I was standing near the hall, turned back to face my husband. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I was teasing him about something. I remember briefly thinking—as I often do—that he was a handsome man and I was lucky he was my husband. Then I felt as if I had a net thrown over my body and my senses. The world went fuzzy and dark, and I couldn’t stand. My legs lost muscle tension. I half fell and half sat with very little grace on the floor. It’s not the first time I’ve partially fainted, and it’s not at all romantic. Moments earlier, I had stood and walked across the room, and my body sometimes cannot handle the blood pressure changes between sitting and standing.
From my unceremonious sitting position on the floor, I could see the tense worry on my husband’s face. He was half out of his seat when I quipped, “don’t mind me, I just needed to sit down.”
He paused. We stared at each other briefly. I hate that I’m sick. Sure, no one likes being sick, but I also hate what my chronic conditions do to him. I hate his worry and anxiety. The second worst thing to being sick must be watching someone you love being sick. I know how much I hate watching the people I love suffer, how much I worry about them, and how awful it is to not be able to do anything other than listen and be present. He never complains to me about it, just as I’d never complain to a loved one about how anxious I am that they’re sick. It’s just not what friends and family do for one another. So, he worries in silence, sometimes more visibly than others. When I’m sprawled out on the floor in the living room after losing control of my body in a partial faint, well, that’s a time where the disquietude is more palpable than others.
With as much cheery optimism as I could muster, which was a surprising amount given that I sounded almost bouncy, I told him as I have countless times before: “I hate having fibromyalgia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS is the handy acronym because, yowza, a mouthful; it’s also what is responsible for my fainting spells), migraines, and possibly Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, or irritable bowel syndrome… we’ll find out in a few weeks! At least I have great abs!”
“I’ll come help you up.”
And he did. And I hugged him long and hard after I stood up.
When I was a teenager, I had both this disdain for people who fainted and this oddball notion that fainting was somehow romantic. If only I were the fainting type! A handsome man would catch me, and shenanigans and true love à la traditional romantic comedy would follow. Then my protective teenage cover would snap a lid over that fantasy and move back to my properly jaded teenage view of fainting.
Now that I am the fainting type, I can definitely assure you that it’s not the stuff of romantic and comedic escapades. To me, my husband’s steadfastness amid my fainting spells and recliner days goes far beyond the structure of a blithe romantic comedy. We’re in the deep, messy territory of life and its complications where meaningful relationships are forged by how you navigate them together. Standing next to me throughout these seemingly endless bouts of medical appointments may lack the fanfare of love at first sight or the fireworks of a first kiss, but nothing is more emblematic of love than enduring them with support and patience right alongside me.