What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

I have always grown from my problems and challenges, from things that don’t work out; that’s when I’ve really learned.

— Carol Burnett

One day I will be abel to do this!

Fainting Goat, my spirit animal, protects me on my medical journey. She reveals herself as vasovagal syncope, my fight or flight response to whatever the medical profession foists on me, with my blessing or against my will. During periods of extreme stress, I simply pass out.

If a doctor or other provider ignores me, disregards my protests or otherwise disses me, Fainting Goat takes over by plummeting my blood pressure and careening me to the floor. She is very wise, intuitive and doesn’t take any crap.

You want to draw my blood, and I will feel a prick of pain? Oh, hell, no. Sorry, I gotta go.

Did you say you want me to stand too long in this position that just isn’t comfortable? I’m not having it.

You’re in a hurry and can’t explain the procedure to me? All I can say is pay me now or pay me later.

Lucky for me, I’ve been healthy most of my life and have been spared too many doctor visits. But I’m aging, and with increased life span comes a profusion of medical appointments. I’m a novice when it comes to assuming the role of a patient, and it is neither pleasant nor familiar. Add to this discomfort the possibility of pain or a medical diagnosis of some sort, and I become a menace to society.

Fainting Goat escorts me to my appointments, no matter that I try to keep her away. I tell her that it’s fine if she watches over someone else; I’ve got my breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to bolster me. But she insists on being there. She believes she is helping me, which, of course, is what a spirit animal does. But my opinion, and documented in my medical chart, is that she incites trouble.

She is adept at reading the body language of my tormentor, sometimes called a medical professional.  It may be a dismissive tone of voice or a sly glance in my direction. Suddenly, Fainting Goat has appeared, and now I’m in full-blown fight-or-flight mode. My nervous system catapults me back to the days of the mastodon and saber-tooth tiger. It starts with tunnel vision, and I’m like a mole burrowing through the ground.  With no peripheral vision, staring straight ahead, the walls begin to close in. Left unchecked, my ears become repositories for a loud droning that drowns out all reason. Sometimes there is a scream. Is it me or Fainting Goat? I can’t be sure, because now we’re one.

Fainting Goat is likely a pacifist, so her method is to take flight, which means I end up on the floor in a doctor’s office. You might think that if I’m going to lose my senses it would be best to do so in a space with a physician, but you would be wrong. Once, while being examined by a doctor who ignored my pain, Fainting Goat came to my rescue and rendered me unconscious. I was misdiagnosed with a seizure, transported to the hospital via ambulance with lights and sirens blaring, only to be injected with a seizure medicine that didn’t react well with my brand of syncope. I wish Fainting Goat had given me more warning. I might have avoided a weeklong hospital stay and the suspension of my driver’s license for six months.

Perhaps I can trade Fainting Goat for another spirit animal, such as Kicking Ass, who will choose the fight method rather than hurling me to the ground when I’m stressed. But then I may have to wrangle the legal, rather than the medical, profession.  I guess I need to face my demons in lab coats and imbue myself with as much vitality and well-being a healthy soul with a phobia can muster under hostile conditions. Going to the doctor is not for the faint of heart or for those who tend to faint. Bad things happen during medical appointments. Everyone needs a spirit animal.


Hello, I’m Janet, career coach, writer, workshop leader.

I help women create their best lives through personal writing.