Sunday, October 28, 2012

For the Faint of Heart

You know what is really a good move? Pumping enough blood to your brain. I recommend doing it as often as possible. If you can’t manage that, though, the next best option is failing at this activity as dramatically as possible.

The first plan fell through for me last month, but I made good progress on the second one by passing out backstage during a performance of Pride & Prejudice. Conveniently for the show but less so for achieving maximum attention, I didn’t have any more lines or appearances for the night.

Instead, I woke up to the ministrations of Mr. Darcy’s housekeeper from the great Pemberley estate, who also happened to be a retired nurse. We were shortly joined by a collection of extremely quiet paramedics, while the other actors balanced between concern and not missing their entrances for the last half hour of the play. The ambulance team seemed a little disappointed that they didn’t get to remove me directly from the stage, so there’s room to improve for next time.

Shortly after we arrived at the hospital I remembered that no one knew I had come straight from Regency England without a chance to change, so I began introducing myself to every approaching staff member.

One of the techs had already taken it all in stride.

The wardrobe situation also resulted in a sheepish call from the stage manager to my parents, who arrived at the hospital shortly after I did.

In the end they diagnosed me with “high vagal tone,” which basically means that various situations can set off an involuntary nervous response that slows down my heart rate and limits blood flow to my brain. Several of the triggers are related to neglectful self-care, leading back to the whole “stop doing dumb things and you’ll be fine” principle that gives me so much trouble.

It turns out that my central nervous system is a lot like one of those kids who hold their breath when they throw tantrums. Its motivations don’t match the average toddler’s, though.

Now I have a list of potential triggers to watch for, including overexertion, dehydration, emotional stress, and my favorite item as explained by one of the ER personnel, “prolonged standing, sitting, or lying down.”

Thanks to this experience, I can begin giving more credence to my body’s signals and the advice of medical professionals and make the healthy choices of a responsible adult. Or there’s emotional manipulation.

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