Her eyes roll back into her head and she falls unconscious to the floor. Steven Lake describes what happened to his wife.
My wife’s experience of letting go did not happen in the bedroom. I’m not sure if she would let me write about that. Rather, it happened in a public place, a restaurant to be exact.
We were out with a friend celebrating the New Year and, as the appetizers arrived, my wife stood up and said that she was going to the washroom. She then sat back down. Our friend and I continued talking and as I looked at my wife she bent over to her right, and I thought, is she looking for her purse? And then she continued her motion and fell on the floor.
She was sprawled out on the floor on her side. I rushed to her and as I bent down I noticed her eyes were slightly open. Her chest was not moving and I thought, she has had a stroke or a heart attack. I put the right side of my head close to her mouth to hear if she was breathing. Silence. I moved my ear closer so that it was almost touching her lips . . . and then I finally heard her breath – shallow and quick.
As I lifted her head, a waiter arrived with cloth napkins, and we placed them under my wife’s head. She was unconscious for about a minute and seriously groggy for the next three to five minutes. She didn’t move a muscle. Being a former dancer she had somehow managed to strike a graceful pose on the ground.
Finally, Paulette (my wife), was able to speak and she asked, “Am I on the ground?” This was the first break in the tension. She had no recollection of fainting. The waiter, bless his heart, had phoned 911 and was giving info to the dispatcher who asked how old the person was who collapsed. The waiter looked at my wife and said, “thirty-eight to forty.”
My friend and I paused for a second and then chimed in simultaneously, “Sixty-one.” This was the second bit of humor which we would share with my wife later on as she was unaware of what was happening in the moment.
My wife moved her head slightly and this was when I saw the blood. She had split the corner of her eyebrow when it struck the floor. For this she would need three stitches, have a goose-egg and watch her eye turn black and blue.
Of course, when you need an ambulance, they take forever. About twenty minutes later it finally showed up. My wife still hadn’t moved at this point but was talking and said she was hungry (laugh number three). We had two great para-medics who did their job, answered our questions and took care of us with sensitivity.
Paulette’s blood pressure was very low so it was off to emergency in the ambulance.
It’s now a few days later. There was much grogginess for the first forty-eight hours (slight concussion) and no real answer to explain her fainting other than, “this is fairly common when a person feels nausea and has strong stomach contractions, the muscles and organs can contract with enough force to restrict blood flow which leads to a drop in blood pressure and unconsciousness.” So said the doctor.
Day five and we have been able to discuss and even laugh at some of the particulars of what happened that night. During one of these discussions, Paulette said that when she was lying on the floor she had this experience of letting go. There was nothing she could do so why not let go.
This idea, that when faced with an implacable reality, letting go is a wise choice. Thinking about this concept has propelled me to look at areas in my life where letting go might be advantageous.
My reaction to what happened may have been colored by my training as a lifeguard. I have handled many emergencies and injuries when younger and I seemed to have gone into “action mode.” I moved quickly to her side, ascertained whether she was breathing or not, was she hot or cold, made sure she stayed down, and confirmed that 911 was called.
The only thought I can recall was, as previously mentioned, wondering if this was a heart attack or a stroke and was she still alive. There was a moment when I accepted the possibility that she might be dead. This was strongest when I could not see her breathing. Once her breathing was ascertained, I definitely felt relief wash over me.
Letting go. We live in a society that is fixated with holding on. Holding on to youth, looks, money, and things. No one wants to die, me included. But eventually we must face not only our mortality but the ever changing flux of reality within which we exist, evolve, and eventually devolve back into. Or as the bible says, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Seeing my wife collapse in front of me, on what was supposed to be a joyous occasion, is a sobering experience and reminds me, yet again, of the fickle and nebulous nature of existence. We can be here one moment and gone the next. Even if we don’t die we can become sick, suffer an accident or succumb to a mental health issue (lifetime prevalence rates for experiencing a mental illness as measured by the CDC in 2004 were 50% in the United States).
When my wife said she was letting go, there was a sense of peace and serenity in the words. Like a big sigh as all the worries dropped off her shoulders. It was this relaxed state of being that I found so attractive.
Knowing that life can change in an instant does not have to be a downer. Quite the opposite, it can be a relief. A relief knowing that I don’t have to hold it all together or scramble to prevent change from happening. Or in my case, trying desperately to mold life into what I think it should be.
In Paulette’s most vulnerable state, she relaxed and let go. She was at peace, accepting, and, as she pointed out later, able to allow others to take total control and care for her. And maybe that is the lesson I take away from this experience; that I need to let go and let the universe take care of me.
Mental illness lifetime prevalence rates.
Photo: Flickr/Louish Pixel/Spirit Levitation – Out of Body Experience