Tuesday 23 March 2010

Face Validity

Although I generally hide it well you may have some sense that I am rather unimpressed with the terms my doctors use to describe what I experience with Bob. The term 'Simple Faint' is my nails on a chalk board. Even thinking about it leaves me with a chill down my spine, a rapidly sucked in sphincter and a very unattractive lemon sucking grimace.

Each time my doctor uses it I want to hold her down and make her smell my elderly father's paint-peeling, kitten-killing, shoe funk, until she agrees to never use those hideous words again. Yes, I do think it's healthy to add a little humour to your torture techniques. 

Of the many, many, oh so many, years of Statistics, Statistical Methods, Research Methods, or Mind Numbing Useless Number Crap Techniques, classes that are forced upon you if you decide stupidly to undertake a psychology career (sounded like a good idea at the time), the one thing I remember clearly is the concept of Face Validity.  Does a test look like what it is supposed to measure?  For me the term 'simple faint' is not up to the task.  It reminds me of the Black Knight's scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

(BLACK KNIGHT:  'Tis but a scratch.
  ARTHUR:  A scratch?  Your arm's off!
  BLACK KNIGHT:  No, it isn't.
  ARTHUR:  Well, what's that then?
  BLACK KNIGHT:  I've had worse).

But I am aware that I could potentially be over-reacting thanks to my irrational hatred.  I think that I may actually benefit from a reality check from those with more than 3 brain cells.  I may also benefit from a Xanax, yet another bottle of sav blanc and years of therapy, but that is for another post.  So I thought I'd try and capture what a little of what a 'simple faint' feels like for the uninitiated.  Let me know.

It begins with a whisper.  Soft, unintelligible words.  A shiver runs down my spine and my body tingles.  Something is wrong.  The whisper becomes a murmur.  Troubled voices mingled together.  A persistent rising hum suffuses my body.  I try to shake it off but it is is determined, it will not be stopped.  A sense of danger, intangible, threatening, swirls in shadows on the edge of my vision.  My mind begins racing, struggling to try an make sense of the insensible.  It has begun.

A faint sheen of sweat springs up all over my body and I begin to tremble.  The world loses cohesion for a split second, reality rips and tumbles. Then, just as suddenly, I am slammed sharply into focus. Lights are brighter, sounds piece my ears, razor sharp and deafening.  I struggle to breathe, to collect myself.  Suddenly the world dims.  Images are moving, distorted, bloated, shrinking.  The world appears as seen though the bottom of a drinking glass.  Arctic gusts and Saharan heat war for control, moving through my body.  My senses cry out unable to find equilibrium.  Waves of nausea hit and the world is turned upside down once more.  My face tingles as I feel my blood retreat deep within me.  A primal drive to preserve the heart and internal organs by sacrificing the extremities. It cannot be overridden.

My mind races and the murmur becomes a roar.  I struggle to focus.  To will my body to stillness.  To quite the growing storm within.  The world is slipping from my grasp.  I am trapped in a clammy embrace from which I cannot escape.  I try to speak but cannot form words.  Meaningless sounds fall from my lips.  Anaesthetised muscles refuse to coordinate.  My tongue is thick, my mouth dry.  I disparately try to stop the vomit rising in my throat.  Wave upon wave of nausea crash upon me as I struggle to reclaim control.  

Time no longer has meaning.

I am caught in a maelstrom of my body's own tormented design.  The world tilts and rocks, I am thrown against the walls of my house.  Afloat on an invisible rocking boat.  I am buffeted by winds no one else feels. The real world dissolves.   With each step my muscles begin to lose cohesion and strength fails.  My body loses its grip on the corporeal and becomes a thing of mist and fog.   I am caught in a waterfall, deafened by the torrent that surrounds me.  I cannot make out  the voices beyond the storm.  Fragments of words pierce the roar.  Safety in the form of my couch retreats from my outstretched hand. Receding into the distance that I can no longer traverse.  Invisible hands hold me, pulling me towards the ground.   The carpet beneath my feet turns to quicksand and I am caught.  I sink down, melting into the ground beneath me.  I can no longer resist, the world is lost. 

Darkness closes over me.

Sound.  Soft and muted.  Incomprehensible at first, meaning slowly returns. The hum of the lights.  A bird calling outside the window.  Voices in the street.  A faint light appears.  I struggle to focus through the tea stained water before me.  Distant at first.  Then as if recognises my rising awareness it rushes closer and closer slamming me back into reality.  

My body aches.  My head pounds.  The carpet beneath my cheek feels rough, prickly against my stressed skin.  All encompassing exhaustion resonates throughout my body.  I groan as I strain to raise my head.  My head spins as I manage to sit up, my body proped against the wall. 

I struggle to rise.  First to my knees and finally to my feet.  I stumble unsteadily to the couch, now but a few steps from me.  I slump onto the soft cushions.  Eyes close and I breath slowly.  Weakness suffuses my body.  Sleep slowly takes over.  No strength is left to fight off it's comforting arms.  Peace.

Simple?  No?  It's probably important to mention that this can occur over the course of a couple of minutes or a few seconds, depending on the day.  YAY.

So on that note, I bid you adieu fair readers and leave you with another classic Monty Python moment.  The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog:

(Tim the Enchanter: That's no ordinary rabbit! That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!).

Michelle :)


  1. Good grief. Complex faint is more like it. You make me terribly grateful for the simple things, though. Maybe that's where the name comes from.

  2. Ellie - I often think if that's simple I don't want to know about complex. Have I told you I love your blog? You're an amazing writer. Okay I'll stop being geeky fan girl now.

  3. I have never been able to describe what happens with "simple faints" so well as you have with this post! Thus far, my descriptions have left others wondering if I had a near death experience, although perhaps it does feel like that at the time.

  4. Ericka - it does feel like dying some days. Sometimes I can stop it in the early stages if I can get to a couch or to the ground quickly, especially with meds, but on a bad day it just happens. I hate feeling like I have no control over my body. As soon as you feel that first change, Ugh!

  5. That is such an amazing description of how it feels to pass out. I absolutely HATE the term faint and I try my best not to use it because it sounds so....so trivial. And losing consciousness is in no way trivial! Usually, I don't just pass out. I pass out, fall and usually injure myself in some way. Then there's the whole ordeal of trying to get back up again. It is very painful for me. *sigh* Thank you for describing it in a way I could not put into words.

    I also appreciate you visiting my blog and reading my Dysautonomia FAQ series. It took me a very, very long time to prepare it because I DO deal with all the brain fog and fatigue, but I'm glad I finally finished it. If it is helpful to even just one person it will have been worth the work!

    I went back in and added the DARE site. I'm excited about it and I'm looking forward to reading what all you already have posted there!

    Well,I hope you have a 'good' day! Come visit again soon!


    Teresa <><

  6. Wow...I HATE that you go through that. Sounds TERRIBLE. I hate that you go through that- holy crap! You described it so well- so that those us without Bob can see into the window of what it's like for you. Sounds painful and exhausting.

    You deserve chocolate. All the time.

  7. Holy God. That was bananas. I may have to lay on the couch a bit to recover from that. If that's a simple faint, they should also call it a simple quadruple bypass. Yeesh.

  8. What a revealing description. Sure, 'Simple Faint' shows no appreciation of the art and effort you put into it at all. You mentioned that some of them last a couple of minutes! Good grief, now I'm swooning for you. It's so frustrating to hear that the god Science has no answer to these torments you're facing.

    I'm very much enjoying your blog Michelle. I think your honesty, intensity and black humour are all just excellent!

  9. Well its official I have lost the plot, I have just clicked on your responses to comments and thought I am sure I recognise that blog!! um, that would make sense wouldn't it Michelle as Rusty Hoe is you afterall! I must try to concentrate harder..... Extremely good post.
    Have you changed your background, my free blog is so boring in comparison to most from the otherside of the world.

    You are a talented writed Michelle. I am just so sorry you have to endure this awful awful ofen misunderstood condition.

  10. Hey Michelle,
    I always feel bad because I piss myself laughing when I read your blog, even when it's about how crappy dysauto life can be. I think anyone who has experienced syncope/near syncope would agree that the term "simple faint" is infuriating and condescending and patronising and just makes you want to slap someone.

  11. Aw Michelle, I hear you. I've faced similar issues with my doctors who tend to act like my symptoms are insignificant once it's proven I'm not in danger. It's so demeaning, as if my quality of life means nothing.

    I've never fainted, but I imagine it would be pretty traumatic: fear, embarrassment. I don't imagine you could ever get used to fainting.

    The above commenter is so right. "Simple faint" is so patronizing. The physical and emotional impact must be anything but simple. Shame on anyone for expecting you should just be able to get up and carry on like nothing happened.

    I'm really sorry you have to go through this. I'm so glad I found you on BlogHer (I'm Healthy Perhaps). Please feel free to vent to me any time. I've dealt with health problems and disability issues for my entire 24 years of life. I started blogging about everything last November and I've been trying to create a community of people also dealing with illness. I hope you visit me sometime soon!

  12. Wow I've been really slack on responding so sorry.

    Teresa - for the most part I haven't injured myself past bruises, mind you I collect them like other people do stamps thanks to my clumsiness. Thanks for dropping my DARE.

    Lucy - I do deserve chocolate. You are so tops.

    Elly Lou - I vote for couch lying as that's my favourite past time.

    Diver - Thanks for visiting Diver. Anyone who appreciates a bit of black humour is always welcome.

    Achelois - The plot is terribly over-rated. I lost mine a long time ago so now I just live a life of whimsy. I love my new background and it's free woo hoo!

    Sunburnt Earth - feel free to laugh. I've worked out it's my gift to the world. Gotta be a bonus to my insanity.

    Loveable Homebody - it's not a joy to live with but somehow you always pick yourself up. I love blogging, though always used to laugh at those who did, kinda like FB and now I'm addicted. This has been my venting place since last year and it's worked so well. I'll pop over and say hi.

  13. brilliant description and oh so recognisable. Thanks!


All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx

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