A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.
Hippocrates (460 BC – 377 BC), Regimen in Health
That quotation is probably bullshit. Still, health is important; to enjoy life, you must be capable of enjoying life – you have to be healthy.
In Part 1, I told you about the first time that I passed out, and the second time which followed a few moments later. I chopped my nail in half and must have spread chilli into the wound on my nailbed. It was like rubbing salt into it, only worse and with added stabbyness. I fainted, and then got over it, but not without having an interesting experience.
This post, Part 2, will come as a bit of an anticlimax.
Nearly 2 months ago, not long before I wrote Part 1, I woke up and went to sit at the computer. It was about 10 o’clock. About an hour and a half later, my vision started to go, much like it does sometimes when standing up (orthostatic hypotension). But, after a few seconds, my vision didn’t clear, and the fuzziness spread. I thought I was going to be sick.
The next thing I knew, I could hear a loud noise. I opened my eyes. My first thought was: “what the hell are my glasses doing there? What? Huh? Why do they look like that? They’re bent! Er… I don’t remember anything happening to my glasses…”1 I had no idea where I was. It’s hard enough to recognise your room from the floor in the best of conditions,2 but with the total emptiness of my mind at the point that I woke up, I was scared3.
It took me a few seconds to work out my location and what had happened. I was sitting at the computer, reading a Wikipedia article, and then… I must have passed out. Shit.
I examined myself mentally – everything was still there4, although my head felt strange, and the noise was still there5. I was positioned on the ground, legs stretched out behind me and my hands, palms down, level with my face as if the police had just said “hands up!”. I had clearly landed on my head6, but it wasn’t exactly painful.
I passed out before I hit the ground – as evidenced by the loss of vision and the lack of memory of the impact with the ground. Fortunately that meant I didn’t get to conciously experience the immediate head pain as it hit the ground. I bet it hurt7. But it makes me think: I now know what it feels like to be “dead before you hit the floor” such as when you’re shot between the eyes. It feels like absolutely nothing8. Nothing as in the thing of which rocks dream9. Except for the failing vision being replaced by someone raising a gun at me, it would have felt the same10.
But how long had I been out for? I really didn’t know, and that’s troubling. My gut feeling was that I was only out for seconds11, but without a witness or having looked at a clock before and after, there’s no way I could know. I may have experienced ‘life flashing before my eyes’12, but 2 months on, I’m not sure if I did, and that might have just been when I was waking up anyway. That aside, my mind was definitely completely empty for a time, hence probably incapable of recording how long I had been unconscious. Strange.
I picked up my glasses, popped the lenses back into place, and then put them on. They didn’t fit properly any more. I stayed there for a minute, shocked, and then got up and walked to my bed. My conscious history had just recorded its first13 clean break14.
Why did it happen? I don’t know, though I’ve had some ideas. The day before I’d felt unwell – in a general way, with a bit of a headache and nausea, though nothing major. I remember that at the time my vision started to go, I’d just read something which rather worried me. Could that have set something in motion? I’d also not eaten or drunk anything in about 20 hours, so maybe it was that. Alternatively, there could have been something seriously wrong with me, but as I have not passed out since, that’s probably not the case. That does mean that I’ve not been able to collect any more data to help prove my ideas, but every silver lining…
I went to my Doctor; she asked me some questions and I answered them truthfully. It would have been useful if someone had witnessed my passing out, but unfortunately there wasn’t15. She did a few standard tests (testing reflexes and balance, listening to my heart and so on) and they caused no concern (although I seem to have no reflexes in my arms). She also took my pulse and blood pressure. I’m very nervous about going to the doctors, particularly at a time like this: it was my first time going alone, and I was also anxious that something could be seriously wrong with me. Both were very elevated, but I think they could be explained by my anxiety, and the Doctor wasn’t overly worried16. Anyway, she recommended nothing but to return immediately if I passed out again.
Sleeping aside, I’ve been conscious ever since.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my health recently. As far as I know, I’m not ill, but it seems like most days I have minor complaints that, although not serious, mean I rarely go long without thinking – and worrying – about my health. I hate just how completely tied my conciousness – ‘me‘ – is to this body, a mass of blood and guts and bacteria, which is inevitably going to fail. I realise that there is no other way; I just hope that it will keep going well into my old age.
I will do my best to treat it well.
- To be honest, it was probably much less coherent than that. [↩]
- Try it now – get out of your chair and put your head down on the ground. Doesn’t it look different? I sometimes like to look at the world upside down or in a mirror or even just from unusual angles, because it looks so different. It’s fun and I’m strange. [↩]
- Is that what it feels like to lose your mind? To have Alzheimer’s? [↩]
- When I went to see the Doctor, she asked me if I had been incontinent. Thankfully not. [↩]
- It was like the sound of loud white noise, and I managed to get it to go away a few minutes later by shaking my head a bit and listening to sounds. Maybe my brain’s hearing circuitry wasn’t tuned in. Probably not an apt analogy, but still cool. [↩]
- And banged my legs badly on the way down. In the next few days, extensive bruises formed. I must be a heavy bastard. [↩]
- I would know. Today, I stupidly jumped when I happened to be in a doorway. I smacked my head against the top of the doorframe with tremendous force. My head still hurts from that, but I remained concious. [↩]
- I would have just cut to black, like the end of The Sopranos, and by black I mean nothing. [↩]
- I’m sorry to steal that definition from the creationists, but I like it. [↩]
- And also without the waking up part. [↩]
- That’s what I told my Doctor. [↩]
- Where ‘life’ is replaced by ‘completely random stuff’. [↩]
- When I chopped my finger in Part 1, I was vaguely aware that I was passing out, even though I’d never done it before. That was more like a conscious falling asleep. [↩]
- Am I still the same person? Is Picard the same person after using the transporter? Who knows. [↩]
- That would have helped differentiate between a seizure and just a faint. [↩]
- Of course, I now worry that I have high blood pressure. If I do I’m fucked. [↩]