I’m a passer-outer. I don’t exactly know if that’s a word, but I pass out. Frequently. I have what is called a “vasovagal response”. While this sounds like some sort of gelatinous ointment one would put on one’s lady nether-regions, it is, in fact, just a medical term used to describe fainting in response to a trigger. For some people the trigger could be seeing blood, or having a fright, or even getting good news. For me the trigger is much less cute and dainty. My trigger is having diarrhea or vomiting. Yep, that’s right. So, as if having explosive diarrhea and/ or puking my guts out isn’t terrible enough, there is the chance that I may also black out, lose control of whatever bodily fluids I have left and fall on the floor. This is most likely to occur in a bathroom where I’ve either been sitting on the pot or leaning over it, so I end up laying on a bathroom floor. It is bad enough when I am at home where I live with three males with bad aim; but it is absolutely horrifying when I am in someone else’s bathroom, especially a public one.
While falling down on gross bathroom floors is pretty awful, it does make for some pretty funny after-the-fact stories. The most memorable for me (and all involved) occurred on February 14, 2001. It was the first Valentine’s Day my husband and I spent as a married couple. We went out to dinner that night and I must have gotten food poisoning because I woke up in the middle of the night with horrible cramping. Like bent over, thinking I was going to die, tears coming out of my eyes cramping. While my husband lay snoring softly in our bed, I was in the bathroom clutching my gut and expelling everything I had ever eaten. Ever. From both ends at the same time. I started to see black spots swimming around in my vision, but I didn’t pay much attention because I was also trying not to die from the extreme pain. And also from the horrible smells that were now circulating in my bathroom.
I started to feel like something was really wrong with me and, as soon as I could, I got up to tell my husband that I didn’t feel well. Misery loves company, right? I went to his side of the bed wearing only some tiny, lacy underwear (it was Valentine’s Day and we were newlyweds after all) and tried to wake him up. Only I didn’t get the chance because before I knew what was happening, I passed out. On top of my husband. And, as mentioned earlier, sometimes when one passes out, one also loses control of one’s bowels. I shit diarrhea in my lacy panties. The practical, booty-covering, laceless briefs I wear nowadays would have been able to handle an onslaught of that proportion a bit better. My cute, pre-babies, still in my early twenties, Victoria’s Secret undergarments were not sufficiently equipped.
So my dear husband woke up to me, draped over him like a sweaty, stinky corpse, with diarrhea running down my legs and onto the floor. I woke up to him saying "What the hell?" and then “Sweetheart?” while lightly slapping me in the face until I came to. It’s hard to keep romance alive in a relationship when you’ve accidentally attacked your husband with a middle of the night diarrhea-explosion, so it was an unspoken rule that we would pretend the whole ordeal never happened and NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN. Until now, I guess.
Fast forward a few years. Again, I woke up in the middle of the night with horrible stomach pains. Again with the gut emptying diarrhea. By this point in our marriage I had given birth once or twice. I remember thinking that the pain I was incurring on that particular night was worse than childbirth and wondering if I could get an epidural somehow. Is there a 1-800 number with epidural home deliveries? There should be. Before long I knew that I was going to pass out. My vision was going dark, there was a loud, roaring sound in my head; so I did what anyone who has experience with passing out would do. I put my head down between my knees, below my heart. No, actually I didn’t do that. I should have done that. What I did do was stand up and start to walk out of the bathroom to wake up my husband to tell him I didn’t feel well. BECAUSE I DIDN’T LEARN MY LESSON FROM THE FIRST GO-AROUND?!?!
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. Instead, I passed out against the closed bathroom door. The loud crash woke up my husband who came to the bathroom to see what was wrong. Because I was slumped against the door, he obviously couldn’t get in, but he didn’t know what was blocking the door so, naturally, he just kept pushing it as hard as he could. Over and over. Against my head and neck. I finally came to, but then ended up going to the ER for what I thought was a broken neck. After x-rays, a visit from social services to make sure my husband wasn’t abusing me, and a few blood tests later, I was released and told to take some Advil. I also learned the term “vasovagal” during that visit, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.
These days I know what to do if I find myself in a similar situation. My husband and I have devised an elaborate foot stomp signal so he knows to come help me in the bathroom. Because, you know, holding up your wife while she is sitting on the toilet having diarrhea so she doesn’t fall onto the bathroom floor where your sons have peed is the ultimate display of love.
Keeping the romance alive over here. Keeping the romance alive.