job stress, ‘legal entaglements,’  all of these things seem to turn out the lights and leave young people unconscious in a frantic attempt to escape the unpleasant vagaries of, well, consciousness.

I have said, and continue to say, that I work in a Level I Drama Center!

She passed out, he passed out, they passed out, we passed out.  Everyone passed out, my daughter passed out, my son passed out, my grandma passed out, my dog passed out!

Worse still is the statement:  ‘I like ta’ passed out.’  Now, for those of you not fluent in Southern, that means ‘I experienced near-syncope.’  That is, felt like passing out but didn’t.  Or, one might say, hoped to pass out but just couldn’t.  Dang it.

It seems every other person I see ‘like ta’ passed out.’  In some ways, almost passing out is better drama, bigger magic, than the actual event.  The actual event may be troublesome.  For instance, actually passing out robs one of the experience of the drama itself.  Whilst unconscious, one cannot enjoy the fanning, running, screaming, crying, hugs or desperate kisses of friends and loved ones.  ‘Come back Carol-Anne!  Don’t go into the light!  You can do whatever you want!  It’s OK!’  If one has truly passed out, one may miss the confessions and declarations of love that are passed around by those in attendance.

Furthermore, if an ambulance ride and ER visit are not truly desired, syncope can be most inconvenient.  However, for many the ambulance ride and ER visit are the crowning glory, the golden ring of drama.  Unfortunately, there’s the pesky bill, which detracts (albeit much later) from the sheer delight of passing out.

Having said all this, I admire those who pass out.  In some ways, I wish I had the skill.  It must be liberating to succumb to the stress, to fall to the ground, give up the ghost.  I’ve spent my life trying hard to seem strong and competent.  The people who raised me, the wife I married, her family, our children, my role models, all are people who believe in seeing it through.  We have not, to my knowledge, had anyone pass out among the lot of us.  But I can’t help but be intrigued.

And here, I’ll give a compliment.  Passing out, or even almost passing out, has a grain of honesty in it.  It means that someone accepted that life was, for a little while, just too much.  It often is.  And often, we who try to put on masks of courage and strength, well we just muddle through as unhappy as can be, gritting our teeth, fighting our demons, but (here’s the problem) never admitting them, never confessing them, never facing them and never asking anyone, not even God, for help.

Maybe, when we pass out, it’s a kind of confessional. Without making an appointment with a counselor or psychiatrist, without reading a self-help book, someone who passes out with others in attendance simply cries out, ‘help me.’  I have to respect that a little.

So, have a great day, and try to admit your troubles and face them before someone has to slip an arm beneath you and bring you a glass of lemonade.  Because they won’t do it.  They’ll just call an ambulance and stick and IV in your arm, which is far less enjoyable than swooning on the veranda of life.


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